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Effectiveness of mantra meditation as a neurophysiological phenomenon for stress management in undergraduate medical students

Reshu Gupta, Rohan Arora, Raman Grover.


Background: Meditation has widely been used to combat stress and its effects, yet the universality of its effectiveness and duration remains unclear.

Aim and Objectives: This study aimed to evaluate differences in its effectiveness among individuals with different baseline stress levels and recommend duration of practice to produce constructive outcomes.

Materials and Methods: A total of 30 undergraduate medical students (15 males and 15 females) with a mean age of 21 (±0.95) years volunteered for the study. Preliminarily, using the perceived stress scale (PSS), they were categorized into high (0), moderate (25), and low (5) stress groups; following which they were pre-tested for heart rate (HR), HR variability, and galvanic skin resistance (GSR), subject to a computer game stressor. Students were then instructed to undertake meditation sessions and were tested for the same parameters at intervals of 3 and 6 weeks from the pre-test.

Results: Moderate stress individuals showed a significant (P ≤ 0.05) increase in high frequency band, GSR, RMSSD (square root of the mean of the sum of the squares of the differences between adjacent RR intervals) and the percentage of RR 50 counts; accompanied with a significant decrease in PSS score, low frequency to high frequency ratio and HR; with parameters becoming significant within 3 weeks of practice, and no further significant changes in the 3–6 weeks period. None of the parameters were significant for the low stress group, although similar trends were observed.

Conclusion: The study indicated the usefulness of a 3-week meditation program for individuals with moderate or high stress, and recommendation to include a meditation program into the undergraduate medical curriculum. Positive effects were attributed to a shift of sympathovagal balance to parasympathetic dominance.

Key words: Meditation, Stress, Shiv Yog; Heart Rate, Heart Rate Variability; Galvanic Skin Resistance; Autonomic Functions

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