Proven to reduce stress through meditation

Long-term stress: meditation lowers cortisol levels

Meditation (from the Latin word meaning “to think, to think”) includes various methods, often very old and founded on religion. Meanwhile, several scientific studies have shown that meditation can have positive health effects. A new study now shows that meditation training reduces stress in the long run.

Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Cognitive and Neurosciences (MPI CBS) in Leipzig and the Social Neuroscience Research Group of the Max Planck Society in Berlin have found that mental training that improves skills such as alertness, gratitude or empathy improves focus and reduces stress hormone. Cortisol in the hair. The amount of cortisol in the hair indicates how strong a person is at keeping it loaded with stress.

Reduce daily stress over the long term

like him in Message According to a study by Techniker Krankenkasse (TK), 23% of Germans are often stressed.

Not only does this disease affect the well-being of people, but it is also linked to a number of physiological diseases including diabetes, cardiovascular disease and mental disorders such as depression which is one of the main causes of the burden of disease around the world.

Hence, effective methods are researched which will reduce daily stress in the long run. This is a promising option Mindfulness Training where participants develop their cognitive and social skills, including mindfulness, gratitude and compassion, through meditation and various behavioral exercises.

Various studies have already shown that even healthy people feel less stressed after a typical eight week exercise program. However, it is not yet clear to what extent the training actually contributed to reducing continued exposure to daily stress.

The problem with many previous studies on chronic stress: Study participants usually have to assess their own stress levels after training. However, this self-assessment using questionnaires can skew the effects and make the results appear more positive than they actually were.

distorted statements

The reason for this bias: Test subjects knew they were training mindfulness, and lower stress levels were the desired effect of this training. This awareness alone has an effect on the information presented later.

“If you are asked if you are nervous after training advertised as reducing stress, even addressing this issue can skew statements,” says Lara Pullman, MPI CBS PhD student and lead author of the lead publication. It was recently published in the specialist journal “Psychosomatic Medicine” It has been released.

Factors such as social desirability and placebo effects played a role here. Unlike pharmacological studies, for example, in which study participants do not know whether they actually received the active ingredient, so-called blind examinations are not possible during mental training.

“Participants know they are taking the ‘antidote,’ says Polman. “In mindfulness research, we are increasingly using more objective methods, i.e. physiological methods, so that we can more accurately measure the stress reduction effect.”

The concentration of cortisol in the hair

According to experts, the concentration of cortisol in hair is an appropriate measurement variable for exposure to constant stress. Cortisol is a hormone that is released when you are faced with a huge challenge, for example. In this case, the stress hormone helps put the body on alert and mobilize energy to meet the challenge.

And the longer the stress, the more the increased concentration of cortisol circulates through the body – and the more it builds up in the hair, which grows an inch per month. In order to measure the stress level of the participants during the nine-month training, the researchers, in collaboration with the working group of Clemens Kirschbaum at the University of Dresden, analyzed the amount of cortisol every three months in the first three centimeters of the hair, starting with on the scalp.

The mental training program consisted of three modules of three months each, each aimed at training a specific skill area using Western and Eastern mental exercises. Emphasis was placed either on the factors of attention and vigilance, on social and emotional skills such as empathy and gratitude, or on so-called socio-cognitive skills, in particular the ability to put one’s personal skills into perspective. thoughts and those of others. .

Three groups of approximately 80 subjects each completed the training modules in a different order. The training lasted up to nine months, 30 minutes a day, six days a week.

In fact, it was found that the amount of cortisol in participants’ hair significantly decreased after six months of training, an average of 25%. According to reports, initially mild effects were seen during the first three months and intensified over the following three months. In the last third, the concentration remained at a fairly low level.

Therefore, researchers hypothesize that only long enough training leads to the desired stress-reducing effects. The effect does not seem to depend on the content of the training. It is therefore possible that many of the mental approaches examined are equally effective in improving the management of chronic daily stress.

Coping with the effects of chronic stress

In a previous study, researchers looked at the effects of training on managing acute stressful situations. Participants were put through a stressful job interview and were asked to solve difficult math tasks under observation.

Shown here: Those who have had socio-cognitive or socio-emotional training emit up to 51% less cortisol than those who have not. In this case, it was not the amount of cortisol in the hair that was measured, but the acute attacks of cortisol in the saliva.

Overall, the scientists concluded that training can improve the management of particularly acute and stressful social situations and chronic daily stresses.

“We hypothesize that different aspects of training are particularly beneficial for these different forms of stress,” explains Veronica Engert, head of the “Social Stress and Family Health” research group at MPI CBS.

“There are many illnesses in the world, including depression, which are directly or indirectly linked to long-term stress,” says Polman. We must fight preventively against the effects of chronic stress. Our study uses physiological measures to show that meditation-based training interventions can also reduce general stress levels in healthy people. (A d)

Author and source information

This text complies with the requirements of specialized medical literature, clinical guidelines and ongoing studies and has been reviewed by healthcare professionals.


  • Max Planck Institute for Human Cognition and Brain Sciences: Hair Analytics Show: Meditation Training Reduces Long-Term Stress, (accessed October 9, 2021), Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences
  • : Lara MC Pullman, Pascal Fritschka, Roman Lenz, Tobias Stalder, Clemens Kirschbaum, Veronica Engert, Tanya Singer: Meditative mental training lowers hair glucocorticoid levels in a randomized clinical trial; In: Psychosomatic medicine (veröffentlicht: 01.10.2021), psychosomatic medicine

important note:
This article is for guidance only and is not intended to be used for self-diagnosis or self-treatment. It cannot replace a visit to the doctor.

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