Mindfulness buffers teen stress

Regular mindfulness practice may bolster teens' stress resilience.

Scientists from Germany and the UK recently found that 3 to 6 months of daily mindfulness-based training may buffer against long-term physiological and psychological stress. They randomly assigned 277 healthy adults with no meditation experience to either a 3-or a 9-month mindfulness group, or a control group. Both mindfulness groups were then divided into smaller training subgroups.

Participants in the 3-month group received 13 weeks of exercises focusing on compassion, loving-kindness, and gratitude. Those in the 9-month group attended 3 consecutive sessions of 13 weeks each, divided into 3 content areas: attention and body awareness; perspective-taking and paying attention to thoughts; and compassion, gratitude, and loving-kindness.

Participants in both mindfulness groups were asked to engage in 30 minutes of mental practice 6 days per week for the duration of their program.

Cortisol and cortisone levels, biological markers of long-term stress, were collected at baseline and 4-month intervals from all groups, using hair samples. Perceived stress levels were assessed using a standard survey at similar time points.

Consistent mindfulness- based practice may reduce physiological stress over 6 months, then stabilize regardless of practice type.

Participants in both mindfulness groups showed a steady decrease—averaging 25%—in the concentration of stress biomarkers during the first 3 and 6 months of practice, regardless of training length or type. Stress hormone levels in the control group remained relatively stable over a 9-month period.

This suggests that consistent mindfulness-based practice may reduce physiological stress over 6 months, then stabilize regardless of practice type, even for healthy individuals. Changes in perceived stress were unrelated to changes in stress biomarkers, however. That is, perceptions of stress may persist despite physiological changes.