Objective: To test whether a brief mindfulness meditation training intervention buffers self-reported psychological and neuroendocrine responses to the Trier Social Stress Test (TSST) in young adult volunteers. A second objective evaluates whether pre-existing levels of dispositional mindfulness moderate the effects of brief mindfulness meditation training on stress reactivity.
Methods: Sixty-six (N=66) participants were randomly assigned to either a brief 3-day (25-min per day) mindfulness meditation training or an analytic cognitive training control program. All participants completed a standardized laboratory social-evaluative stress challenge task (the TSST) following the third mindfulness meditation or cognitive training session. Measures of psychological (stress perceptions) and biological (salivary cortisol, blood pressure) stress reactivity were collected during the social evaluative stress-challenge session.
Results: Brief mindfulness meditation training reduced self-reported psychological stress reactivity but increased salivary cortisol reactivity to the TSST, relative to the cognitive training comparison program. Participants who were low in pre-existing levels of dispositional mindfulness and then received mindfulness meditation training had the greatest cortisol reactivity to the TSST. No significant main or interactive effects were observed for systolic or diastolic blood pressure reactivity to the TSST.
Conclusions: The present study provides an initial indication that brief mindfulness meditation training buffers self-reported psychological stress reactivity, but also increases cortisol reactivity to social evaluative stress. This pattern may indicate that initially brief mindfulness meditation training fosters greater active coping efforts, resulting in reduced psychological stress appraisals and greater cortisol reactivity during social evaluative stressors.
Keywords: Meditation; Mindfulness; Stress; Trier Social Stress Test.
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