Effects of Meditation on State and Trait Physiological Stress Responses

Publication Year



biology, meditation, stress responses, physiology, alternative therapy, psychological effects of meditation


Biology | Medicine and Health Sciences | Movement and Mind-Body Therapies | Physiology | Psychology | Rehabilitation and Therapy


College students are faced with a tremendous amount of stress, which can cause health problems and inhibit academic success. The hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis and the sympathetic division of the autonomic nervous system are responsible for the physiological stress response. In addition, these pathways are also associated with psychological responses to stress. This study assessed the effects of meditation on coping with stress and reducing the psychophysiological responses to stress in a college student population. In addition, the study examined the possible effects of the psychophysiological responses on academic success and overall emotional well-being. A pilot study was performed with a one-day meditation workshop to observe the effects of the modified Trier Social Stress Test as a laboratory stressor before and after a one day meditation workshop. A second study was performed during the Spring Semester of 2013 with a Seminar on Compassion (REL 250) serving as 4 months of meditation and mindfulness instruction. Several psychological questionnaires were used to determine the psychological effects of meditation. Galvanic skin response, heart-rate, variability, pulse oximetry, blood pressure, respiration rate, and cortisol levels were used to determine the physiological effects of meditation on state anxiety, which was induced by a laboratory stressor, and trait anxiety. The cortisol results proved to be insignificant which can be due to a variety of factors. The sample size was small, and there was variability in the subjects' waking times and birth control use. In addition, low cortisol responses to stressful stimuli can be due to heightened trait anxiety. The galvanic skin response (GSR) measurements showed significant increases from the pre- to post-modified TSST, indicating that the laboratory stressor provoked a physiological response. The GSR results indicate meditation may have an effect on state and trait anxiety levels. The pre-modified TSST results showed a decreasing trend after the meditation workshop, indicating that meditation may have helped reduce trait anxiety. In addition, there was a decreasing trend int eh difference between GSR responses taken pre- and post-modified TSST after the meditation workshop, indicating that meditation may have helped reduce the subjects' state anxiety.

Department 1 Awarding Honors Status


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