Transcendental Meditation Benefits – Mental Health
The benefits of Transcendental Meditation cover every aspect of life. Millions of people practicingaround the world testify to its wide-ranging benefits, supported by more than 650 scientific research studies spanning more than 40 years.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
ADHD affects multiple thinking processes, with deficits including impulsivity, lack of normal social inhibition, impaired working memory, inability to focus attention, and impaired temporal organisation.
Stress has been found to compromise all of the major executive functions, including concentration and focus. This makes sense given that during the fight or flight response it was not of evolutionary advantage to our survival to stop and consider what to do next when faced with immediate danger!
Recent research has indicated that children with ADHD have dysfunction in a region of the brain responsible for developing coping strategies, which influences their ability to manage life’s challenges. The high cortisol levels which result have been found to impair executive function, self-regulation, and letter knowledge in children with ADHD.
Meditation Trust teachers have taught a number of children with an ADHD diagnosis and have witnessed the improvements in symptoms that can occur, which preliminary research has also indicated. It is likely that these reductions in anxiety and stress and improvements in ADHD symptoms reflect the effects of dissolving accumulated stress from the nervous system and normalisation of the stress response with the practice of TM over time.
Since TM does not take long to learn and does not involve concentration or control of the mind, this practice is easy even for those experiencing ADHD symptoms. It allows the mind to settle down, and the body cannot help but follow. Over time, the stillness found during meditation begins to extend into activity and people very quickly begin to report feeling calmer and more relaxed in their everyday life. Read more on how TM alleviates Stress…
A large body of research indicates that TM helps improve a whole range of cognitive processes, emotions and behaviours which are commonly found to be affected in ADHD. A systematic review of 146 independent outcomes found that TM was more than twice as effective in reducing anxiety as other techniques (including progressive muscular relaxation, methods claimed to induce a ‘relaxation response’, and other forms of meditation) [Journal of Clinical Psychology, 1989].
School students practicing TM showed improvements in: behaviour, decreased absenteeism and rule-breaking, and reduced behaviour-related suspensions [Health Quality of Life Outcomes, 2010] increased emotional regulation, and improved well-being [Explore, 2006] improved academic performance [Education, 1989] accelerated cognitive development, improved concept learning, and improved focus and attention in children [Journal of Social Behaviour and Personality, 2005].
One initial study explored the effects of TM specifically on children with a diagnosis of ADHD. They continued to practice TM twice a day at school. After 3 months of practice, statistically significant reductions in anxiety and stress, and improvements in ADHD symptoms and executive function were found [Current Issues in Education, 2008].
Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) are a group of developmental disabilities that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges, affecting each person differently and ranging from very mild to severe. People with ASDs handle information in their brain differently from others. They have impaired prefrontal cortex (PFC) function, which is crucial for making good decisions and judgments.
Dealing with the challenges of a developmental disorder like autism or Asperger syndrome can increase the normal stress of life tremendously for both sufferers and carers. Difficulties understanding the emotions and expectations of others, fearing novel, unexpected situations and lack of control makes social interaction challenging and withdrawal understandable.
TM reduces stress and anxiety, and also seems to boost PFC functioning in people with ASD, which allows for more flexibility, sociability, and ability to cope with novelty. They become more willing to explore new environments and behaviours after they start to meditate, and sleep appears to improve considerably.
“The greatest feedback I ever received in my life came from my son…he was diagnosed with Autism at 4. He displayed all delays and all characteristics…I tried every possibility to help him improve. Yesterday morning as i was encouraging him to spread jam on his bread out of the blue he said “you have love on your face”. Excuse me what did you say? I replied and encouraged him to look up. Looking at my face he repeated “you have Love on your face”. I was speechless and overflowed with joy. Of all the avenues I have tried Transcendental Meditation has opened a new dimension. It is the most effective magical experience of my life…opening my heart like never before. I am seeing differently and I feel freedom like i never felt before and it reflects on my children.” Azraladora
Anxiety and Depression
For some, life’s challenging events can result in short-term reactive symptoms; but for others, anxiety and depression can be more severe and enduring, creating a cycle of reduced coping power and increased symptoms, making normal daily functioning almost impossible.
