‘We investigated if you can improve your mental and physical health by meditating’

  • Research project
Armita Sabri Kadijani

Meditating is getting more and more popular and has helped many people with their mental health. Consequently, more and more researchers are looking into the effects of meditating on physical health. For a first year group project, Armita Sabri Kadijani and her fellow students also decided to dive into this subject.

The project was an assignment for a first-year class on personal health, where the students had to pick something to research that had links with life sciences and data science. 'We were all very curious to see if we could improve our mental and physical health by meditating,' Armita says. 'When we looked into the literature there does seem to be some evidence for it, so we wanted to put it to the test ourselves.'

Meditating and blood pressure

During the whole semester, the group meditated four days a week for twenty minutes with the help of an app. 'This way we could make sure everybody did the same things, because there are so many forms of meditation available.' Meanwhile they kept a diary of how they felt and took their blood pressure every day before breakfast. 'Your blood pressure is a good indication of how stressed you are.'

They also went to a lab to measure cortisol levels in their hair. 'This is a fairly new technique, normally you measure cortisol in blood, but this was much easier for us', Armita says. 'You just take one hair and you can measure the cortisol levels for as far as three months back. These cortisol levels are another good indicator of stress levels.'

When the project was over, they combined all the data and looked if they could see improvements. 'Even though some of us did feel like it worked, the data didn’t really show it', Armita says. 'We did not see significant improvements.'

No controlled environment

Although this result was not what they expected, it also doesn’t necessarily mean that meditation does not work. 'Only five people is a very small group for such an experiment and we noticed that stress from exams and other deadlines did play a part. It was not exactly a very controlled environment.'

For Armita, it was a fun experiment to try and also to practice with gathering and processing data: 'It was fun and I learnt a lot.' And despite the results, she does feel like the meditating helps: 'I have some anxiety and I feel that it got better when I started meditating. And since we still have access to the app, I will definitely keep going!'

Fields of interest

  • Exact and Information Sciences
  • Health and Sports