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The Impact of a Three-Day Mindfulness Retreat

A short mindfulness retreat reduces stress and inflammation.

Key points

  • A three-day intensive mindfulness practice improves body markers of stress and inflammation.
  • A short-term practice demonstrated a significant reduction in stress and anxiety levels among participants of the mindfulness group.
  • The research found a significant correlation between cortisol values and both anxiety and stress scores.
Lesly Juarez/Unsplash
Source: Lesly Juarez/Unsplash

Over the past decade, mindfulness has become a buzzword associated with emotional and physical wellness. Another emerging buzzword in the mental-health world is inflammation as a bio-medical root cause of neuropsychiatric symptoms.

Mindfulness practice has demonstrated benefits for psychological and physical health.

Mindfulness is a state of awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally (Kabat-Zinn).

There are many different ways to practice mindfulness, and the accumulated body of knowledge supports the benefits of mindfulness practice in improving our quality of life.

A study on the value of mindfulness

A recent study (Gardi et al., 2022) examined the effects of three days of intensive mindfulness practice on several biological markers as mediators of stress and inflammation.

About 95 healthy individuals (aged 18–67) were divided into two groups randomly. One group took part in a three-day vacation, and the second group took part in a three-day mindfulness retreat. Samples of saliva measuring stress (via the hormone cortisol) and inflammation (via pro-and anti-inflammatory cytokines) were collected before and after interventions. In addition, psychometric measures of stress, anxiety, and awareness were administered using the Perceived Stress Scale (PSS; Cohen et al., 1983), the State Anxiety Inventory (STAI-Y; Vigneau and Cormier, 2008), and the Mindful Attention Awareness Scale (MAAS; Brown and Jones, 2013).

This study demonstrated decreased perceived stress and anxiety scores and increased awareness between the intervention and control groups. Within the intervention group, results indicated a statistical difference in pro-inflammatory cytokines and an increase in anti-inflammatory levels at the end of the retreat. The results revealed that while both groups reduced perceived stress, only the mindfulness group exhibited significantly decreased anxiety, increased mindfulness, reduced levels of cortisol and pro-inflammatory cytokines IL-6 and IL-8, and increased anti-inflammatory IL-10 after the retreat.

Finally, the authors suggested a correlation between cortisol levels and anxiety and perceived stress.

This study affirms that mindfulness retreats can effectively improve physical health, demonstrated by reductions in inflammation and mental health, as shown by reducing anxiety and perceived stress.

Future studies should use mindfulness as an alternative to pharmacological interventions to address stress and promote well-being.

These findings also contribute to an expanding body of evidence essential for mental health practitioners, educators, and patients. There’s a growing call to address the bio-medical root causes of inflammation and how they link to mental health symptoms.


Gardi, C., Fazia, T., Stringa, B., & Giommi, F. (2022). A short Mindfulness retreat can improve biological markers of stress and inflammation. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 135, 105579.