The Transcendental Meditation Program Heals Effects of Traumatic Stress
One can hardly watch the news today without being heartsick over the level of trauma and suffering born by so many– the poverty-stricken without food, refugees without a nation, and victims of war and violence of all kinds.
These experiences may be the most extreme forms of stress, but some degree of stress occurs in almost everyone’s life. As the effects of stress build up, they can lead to feelings of distress. When severe or prolonged, stress can lead to unhealthy mind-body responses similar to those resulting from the life-threatening traumas described above.
Common life stresses that can become traumatic include a relationship break-up, loss of employment, losing a loved one, being bullied, and even the loss of a pet. Though deeply uncomfortable, most of these experiences don’t lead to an ongoing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Unfortunately, many women have been subjected to severe experiences, including serious illness and its treatment, childhood abuse, neglect, domestic violence, war, or living through a natural disaster.
According to the US Department of Veterans Affairs, estimates from community studies suggest that women experience post-traumatic stress disorder at two to three times the rate that men do. In fact, approximately 10 percent of women today experience symptoms of PTSD. Traumatic events can result in PTSD symptoms such as spontaneous flashbacks, fear, anger, nightmares, confusion, and sadness. And the more extreme the trauma, the more likely these troublesome, often stubbornly persistent, symptoms will occur.
Collectively, post-traumatic stress symptoms include not only psychological and emotional symptoms, but even physical sensations such as pain, sweating, nausea, or trembling. PTSD is a serious and disabling condition that is seen throughout the world, with girls and women at the highest risk.
Now for the good news!
New Hope for PTSD
While the medical community has relied on medication and talk therapies, with varying degrees of success, they can have unwanted side effects and are all too often ineffective at providing significant relief from PTSD symptoms.
A growing body of research studies, including several funded by the Department of Defense and Veterans Administration, indicate that the Transcendental Meditation technique is a viable, effective aid to alleviating PTSD, even in severe cases.
Medical News Today reported:
“Working with a cohort of young people with symptoms of PTSD and depression, researchers found that practicing Transcendental Meditation can help reduce or even reverse these symptoms.”
In reporting on a study(1) published in 2018 supported by grants from the US Department of Defense, The journal Psychiatric News of the American Psychiatric Association reported:
“Veterans with PTSD who participated in Transcendental Meditation sessions over a 12-week period showed symptom improvements similar to those who participated in prolonged exposure therapy sessions—long considered the gold standard psychotherapy for PTSD. However, the TM technique results were seen more quickly and reduced depression more.TM is self-empowering and, unlike other methods such as health education and prolonged exposure therapy, can be practiced anywhere at any time, without specialized equipment or the need for personnel support.”
With the practice of Transcendental Meditation, the body and mind rest so deeply that stress dissolves automatically. One veteran of the Iraq war wrote:
“After my first week of (TM) meditation I was able to sleep…. My depression has improved daily and my aggression has vanished.TM has given me the perspective to live with a peaceful mind.”
The TM practice was shown to be a viable treatment modality in military treatment facilities for reducing PTSD symptoms and associated medication use. Transcendental Meditation decreased the need for psychotropic medications required for anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder management and increased psychological wellbeing.(2)
Other published studies have found that TM is highly effective in treating PTSD in a variety of populations, including war refugees, victims of domestic abuse(3), incarcerated individuals, healthcare workers and traumatized college students.
Even healthcare workers experiencing burnout from the COVID-19 pandemic gained significant relief from learning and practicing the TM technique.(5) According to the study at Duke University School of Medicine published Sept. 19 in JAMA Network Open, the TM technique “did alleviate anxiety, insomnia, and burnout, suggesting meditation would be an effective strategy to mitigate rising exhaustion and burnout among healthcare workers.”
And TM has other related documented benefits beyond PTSD symptoms, including a reduction of stress, fatigue, insomnia, trait anxiety, and hypertension and an increase in harmonious relationships and resilience.
Even Your DNA “Knows” You Meditate
Interestingly, even DNA activity reflects the lower stress state “on” TM!
A study published in 2023 in the journal Brain, Behavior and Immunity(4) showed that DNA stress response activation is lower in TM practitioners compared to controls. In addition, inflammation, a common pathway for many diseases, is reduced, while immunity remains strong. These two findings together make a good recipe for good health—one that may help explain the reduction of chronic disease reported in research on TM practitioners compared to control groups.
My Perspective as a Physician and Researcher
As a physician, I’ve recommended the TM program to thousands of my patients and many of them have learned. They’ve commonly reported back results such as “things don’t bother me as much anymore,” “my boss asked if I was ok—I haven’t been getting upset like I used to!” and “life seems easier.” Of course, many saw improvements in their health—the result of less stress-induced lifestyle choices, or from simply feeling calmer and more at ease on a daily basis.
I’ve also provided services in a Department of Defense grant that taught the TM technique to healthcare workers to reduce burnout and increase resilience during COVID-19. Every one of the participants I talked to reported that they loved their TM and that it made a big difference in their stress levels. All they had to do was take the few minutes twice a day to do it!
If you have a buildup of stress, burnout, or PTSD, or simply want to achieve that “better version of yourself,” I encourage you to join millions of women around the world and learn the simple and easy, yet powerfully effective, Transcendental Meditation technique.
- The Lancet Psychiatry, 5(12), 975–986 (2018) Non-trauma-focused meditation versus exposure therapy in veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder: a randomised controlled trial
- Military Medicine, Vol. 181, Issue 1, 56–63 (2016) https://doi.org/10.7205/MILMED-D-14-00333 Impact of Transcendental Meditation on Psychotropic Medication Use Among Active Duty Military Service Members With Anxiety and PTSD.
Military Medicine, Volume 183, Issue 1-2 (2018), Pages e144–e150; The Transcendental Meditation Program’s Impact on the Symptoms of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder of Veterans: An Uncontrolled Pilot Study, 2017
- Journal of Family Violence, Transcendental Meditation for Women Affected by Domestic Violence: A Pilot Randomised, Controlled Trial; Original Article Open access Published: 19 April 2023
- Brain, Behavior, & Immunity – Health, 32 (2023) 100672 Transcendental Meditation practitioners show reduced expression of the Conserved Transcriptional Response to Adversity
Available online 2 August 2023; 2666-3546/© 2023 Published by Elsevier Inc. This is an open-access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/).
- JAMA Network Open (2022) Efficacy of Transcendental Meditation to Reduce Stress Among Health Care Workers. DOI: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2022.31917
About the Author
Nancy Lonsdorf, MD was trained at Johns Hopkins and Stanford and is an author and specialist in women’s health from the perspective of Maharishi Ayurveda along with Western and functional medicine.