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Leading researcher on Transcendental Meditation clarifies misconceptions about 'stress for success'
by Global Good News staff writer
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9 September 2009
A leading researcher on the effects of the Transcendental Meditation Programme in education, particularly with children who have ADHD, addresses questions about the research and the programme on the tm.org website.
Commenting on extensive research on reduced stress and improved brain function through Transcendental Meditation, Dr Sarina Grosswald also gives interesting insights into common misconceptions about stress as a motivator for action.
Dr Grosswald said that a deadline can increase motivation to get things done, 'but it really is a total misconception that people perform better under stress. In fact, the people who perform better in pressured situations are the very people who do not find those situations stressful. In other words, the pressure is merely stimulating to those people; if it were stressful to them, their performance would be affected.'
She pointed out that it is when one is tired that one is most likely to make mistakes—'when you're tired, when you're stressed, and when you're doing things too quickly'.
'Creativity comes from being clear-minded, calm, and rested,' she emphasized. 'There's nothing wrong with occasional stress, but chronic stress is debilitating; when you're really stressed, it is unlikely that creativity and performance are going to be at their peak.'
She explained that Nature has provided us with a survival mechanism that shuts down the prefrontal cortex—the reasoning and analytical part of the brain—when we're under extreme stress. ' ''Shutting down the brain'' means that all the energy goes to the muscles; that is called the ''fight-or-flight'' response,' she said. 'That works fine if you're being chased by a bear, but for day-to-day life, operating within that circumstance is really counterproductive.'
'In some circumstances one rises to the occasion when there's pressure, but you don't want to live your daily life like that. Rather, you want the pre-frontal cortex, the total brain to be operating. Then you can plan, organize, strategize, and be as productive, effective, and creative as possible.'
Scientific research on Transcendental Meditation has shown that the technique increases the communication between the pre-frontal cortex and the other parts of the brain. This is the 'exact opposite' of the effect of stress, Dr Grosswald said. 'The Transcendental Meditation technique expands [and integrates] brain functioning,' she said.
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