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How does the Transcendental Meditation technique reduce stress - what are the mechanics? 

Operation Warrior Wellness    Translate This Article
28 November 2011

Ask the Experts

Sarina Grosswald, Ed.D.
, is a research investigator at the NIH-funded Institute for Natural Medicine and Prevention. She is a principal investigator in a series of trials studying the effects of Transcendental Meditation on post-traumatic stress (PTS) and resilience among military personnel and veterans.

Q: How does the Transcendental Meditation technique reduce stress? What are the mechanics? 

Dr. Sarina Grosswald:
When the mind settles down during the practice of the Transcendental Meditation technique, the body also settles down and becomes deeply rested. Deep rest is a mechanism that allows the body to throw off stress—and not just cope with it but actually dissolve it. After all, when you're sick, the doctor prescribes rest to heal and rejuvenate your body.

Another positive change that takes place during the practice of Transcendental Meditation involves brain chemistry. Research shows that serotonin and other mood-enhancing chemicals are released in the brain. These are the same chemicals that are released by medication, except that in the case of the Transcendental Meditation technique, this release happens naturally, without negative side effects. Mood becomes more balanced, the connection between the prefrontal cortex is strengthened, and as a result you are able to think more clearly. You can analyze the situation more quickly and engage in a thoughtful decision, rather than falling prey to the primitive, reactive side of the brain.

So children with ADHD say that after starting the TM technique they can manage their anger a bit better, and research shows that's because the prefrontal cortex is processing faster. In the same way, people with PTS grow in the ability to think more clearly and are able to respond in a balanced way. After starting the TM technique, their threshold of stress is higher and they are more stable, more able to maintain their equanimity.

Recently, I was talking to a veteran who was prescribed counseling and medication for PTS. He was feeling drowsy and disoriented from the medication, and complained that the treatment was only blunting the symptoms, not actually making him healthier or improving his mental and physical well-being.

But how do you create that feeling of well-being? That feeling comes from inside. A person with PTS is trying to take control of his or her life and actions, and through the Transcendental Meditation technique, he or she can lower stress levels and gain the internal stability to cope with the challenges of day-to-day life.

Research has shown that the TM technique not only reduces stress, the primary cause of PTS, but also reduces its related symptoms of depression, insomnia, and substance abuse.

© Copyright 2011 David Lynch Foundation

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