This study aimed to investigate the effect of regular contemplative mental training on endocrine and psychological indices of long-term stress.
An open-label efficacy trial that comprised three distinct 3-month long modules targeting attention and interoception, socioaffective, or sociocognitive abilities through dyadic exercises and secularized meditation practices was conducted with healthy adults. Participants underwent the training for 3 or 9 months, or were assigned to a retest control cohort. Chronic stress indices were assayed at four time points: pretraining and after 3, 6, and 9 months. The main outcome measures were cortisol (HC) and cortisone (HE) concentration in hair and self-reported long-term stress.
Of 362 initially randomized individuals, 30 dropped out before study initiation (n = 332; mean [SD] age = 40.7 [9.2] years; 197 women). Hair-based glucocorticoid assays were available from n = 227, and questionnaire data from n = 326. Results from three separate training cohorts (TC1–3) revealed consistent decreases in HC and HE levels over the first three (TC3) to 6 months (TC1 and TC2) of training, with no further reduction at the final 9-month mark (baseline to end of training differences, HC, TC1: t(355) = 2.59, p = .010, contrast estimate (est.) [SE] = 0.35 [0.14]; HC, TC2: t(363) = 4.06, p