There are a number of psychological therapies which help alleviate symptoms, e.g. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), which helps break the cycle by becoming more aware of thoughts, feelings and behaviour and learning how to change these. Other aspects of therapy may explore our past and the beliefs we have formed which continue to affect us. More recent use of ‘mindfulness’ techniques help us train the mind to be in the present moment rather than caught up in thoughts about the past or future.
Instead of working on the symptoms, TM works on the cause of the symptoms which is the stress in the physiology. As the stress, the biochemical residue of the fight or flight response, is dissolved through deep rest, “cleaning the doors of perception” [W.Blake], the mind is allowed to return to normal functioning. This is not just breaking the cycle, but reversing the cycle, since the less stress in the system, the clearer our perceptions, so less stress is then created in future. We start spontaneously to live more in the present moment, anxiety and depression are reduced, enabling automatic management and reduction of many symptoms, including panic attacks, social anxiety, phobias and OCD.
“I suffered from depression, lots of ups and downs, periods of darkness, never knowing when it would end, totally alone. For years I didn’t know where to turn. The tragic loss of my own brother to suicide made me think there must be another way to live your life. Luckily for me I came across TM 11 years ago, so off I went to London to learn this technique, I thought what have got to lose, nothing at all. After that very first session of meditation I opened my eyes and realised this is what I’ve been searching for, it was so easy and I’d known it all along in myself. I laughed so much inside. At last I found myself again. It was such a relief to know I could now do this meditation anywhere, anytime, The benefits of TM go on and on. It’s a life-changing tool and is there for us all. My heart goes out to anyone in any suffering – we all want the same thing, Happiness, a place of quietness, it’s inside you. It can really help you overcome depression.” Wayne Robbins
Many people particularly like practicing TM because it is a natural, yet effective method. They also feel back in control and responsible for their own recovery. Also effects are cumulative over time.
The Trust’s TM teachers have witnessed improvements in many of their students which support the research findings. Our own research, in which the effect of TM on a small number of individuals was explored in depth through a series of case studies, supported our observations as teachers. There can sometimes be a quite dramatic reduction in anxiety symptoms, whereas depression, depending on its type and history, can take varying lengths of time to show improvements. But significant improvements there most definitely have been where students have maintained regular practice and contact with their teacher. This can even extend in some cases to the curing of addiction to prescribed medication.
A systematic review of 146 independent outcomes found that TM was more than twice as effective in reducing anxiety as other techniques (including progressive muscular relaxation, ‘relaxation response’, and other forms of meditation). Only TM showed a positive correlation between duration of regular practice and reduction of anxiety.[Journal of Clinical Psychology, 1989]. Some research has also indicated a reduction in symptoms of depression over time [e.g. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 1976].
“I have tried different types of meditation in the past, but none have worked for me as well as TM. After being made redundant last year and failing to find employment, I was beginning to feel very despondent, stressed and anxious. After only a few days of meditating I realised that I am in the right place, for me to be, at the present moment in time…the stress and anxiety I was experiencing have gone. It is so lovely not to wake up each morning with an anxious knot in the pit of my stomach. My partner has noticed a difference in me too.” Jill Jones
Our teachers have helped many grieving people deal with their bereavement through the practice of TM. Sufferers have often commented on the fading of their grief being accompanied by a re-emergence of numerous memories of their lost loved one, not only the wonderful times, but even the ‘bad memories’, which are found no longer to have any power. In reality it is not the memory itself which creates the problem, but stress which creates the suffering out of the memory. So as the stress disappears, suffering fades but memories are sharper.
Cognitive functioning – Memory, Intelligence etc.
Prolonged stress not only affects our health and drains our energy, but it can actually kill brain cells and shrink the brain’s main memory structures, affecting attention, memory, organisation and integration. Recent research suggests that elevated levels of stress steroids in the brain during activation of the stress response may inhibit general brain activity, and accelerate the development of Alzheimer disease, including impairment of memory and learning at an earlier early stage of the disease than normally expected. Stress also reduces the size of frontal (executive centre) and hippocampal (memory) volume. [Proceedings of Nat. Ac. Sciences, 2009]
It is no surprise, then, that with stress being released as a result of deep rest during TM practice, Read more on how TM alleviates Stress… reducing mental ‘chatter’, research has indicated that the practice of TM can significantly increase ‘field intelligence’ (associated with greater organisation of mind and clarity of thought, improved memory, increased creative expression, and increased ability to assimilate and structure experience) [Perceptual Motor Skills, 1986], improve short-term memory [Memory and Cognition, 1982], and increase creative thinking [Journal of Creative Behaviour, 1979].
