Three recent research papers on TM: Well-being, blood pressure, and time perception

Recent research has found that the Transcendental Meditation technique decreases anxiety and improves resilience in grade school children, reduced blood pressure, and that TM meditators have more accurate time perception and higher levels of mindfulness than matched controls.       

By David Orme-Johnson

1. TM decreases anxiety and improves resilience.

S. Wendt, Hipps J., Abrams A., et al. "Practicing Transcendental Meditation in high schools: Relationship to well-being and academic achievement among students." Contemporary School Psychology July 22 (2015)

Authors of this study were from Center for Wellness and Achievement in Education, 711 Van Ness Avenue, Suite 440, San Francisco, CA 94102, USA

Method. The current study utilized a two-group pretest-posttest design of 9th graders where one group of students received the treatment (e.g., participation in Quiet Time) and a second, similar group received no treatment.

Abstract. The Quiet Time program provides a 15-min period at the beginning and end of the school day
where students may practice Transcendental Meditation (TM) or another quiet activity such as reading silently to oneself. This study examined the impact of practicing TM during Quiet Time on ninth-grade students (n=141) by comparing their outcomes to those of a group of ninth-grade students (n=53) attending a school that did not participate in Quiet Time. Students in both groups completed an assessment battery in early October 2012, shortly after which treatment students learned TM, and again in May 2013. Analysis of covariance was used to analyze the differences between the treatment and comparison groups.

Results indicated that students who practiced TM during Quiet Time scored significantly lower on anxiety (p<0.05) and higher on resilience (p<0.05) at follow-up than comparison group students. Within the treatment group, students who spent more time meditating also had higher resilience scores and higher instruction time. After participating in TM, student reported increases in their sleep, happiness, and self-confidence.

2. TM reduces blood pressure.

S. L. Ooi, Giovino M., Pak S. C. "Transcendental meditation for lowering blood pressure: An overview of systematic reviews and meta-analyses." Complementary Therapies in Medicine 34 (2017): 26-34.

This study was conducted by researchers at the Centre of Complementary & Alternative Medicine, Singapore 247909, Singapore and the School of Biomedical Sciences, Charles Sturt University, Bathurst, NSW 2795, Australia.

Background: Transcendental meditation (TM) is a stress reduction technique that can potentially lower blood pressure (BP) safely. The American Heart Association recommends that TM may be considered in clinical practice.

Objective: To provide an overview of all systematic reviews and meta-analyses of TM on BP for evidence-informed clinical decision making.

Method: Systematic searches of PubMed, EBSCOhost, Cochrane Library, Web of Science, Embase, and PsycINFO for all systematic reviews and/or meta-analyses of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) with TM as an intervention, and outcome measures include systolic BP (SBP) and diastolic BP (DBP). Qualitative and quantitative data were synthesized. The methodological quality of the selected reviews was assessed using the AMSTAR checklist.

Results: Eight systematic reviews and meta-analyses are included. Among them is an Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality report, a Cochrane systematic review, 4 independent reviews, and 2 reviews from a TM related institution. The quality of most of the included reviews is fair with a mean score of 5.75/11 on the AMSTAR scale.

Overall, there exists a clear trend of increasing evidence over the years supporting the efficacy of TM in lowering BP. 

Conclusion: Practicing TM may potentially reduce the SBP by ∼4 mm Hg and DBP by ∼2 mm Hg. Such effect is comparable with other lifestyle interventions such as weight-loss diet and exercise. 

3. TM meditators have more accurate time perception and higher levels of mindfulness.

E. Schötz, Ottena S., MarcWittmann, et al. "Time perception, mindfulness and attentional capacities in transcendental meditators and matched controls." Personality and Individual Differences (2015).

This research was conducted at the Institute of Medical Psychology, Goethestr. 31, 80336 Munich, Germany.

Abstract. Only a few studies have investigated the sense of time in experienced meditators. In the current case–control study, researchers investigated whether 20 practitioners in transcendental meditation (TM) showed differences in the perception of time as compared to 20 matched controls. Perception of time was assessed with a battery of psychophysical
tasks including duration reproduction and time estimation tasks in the milliseconds-to-minutes range as well as with psychometric instruments related to subjective time and assessments concerning the subjective passage of time. Attentional capacities were measured with the Attention Network Test. Trait mindfulness was assessed with the Freiburg Mindfulness Inventory. Results indicate that the TM meditators performed more consistently in the duration reproduction tasks in the multiple seconds' range and responded more accurately in the time estimation tasks in the minutes' range as well as in the duration discrimination task than controls. Self-rated mindfulness was more pronounced in meditators.

In conclusion, experts in TM performed more accurately in psychophysical time perception tasks and had higher mindfulness than non-meditating controls.

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