The Effects of Mindfulness Meditation on Stress Measured by Heart Rate Variability: A Systematic Review

University essay from Högskolan i Skövde/Institutionen för biovetenskap

Abstract: Stress is a global health issue and effective stress management techniques are much needed. Mindfulness meditation in the form of mindfulness-based interventions have been shown to be effective interventions for self-reported stress reduction. However, the effects of mindfulness meditation on the objective physiological markers of stress are less clear. Heart rate variability, the variation in time between each consecutive heartbeat has been shown to be such an objective physiological marker of stress. The aim of this systematic review was to investigate how mindfulness-based interventions affect heart rate variability to better understand the utility of mindfulness meditation as a stress management technique. A literature search was conducted on March 8th, 2022, with the databases Web of Science, Scopus, and MEDLINE EBSCO to identify randomized controlled trials that examined the effects of mindfulness-based interventions on heart rate variability. A total of 10 studies met the inclusion criteria with a total of 970 participants. The results from the systematic review were mixed and indicate inconsistencies across the literature. Thus, there are uncertainties on how mindfulness-based interventions affect heart rate variability. Although the systematic review was limited by a small sample of studies, it highlights that further research on how mindfulness-based interventions affect heart rate variability is needed to better understand the utility of mindfulness meditation as a stress management technique.

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