A Summary of Meditative Practices Cultivating Mindfulness and Reducing Anxiety, Depression, Blood Pressure and Heart Rate in a Diverse Sample
Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) is a form of CBT that has been adapted to reduce maladaptive behaviors while changing individuals’ beliefs and perceptions about his or her own depressive thoughts (as cited in Bell, 2015). MBCT may be a useful intervention for diverse populations. Consequently, Bell investigated the effects of mindfulness meditation on anxiety, depression, blood pressure, and heart rate among African American college students at a historically Black university.
Participants included 44 females and 13 males, all from African American background, age ranging from 18 to 25. Participants had a baseline blood pressure < 140/90 mmHg and were able to comply with research protocol. A blood pressure monitor was used to record blood pressure and heart rate. The Anxiety Study Group Demographic Questionnaire was used to collect demographics. The Kentucky Inventory of Mindfulness Skills, the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory, and the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale-Revised were used to measure mindfulness skills, proneness to and current anxiety, and depression, respectively. Participants were randomly assigned to one of three experimental conditions over a 12-week period: mindfulness meditation using body scan and sitting meditation, eyes-closed relaxation using breathing techniques, or sitting in silence without falling asleep or using electronic devices. Participants were connected to the blood pressure device in a lab room and completed pre and post questionnaires.
The results indicated that the mindfulness meditation using body scan group and the group using sitting mediation techniques showed the most improvements among participants. Overall, the results suggested that there was a reduction of anxiety and depression as well as lower blood pressure and heart rate. The participants’ levels of mindfulness also significantly increased.
The results provided insight into the usefulness of meditative practices in reducing anxiety, depression, and physiological responses. In addition, the study of African American young adults brought the focus of mindfulness interventions to an underrepresented population.
A limitation of the study is that the participants were a nonclinical sample. Based on the recruitment criteria, participants with blood pressure above 140/90 mmHg were excluded. Therefore, if those with high blood pressure were included, the results would have been more clinically meaningful. Nonetheless, the participants in the study showed signs of improvement in physiological and psychological well-being.