Transcendental Meditation Technique Shown to Reduce Anxiety, Study Shows

Transcendental Meditation technique (TM) has been shown to have a large effect on reducing trait anxiety for people with high anxiety. Trait anxiety is a measure of how anxious a person usually is as opposed to state anxiety, which is how anxious a person is at the moment – according to a new meta-analysis published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.

The meta-analysis covered 16 randomized-controlled trials, the gold standard in medical research, and included 1,295 subjects from various walks of life, age groups and life situations. TM was compared with various control groups, including treatment-as-usual, individual and group psychotherapy, and various relaxation techniques.

Studies on high stress groups, such as veterans suffering from PTSD and prison inmates, showed dramatic reductions in anxiety from TM practice, whereas studies of groups with only moderately elevated anxiety levels, such as normal adults and college students, showed more modest changes.

“It makes sense that if you are not anxious to begin with, that TM practice is not going to reduce your anxiety that much,” said lead author of the meta-analysis, Dr. David Orme-Johnson, an independent research consultant. “Groups with elevated anxiety received significant relief from TM, and that reduction occurred rapidly in the first few weeks of practice.”

Additionally, TM was found to produce significant improvements in other areas worsened by anxiety, such as blood pressure, insomnia, emotional numbness, family problems, employment status, and drug and alcohol abuse.

“Control groups who received usual treatment did not show dramatic reductions in anxiety. In fact, control groups that were highly anxious to begin with, if anything, tended to become more anxious over time,” co-author Dr. Vernon Barnes of the Georgia Prevention Center, Georgia Regents University in Augusta, Ga. Explained. “However, progressive muscle relaxation was also effective in reducing anxiety. But, it did not have the other side benefits of TM, such as increasing overall mental health, and increasing the rate of recovery of the physiology from stressors.”


Meditation May Help Curb Smoking Habits, New Study Shows

Smokers actually smoked less and had increased brain activity in regions associated with self-control after a few hours of meditation, according to a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, an article in the LA Times reported. And many didn’t even realize their behavior had changed!

Researchers from a number of institutions recruited 60 college students, including 27 smokers. Half learned a form of meditation called integrative body-mind training, or IBMT, and practiced for five hours over a two-week period. This method of meditation involves relaxing the whole body and remaining “crisply focused on the present moment,” said University of Oregon psychologist Michael Posner, who is a coauthor of the study.

The remaining participants followed the same schedule, but practiced relaxation therapy rather then meditation. This involved periodically concentrating on different parts of the body, the LA Times stated.

The Results
Since cigarette smoke contains high levels of carbon monoxide, scientists measured how much carbon monoxide subjects exhaled to determine how much they smoked before and after the two-week training session.

Smokers in the meditation group smoked 60 percent less at the end of the training, compared to the smoking habits of the relaxation therapy group, which showed little change, the report stated.

Additionally, study participants answered a questionnaire gauging their craving levels, and responses revealed a significant decrease in craving for the meditation group, but not in the relaxation therapy group, according to the report.


Transcendental Meditation Associated With Higher Graduation Rates, Study Shows

Practicing Transcendental Meditation technique is associated with higher graduation rates, according to a new study published in the June 2013 issue of the journal “Education.”

Analysis of school records for 235 high school senior students at an East Coast urban high school was conducted to determine on-time graduation, and findings showed a 15 percent higher graduation rate for the entire meditating group compared to the non-meditating control group, after taking into account student grade point average, according to the study. Subgroup analysis further indicated a 25 percent difference in graduation rates when considering only the low academic performing students in both groups.

“These results are the first to show that the Transcendental Meditation program can have a positive impact on student graduation rates,” Sanford Nidich, Ed.D, co-author and professor of education at Maharishi University of Management said in the study. “The largest effect was found in the most academically challenged students. Recently published research on increased academic achievement and reduced psychological stress in urban school students may provide possible mechanisms for the higher graduation rates found in this study.”

Researchers say the findings also showed significant differences for dropout rates and college acceptance, as meditating students were less apt to drop out from school or go to prison, and were more likely to be accepted to post-secondary institutions.

“While there are bright spots in public education today, urban schools on the whole tend to suffer from a range of factors which contribute to poor student academic performance and low graduation rates,” said lead study author, Robert D. Colbert, Ph.D., associate professor, and director of Neag School of Education’s Diversity Council at University of Connecticut.

“Students need to be provided with value-added educational programs that can provide opportunities for school success. Our study investigated one such program, Transcendental Meditation, which appears to hold tremendous promise for enriching the lives of our nation’s students.”

How Meditation Can Help Relieve Anxiety

We’ve heard the seemingly endless benefits of meditation, including the reduction of anxiety, but now scientists identified the brain functions of how it actually does it.

