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Episode 1: The effects of meditation on the stress response – with Dr. Michaela Pascoe

By May 9, 2021December 11th, 2021No Comments

Episode 1: The effects of meditation on the stress response – with Dr. Michaela Pascoe

In this episode we talk about stress and how you can combat the negative effects of long term stress through meditation. Dr. Michaela Pascoe has extensive knowledge on the subject due to many years of scientific research on the stress response and she has a specific interest in how lifestyle interventions such as physical activity and meditation can counteract the harmful effects of chronic stress.

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Main topic notes

  • What drew you to this particular field of research and why do you believe there is important work to be done here? [3:37]
  • How do you define the practice of meditation for the purpose of research? [6:15]
  • What do we learn through meditation? [10:00]
  • What is your personal experience of meditation and how it impacts your life? [11:40]
  • How is stress defined? What is the stress response? [12:38]
  • What is the effect of long term stress on our body and brain? [14:43]
  • Internal micro stressors and their effect on our level of arousal [17:42]
  • The effect of meditation on key psychological functions and their relation to our physical and mental health [19:20]
  • What do we know about the type or amount of meditation needed to achieve these positive effects on our health? [23:52]
  • How to sustain a meditation practice [25:41]
  • What are you excited about right now? What does the future hold for this field of research? [28:58]
  • If you could give one piece of advice on brain health to the audience, what would that be? [30:20]

Main article

M.C. Pascoe, M. de Manincor, J. Tseberja, M. Hallgren, P.A. Baldwin, A.G.Parker, Psychobiological mechanisms underlying the mood benefits of meditation: A Narrative Review, Comprehensive Psychoneuroendocrinology, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cpnec.2021.100037

Takeaways

  • The stress response is physiologically programmed to keep us safe. We have an inborn system to scan our environment for potential dangers and to quickly make physical resources available to fight, freeze or remove ourselves from the situation.
  • Our brain does not differentiate between externally or internally perceived dangers, meaning that we can create stress simply through thinking.  
  • Whenever something occurs frequently, the brain tries to automate or in some other way facilitate the process. With stress, the body will increase the baseline level of alertness in the stress response which unfortunately has negative effects on the body and brain long term.   
  • Meditation is a way to train certain skills that help counteract the effects of chronic stress. We can learn how to better focus, pause and observe. We can practice metacognitive awareness and increase our mindfulness. 
  • People trained in different forms of meditation have been shown to have a less intense stress response that will also recover quicker after the stressful event has passed, a greater tendency to look for positive things and positive health effects on blood vessels and the heart. Increased mindfulness has shown to reduce anxiety and depressive thoughts. 

More from Dr. Michaela Pascoe

https://www.vu.edu.au/research/michaela-pascoe

https://twitter.com/michaelapascoe?lang=en