One of the barriers to consistent meditation practice is that people feel they do not have enough time. A small study conducted in China has shown that meditating as little as 20 minutes daily over a 5-day period can improve both attention and mood.

Integrative body-mind training (IBMT) combines a number of traditional Chinese-medicine techniques, including body relaxation, breath adjustment, mental imagery, and mindfulness training accompanied by background music. Chinese researchers developed IBMT as a way to simplify meditation and mindfulness training, making it easier for adults and children alike.

The researchers assigned 40 Chinese undergraduate students to one of two groups—IBMT or relaxation training—for 5 days of practice. Both before and after the training, subjects took tests to measure their levels of stress, anxiety, depression and anger. Participants also had their stress hormone levels measured after performing a mentally challenging task.

Subjects in the IBMT group exhibited more stable moods, less stress and anxiety, and lower levels of stress hormones than those in the relaxation group. Study authors recommended doing more research, both to determine how IBMT improves attention and to study Western subjects. Currently, IBMT is available only in China.

The study was published in the October issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2007; 104 [43], 17152-56).