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Different types of mental training are more or less efficient in reducing stress on the subjective and hormonal level


Engert,  Veronika
Department Social Neuroscience, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;

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Engert, V. (2015). Different types of mental training are more or less efficient in reducing stress on the subjective and hormonal level. Talk presented at Conference of the International Society for Research on Emotion (ISRE). Geneva, Switzerland. 2015-07-08 - 2015-07-10.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0004-043B-6
Stress has become a major health threat in today’s fast-paced society. Emerging research indicates that meditation and mental training may have beneficial effects across a spectrum of stress-related health conditions. When investigating the effects of meditation training, most studies have however limited their focus to the effect of mindfulness practice on the basal regulation of stress-reactive systems. In the scope of the ReSource Project, a large-scale longitudinal study with 187 participants (mean age 41, age range 20 to 55, 61% female), we investigated how endocrine (cortisol), sympathetic (alpha-amylase) and subjective-psychological responses to acute psychosocial stress change due to specific contemplative practices that emphasize a) attention and interoceptive awareness (Presence), b) loving kindness and prosocial motivation (Affective), and c) metacognitive skills as well as perspective taking on self and others (Perspective). Results revealed that while a 3-month inaugural training of interoceptive body awareness and attention failed to have an effect on acute stress reactivity, the Affective and Perspective Modules significantly reduced cortisol, alpha-amylase and subjective-psychological stress responses. Overall, participants showed the lowest stress-induced rise in cortisol, subjective arousal, anxiety and depressed mood after a 3-month training of loving kindness and prosocial motivation. The present results provide evidence that stress reactivity is differentially affected by different types of mental training practice, whereby techniques focusing on improving loving kindness and compassion seem to be most promising in buffering stress.