Also, unique to this technique, widespread brainwave coherence has been shown to be created, giving us greater access to vast subconscious information, making the brain healthier and able to function together as a whole [e.g. International Journal of Neuroscience, 2001]. When frontal brain areas are more coherent, the executive functions with which they are associated (e.g. decision making, planning, short-term memory, moral reasoning) are enhanced. We start to be able to achieve more optimal functioning and reach our full potential.
Research in educational settings has found TM practice to improve academic performance [Education, 1989] and accelerate cognitive development, improved concept learning, and improved focus and attention in children [Journal of Social Behaviour and Personality, 2005]. Additionally, the children practicing TM showed increased emotional regulation, and improved well-being [Explore, 2006] and behaviour (e.g. decreased absenteeism, rule-breaking, and behaviour-related suspensions [Health Quality of Life Outcomes, 2010]. Masters degree students were found to significantly improve in performance on their standard examinations after six months [British Journal of Educational Psychology, 1985].
“It cleared my thinking so incredibly quickly…clarity of thought. Now I can not imagine my life without TM.” Ken Darlington
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) results from the experience or witnessing of traumatic or life-threatening events. Symptoms include recurring thoughts, memories, nightmares or flashbacks of the event, numbness, avoidance and hyper arousal, all of which can severely impair the person’s daily life and be life threatening. PTSD can develop days, weeks, months or even years after the traumatic event. Complex PTSD, which is also referred to as ‘disorder of extreme stress’, results from exposure to prolonged traumatic circumstances. PTSD has been described as a ‘growing epidemic’ in the last decade since the addition of thousands of cases amongst troops returning from war zones to the already serious civilian problem.
In TM terminology, deriving from the ancient yoga system, undue pressure of experience, whether mental or physical, results in structural and biochemical abnormalities (‘stress’) in the body, which at their subtlest level are blockages of negative energy. It is these ‘cellular memories’ rather than mental memories that cause the continuing experience of both physical and mental illness. During the practice of TM, the state of ‘transcendental consciousness’, (or silence) accompanied by uniquely deep levels of physical rest, allows release of accumulated stress (known in Yoga literature as samskara or impressions, “scars” in the nervous system). It is this release of stress that is said to be responsible for the restoration of normal functioning of various systems in the body, particularly those involved in adapting to environmental challenges. Psychological symptoms, including anxiety, depression, and PTSD are seen as the result of these physiological abnormalities distorting mental experience as the body tries to let go of the enormous pressure of the blocked energy. During TM, the physical release occurs naturally, spontaneously, and at a comfortable rate, relieving the psychological symptoms without any attention being given to the symptoms themselves. For this reason, TM is very compatible alongside other treatments including psychological therapy which addresses symptoms from a more surface level of the mind (indeed research and anecdotal evidence has suggested that TM may enhance the effects of psychotherapy).
A number of studies abroad have already looked at the effect of TM on post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). A study of Vietnam War veterans practicing TM over a three-month period showed improvements in all aspects of PTSD, with significant decreases in depression, anxiety, insomnia, and alcohol consumption; improvement in family problems; reduced severity of delayed stress syndrome; decreased emotional numbness; and reduced difficulty in obtaining employment. In contrast, the control group who received standard treatment with psychotherapy showed no significant change on any measure [Brooks & Scarano, 1985]. More recently in a small scale pilot study of war veterans, reductions of PTSD symptoms were indicated following TM practice, especially hyper-arousal symptoms associated with an exaggerated sympathetic response to stress and other stimuli. Substantial reductions in blood pressure and stress reactivity have been indicated alongside other symptoms of PTSD, and quality of life improved [Mil. Med. 2011]. In another pilot study [Jnl. Trauma Stress, 2013], a sustained significant reduction in severe PTSD symptoms in Congolese refugees was found, in contrast to increases in the control group.
Please note: TM is not a replacement for your prescribed treatment, although it is likely to reduce your reliance on it over time. Always take medical advice and never decrease any medication unless advised by your doctor to do so