Effects of Vipassana meditation on stress and well-being

Szekeres, R. A., & Wertheim, E. H. (2014). Evaluation of Vipassana Meditation Course Effects on Subjective Stress, Well‐being, Self‐kindness and Mindfulness in a Community Sample: Post‐course and 6‐month Outcomes. Stress and Health. Online Version of Record published before inclusion in an issue.

Abstract. Residential Vipassana meditation courses, which teach mindfulness skills, are widely available globally but under-evaluated. This study examined effects of a standardized, community-based Vipassana course, on subjective stress, well-being, self-kindness and trait mindfulness in a community sample. Participants completed self-report measures of these variables at pre-course and post-course (n = 122), and outcomes were compared to a control group of early enrollers (EEs) (n = 50) who completed measures at parallel time points before course commencement.Six-month follow-up was undertaken in the intervention group (n = 90).

Findings, including intention-to-complete analyses, suggested positive effects of the Vipassana course in reducing subjective stress and increasing well-being, self-kindness and overall mindfulness (present-moment awareness and non-reaction). Although some reductions in post-course gains were found at follow-up, particularly in stress, follow-up scores still showed improvements compared to pre-course scores. Mindfulness change scores between pre-course and 6-month follow-up were moderately to highly correlated with outcome variable change scores, consistent with the idea that effects of the Vipassana course on stress and well-being operate, at least partially, through increasing mindfulness.

Intensive Vipassana meditation increases measures for well-being

Krygier, J. R., et al. (2013). Mindfulness Meditation, Well-being, and Heart Rate Variability: A Preliminary Investigation into the Impact of Intensive Vipassana Meditation. International Journal of Psychophysiology. Epub ahead of print. Full abstract.

Extracts: Mindfulness meditation has beneficial effects on brain and body, yet the impact of Vipassana, a type of mindfulness meditation, on heart rate variability (HRV) – a psychophysiological marker of mental and physical health – is unknown. We hypothesised increases in measures of well-being and HRV, and decreases in ill-being after training in Vipassana compared to before (time effects), during the meditation task compared to resting baseline (task effects), and a time by task interaction with more pronounced differences between tasks after Vipassana training. …

As expected, participants showed significantly increased well-being, and decreased ill-being. … Such … changes are classically associated with attentional load, and our results are interpreted in light of the concept of ‘flow’ – a state of positive and full immersion in an activity. These results are also consistent with changes in normalised HRV reported in other meditation studies.

Vipassana training for imprisoned persons

Perelman, A.M., et al. (2012). Meditation in a Deep South Prison: A Longitudinal Study of the Effects of Vipassana. [Abstract].
Journal of Offender Rehabilitation, 51(3).

In an era marked by pronounced overcrowding, including an increasing number of offenders serving long-term sentences, correctional systems continue to search for innovative and effective treatments. Few jurisdictions have attempted non-Western approaches such as meditative practice to reduce stress, conflict, and rule infractions.

The current study examined the psychological and behavioral effects of intensive ten-day Vipassana Meditation (VM) retreats in a maximum security prison. VM goals and practice are consistent with evidence-based methods such as cognitive behavioral treatment and Risk-Need-Responsivity principles, as well as newer conceptions such as the Good Lives Model. Long-term offenders were followed over a one-year period. These included three retreat cohorts (n = 60) as well as an alternative treatment comparison group (n = 67).  …

VM participants achieved enhanced levels of mindfulness and emotional intelligence and had decreased mood disturbance relative to a comparison group. Both groups’ rates of behavioral infractions were reduced at one-year follow-up. Clinically, VM holds promise for addressing self-regulation and impulse control, among other barriers to prisoner adjustment and community reentry.