Teachers and support staff working at a school for
children with behavior problems felt less stressed after practicing
20 minutes of Transcendental Meditation (TM) twice a day for four
But participants "reported feeling less stressed and more energetic
within a few days," said the study's senior author Sanford Nidich,
of Maharishi University's Institute for Natural Medicine and
Prevention in Fairfield, Iowa.
Starting stress levels among the participants had averaged 39 on a
40-point scale and fell 5 points by the end of the study period. In
comparison, 20 school staffers who did not meditate started with
stress levels around 37 on the same scale and those rose 2 points
during the same period.
Meditating participants also felt less depressed and less
emotionally exhausted, according to Nidich and his coauthors. But
meditation seemed to have the strongest effect on stress levels,
they note in their report, published in the Permanente Journal.
The researchers don't describe the techniques taught to participants
in the study in detail, but TM, a trademarked method of meditation,
generally involves sitting with one's eyes closed for 20 minutes
twice a day and thinking about a particular sound or mantra.
"Automatic self-transcending techniques, such as TM, involve the
effortless use of a sound without meaning (mantra), which allows the
mind to settle to quieter levels of thought," Nidich's team writes.
Certified instructors teach the practice nationwide at a cost of
$960 for the full course , according to the TM.org website.
"The devil's advocate might claim that the effect is non-specific,
and has nothing directly to do with TM," said alternative medicine
researcher Dr. Ezard Ernst in an email to Reuters Health.
Ernst, of the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom, was not
involved in the new study.
He said the results do not show a causal link between TM and reduced
stress levels among the school staffers. "We would need a much more
rigorous trial and several independent replications" before drawing
any conclusions, Ernst said.
Plenty of past research points to apparent benefits from various
forms of meditation, such as TM or the popular "mindfulness
meditation" approach, for conditions ranging from anxiety to pain
(see Reuters Health article of January 6, 2014 here: http://reut.rs/1iL0Ew8).
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Workplace stress can have costly side effects in the form of
employee turnover. A 2012 study by the Center for American Progress
puts the cost of replacing an employee at 10 to 30 percent of that
worker's annual salary.
Some meditation can be done without leaving your desk, said Janice
Marturano, founder and director of the Institute for Mindful
Leadership in Oakland, New Jersey.
"Mindfulness meditation is retraining our mind's ability to
direct our attention," said Marturano, who was not connected to the
"Simply putting your feet on the floor, and paying attention to the
weightiness of your legs or the breath in your body can bring your
mind back to the present," she said.
Meditation is a way to avoid working on "auto-pilot," Marturano
said, explaining that today's 24/7 workplace connectivity requires
employees to be mentally present at most times — something that
doesn't necessarily come naturally.
The workplaces of the future could benefit by having a quiet room
for workers to visit for 10 minutes or less, Marturano said.
"Employees who come out of a stressful meeting or situation can then
go inside and reset their minds so they do not have to carry that
stress with them for the rest of the day," she said.
The Permanente Journal, online Feb. 2, 2014.
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