A team of scientists at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, N.C. studied 15 healthy volunteers with normal levels of everyday anxiety who had no previous meditation experience or diagnosed anxiety disorders. Each took four, 20-minute meditation classes to learn mindfulness meditation – where they focused on their breath and body sensations – and the results showed reduced anxiety ratings by as much as 39 percent, according to the report in the journal of “Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience.”

“In this study, we were able to see which areas of the brain were activated and which were deactivated during meditation-related anxiety relief. This showed that just a few minutes of mindfulness meditation can help reduce normal everyday anxiety,” Dr. Fadel Zeidan, Ph.D., postdoctoral research fellow in neurobiology and anatomy at Wake Forest Baptist and lead author of the study said in a report.

Fadel and colleagues revealed meditation-related anxiety relief is associated with activation of the anterior cingulate cortex and ventromedial prefrontal cortex, which are areas of the brain involved with executive-level function, the report stated.

“Mindfulness is premised on sustaining attention in the present moment and controlling the way we react to daily thoughts and feelings,” Zeidan said. “Interestingly, the present findings reveal that the brain regions associated with meditation-related anxiety relief are remarkably consistent with the principles of being mindful.”

Meditation and Stretching Ease PTSD Symptoms & Normalize Stress Hormones, Study Shows

Practicing a form of meditation and stretching can help relieve symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and normalize stress hormone levels, according to a recent study accepted for publication in The Endocrine Society’s Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism (JCEM).

More than 7 million adults nationwide are diagnosed with PTSD in a typical year, which is the mental health condition triggered by a traumatic event. It can cause flashbacks, anxiety and other symptoms. PTSD patients have high levels of corticotrophin-releasing hormone (CRH) and unusually low levels of cortisol – two hormones used to regulate the body’s response to stress.

Although levels of the stress hormone cortisol typically rise in response to pressure, PTSD patients have abnormally low levels of cortisol and benefit when these levels increase. The study found cortisol levels responded favorably in subjects who participated in mind-body exercises for an eight week-period, the study stated.

“Mind-body exercise offers a low-cost approach that could be used as a complement to traditional psychotherapy or drug treatments,” said Sang H. Kim, PhD, of the National Institutes of Health and the study author. “These self-directed practices give PTSD patients control over their own treatment and have few side effects.”

The randomized controlled clinical trial studied the impact of mind-body practices in nurses, a group at high-risk of developing PTSD due to repeated exposure to extreme stressors. Twenty-eight nurses from the University of New Mexico Hospital, including 22 experiencing PTSD symptoms, were divided into two groups. One took 60-minute mind-body sessions where participants performed stretching, balancing and deep breathing exercises while focusing on awareness of their body’s movements, sensations and surroundings – a form of meditation called mindfulness. The control group did not participate in the twice-weekly class.

The predominantly female participants underwent blood tests to measure their stress hormone levels and completed the government’s PTSD checklist for civilians. Among those who were enrolled in the mind-body course, cortisol levels in the blood rose 67 percent and PTSD checklist scores decreased by 41 percent, indicating the individuals were displaying fewer PTSD symptoms. In comparison, the control group had a nearly 4 percent decline in checklist scores and a 17 percent increase in blood cortisol levels during the same period.

“Participants in the mind-body intervention reported that not only did the mind-body exercises reduce the impact of stress on their daily lives, but they also slept better, felt calmer and were motivated to resume hobbies and other enjoyable activities they had dropped,” Kim said. “This is a promising PTSD intervention worthy of further study to determine its long-term effects.”

Meditation Improves Focus & Grades in College Students, Research Shows

As reported in the journal, Mindfulness, a study of university students in California found those who practiced meditation scored better on tests, and those who meditated before classes focused better and concentrated longer, the UK Telegraph reported.

With just six minutes of meditation before a test, students showed better results, according to Jared Ramsburg, a University of Illinois doctoral student who co-lead the study. In one experiment, the meditation even predicted which students passed and which students failed the quiz.

The research found meditation training worked better on freshman students, who may have more difficulty concentrating. “This data from this study suggest that meditation may help students who might have trouble paying attention or focusing,” said George Mason University, Virgina, professor Robert Youmans, who co-lead the study with Ramsburg. “Sadly, freshmen classes probably contain more of these types of students than senior courses because student populations who have difficulty self-regulating are also more likely to leave the university.”

Researchers also believe taking long walks in the morning to plan out the day could have the same positive effects as meditation. “Basically, becoming just a little bit more mindful about yourself and your place in the world might have a very important, practical benefit – in this case, doing better in college,” Ramsburg said.