Transcendental meditation may improve mental health by reducing anxiety and somatisation (development of physical symptoms stemming from mental or emotional stress). That was the finding of a study published in Clinical Practice and Epidemiology in Mental Health (2008; 4 ; doi:10.1186/1745–0179–4–25).
Researchers from the University of Tehran, in Iran, designed the study to evaluate whether transcendental meditation [TM] might be a valuable way for Iranian people to cope with anxiety and stress. National surveys have shown that 21% of adults in Iran experience high levels of mental distress.
TM is a meditation style from the East Indian Vedic tradition that uses a technique of concentrating on silent mantra repetition to avoid distraction by unwanted thoughts. The purpose of TM is to quiet the mind and allow the body to achieve a state of deep rest. Herbert Benson, MD, conducted his early studies at Harvard University on the mind-body connection in TM practitioners.
Eighty men and women, ages 20–55, completed the Iranian study. Before and after a 12-week TM course, all subjects responded to a questionnaire that focused on four areas of mental health and stress: depression, anxiety, somatisation and social dysfunction. Data analysis revealed that meditation improved mental health, particularly in the categories of somatisation and anxiety.
The authors conceded that the absence of a control group undermined the certainty of their findings. Additional studies with more rigorous standards are needed.