CIHSR contributed to a publication of an article by the center members Liudmila Gamaiunova and Pierre-Yves Brandt (ISSR).
While several studies have investigated the relationship between contemplative approaches and psychobiological stress response, little is known about the effects of contemplative practice on the ways psychological stress is experienced. This study aimed to explore the first-person experience of psychological stress in meditation practitioners.
We conducted short semi-structured interviews with twenty-five meditation practitioners and twenty meditation-naïve controls immediately after they had undergone a laboratory task (the Trier Social Stress Test). A mixed-method approach was used to analyze the interviews. Thematic analysis was combined with descriptive statistics of the qualitative information that had been converted to quantitative data.
Experiences instantiating main themes were identified as follows: (1) primary experiences encountered, describing the most salient experiences associated with the task; (2) reasons for stress, delineating the analyses of why the task was stressful; (3) affect, dealing with emotional experiences during the task; (4) emotion regulation; and (5) attention allocation describing regulatory strategies employed by the participants. Responses to subjective stress experience in meditation practitioners included use of humor, presence of positive affect, combinations of different types of emotion regulation strategies, and adaptive attention allocation.
This study elucidates particularities of meditators’ subjective experience of psychological stress, provides new insights on the mechanisms of meditation effect on the stress response, and proposes new directions for research.