"Focusing on the present rather than letting the mind drift may help to lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol, suggests new research from the Shamatha Project at the University of California...This is the first study to show a direct relation between resting cortisol and scores on any type of mindfulness scale," said Tonya Jacobs, a postdoctoral researcher at the UC Davis Center for Mind and Brain and first author of a paper describing the work."
Objective: Cognitive perseverations that include worry and rumination over past or future events may prolong cortisol release, which in turn may contribute to predisease pathways and adversely affect physical health. Meditation training may increase self-reported mindfulness, which has been linked to reductions in cognitive perseverations. However, there are no reports that directly link self-reported mindfulness and resting cortisol output. Here, the authors investigate this link. Methods: In an observational study, we measured self-reported mindfulness and p.m. cortisol near the beginning and end of a 3-month meditation retreat (N = 57). Results: Mindfulness increased from pre- to post-retreat.. Cortisol did not significantly change. However, mindfulness was inversely related to p.m. cortisol at pre-retreat.., and post-retreat.., controlling for age and body mass index. Pre to postchange in mindfulness was associated with pre to postchange in p.m. cortisol..Larger increases in mindfulness were associated with decreases in p.m. cortisol, whereas smaller increases (or slight decreases) in mindfulness were associated with an increase in p.m. cortisol. Conclusions: These data suggest a relation between self-reported mindfulness and resting output of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal system...
Jacobs, T. et al. (in press). Self-reported mindfulness and resting cortisol in a Shamatha meditation retreat. Health Psychology. Advanced publication online. doi: 10.1037/a0031362