Meditation practices may have impacts on physiological pathways related to stress and various diseases. Meditation practices have been found to have benefits including
• Calming the mind;
• Promoting focused attention; and
• Developing the ability of mindfulness.
For example, researchers at Emory University studied the effects of compassion meditation on innate immune, neuroendocrine and behavioral responses to psychosocial stress (Pace et al., 2009). In the study, sixty-one healthy adults participated in the 6 weeks of training of compassion meditation or a health discussion control group.
The study found that within the meditation group, meditation practice was associated with the lower levels of stressed-induced proinflammatory cytokine IL-6 (Pace et al., 2009). In addition, lower distress scores were also recorded.
The time factor may also make a difference. Those who practiced meditation longer than the median time showed lower levels of the stressed-induced proinflammatory cytokine IL-6 with lower distress scores, compared to the individuals who practiced shorter than the median time (Pace et al., 2009).
These findings suggest that compassion meditation practice may be beneficial for stress-induced immune and behavioral responses. Further studies in psychoneuroimmunology (PNI) are needed to elucidate the mechanisms of such changes.
Pace, T. W., Negi, L. T., et al. (2009) Effect of compassion meditation on neuroendocrine, innate immune and behavioral responses to psychosocial stress. Psychoneuroendocrinology 34, 87-98.