Many studies have explored the impact of mindfulness meditation on people’s response to stress over the course of several weeks or even years. Yet few have looked at how one-time exposure to different types of meditation – in some cases for as little as a few minutes – can buffer against stress or potentially make it worse.
In a new study published in the journal PLOS One, scientists at the Center for Healthy Minds have discovered that brief meditation practices work differently in the face of stress, and not all seem to be equally helpful.
Across the three groups of meditation practices studied, loving-kindness meditation (wishing oneself and others to be happy and healthy) and breath awareness meditation (a simple awareness of each breath and a core mindfulness practice) appeared to help buffer against stress when compared to a control group that did not meditate, while participants who practiced gratitude seemed more reactive to stress, at least in the short-term.
Researchers say the findings are an important first step in parsing which practices may be useful and when.