Trinity graduate speaks on mind-body meditation

Last Thursday, the psychology department welcomed back Trinity graduate Chelsea Ratcliff to speak about her research and experience with mind-body interventions, which are used to improve quality of life in individuals with illnesses.

Ratcliff graduated from Trinity in 2008. Since then, she has been working in the clinical psychology field and has studied the relationship between stress, psychological or emotional stressors and physical well-being.

“The way we think we’re doing has not been studied for very long,” Ratcliff said. “My main interest lies in mindfulness-based meditation.” She has found that “the practice of being attentive to the present moment can increase a person’s quality of life.”

The study on which she elaborated during her lecture  dealt with the effects of focused breathing and mindfulness-based meditation on patients’ stress levels during a painful and intimidating medical procedure.

“Brief mindfulness meditation does result in quicker decrease in anxiety during the biopsy,” Ratcliff said. “Participants who meditated had less anxiety [and] guided meditation led to more calmness.”

During her lecture, Ratcliff demonstrated a condensed version of the mindfulness-based meditation from her study on the audience so that those in attendance could experience and further understand her research. She also discussed how psychological wellness could improve longevity and help the immune system.

“My expectations were that the talk would be about the relationship between mind and body,” said junior Alexa Magnon. “I learned that there is a relationship and that learning more about this interaction can indeed have an impact on public health and that mindfulness meditation really was found to be helpful in reducing anxiety.”

Professor of psychology Harry Wallace, who taught Ratcliff during her time at Trinity, also attended the lecture. He expressed excitement for the future potential of his former student’s research.

“I learned that not a lot is known about the science behind why the reactions in the brain (after mindfulness meditation) happen,” Wallace said. “There’s lots of research potential there.”

Ratcliff says that in the future she hopes to see mindfulness-meditation techniques used to reduce stress and pain with other medical procedures, such as bone marrow transplants. She also wants to increase awareness of the benefits of mind-body meditation in healthy people and  possibly observe the effects on these populations.