Posts Tagged ‘ways to reduce stress’

Tall Poppies Magazine: Stress-free learning: Teaching children to meditate

March 26, 2012

The March 2012 issue of Tall Poppies, a magazine for the New Zealand Association for Gifted Children, contains an article, Teaching children to meditate, under Stress-free learning (pages 12-13). You can read the article with photos by downloading Tall Poppies: Stress Free Learning.

Teaching children to meditate

Stephen Benner explains how meditation is helping some New Zealand children to cope better with school.

Is it possible to make all kids smarter and happier than they are now?

Any teacher surveying the young faces of his or her class must often wonder why is it that certain students seem to understand the lessons more quickly and easily than the rest. All the children have two eyes, two ears and one brain – yet some young brains seem to work better than others.

Up until now, we have more or less accepted that the comprehension levels of a student are fixed. The accent in education has been on developing the quality of the information fed into those young brains, rather than developing the quality of the intelligence that is receiving that information.

Fair enough, because up until now there has been no reliable standard technology in the world of education for ‘upgrading the hardware’ within the cranium of each and every student. However, there is now a quiet revolution going on in a number of schools around the world that is challenging the notion of fixed intelligence and the inevitability of under-achievement.

This quiet revolution is being driven by the introduction of a simple, natural, mental technique utilised by all students and staff for a short period at the beginning and end of each school day. The technique is called Transcendental Meditation (TM for short), which has been available around the world in a standardised form for more than 50 years, although its origins go back to the ancient Vedic civilisation of India.

Since 1970, TM has been subjected to extensive scientific research; there is now a clear understanding of its effects both during the practice and as a result of the practice. During meditation, refined levels of mental activity are experienced with the outcome being greater ‘inner wakefulness’ and enriched brain functioning. Of interest to educators is the fact that EEG studies show that whole-brain functioning is enlivened during TM practice and that different parts of the brain begin to work in a more synchronous and orderly fashion. Higher levels of brain integration are associated with greater moral reasoning, emotional stability and decreased anxiety. Simultaneously, the physiology experiences a profound level of deep rest, whereby accumulated stress and tension is naturally alleviated, leaving one refreshed, relaxed and revitalised.

Over 340 peer-reviewed studies carried out at universities around the world have found a wide range of practical benefits resulting from the practice of TM, including increased creativity, focus, and memory; improved academic achievement; decreased stress, anxiety and depression; and greater happiness, coping ability and tolerance.

TM comes into the daily routine of a school in the first and last 15 minutes of the day during a period called Quiet Time, when students sit in their classrooms and practise the technique along with their teacher. Taught by qualified instructors, the programme is non-sectarian and is easily integrated into any public or private school curriculum. In our experience, when the programme is fully implemented, not only do the individual teachers and students flourish, but the entire school atmosphere becomes harmonious, happy, safe and conducive to learning.

As an example, when a South Auckland school decided to take on the TM Quiet Time programme a couple of years ago, the principal acknowledged that at that time the school was not a safe learning environment and was unable to provide appropriate strategies to manage the high levels of stress in the students’ lives. Lack of achievement was the norm, with only five per cent of students reaching the national standards for reading ability.

Since the introduction of the TM programme, there has been a major turnaround and the school now has a calm, peaceful environment. Teachers find the students interact with each other in a more positive fashion, and 49 per cent of students are now reaching or exceeding national standards in reading.

One staff member commented: ‘My students are focused and there is calmness about them. There has been a shift in their learning.’ In contemplating the beaming faces in front of her soon after the programme started, another teacher quipped: ‘Who are these kids . . . where has my class gone!’

By reducing the acute stresses that undermine learning and health, and by developing the full brain, the TM Quiet Time programme is a practical, highly effective approach to promoting learning readiness among students and thereby markedly improving their academic performance and success in life.

Do the claims stack up?

Sceptics query whether TM really works and say its effects are not scientifically proven. However, the New York Times recently reported the results of a study focusing on transcendental meditation, concentrated on a young healthy population.

The study, published in The American Journal of Hypertension, found that stressed-out college students improved their mood through TM, and those at risk for hypertension were able to reduce their blood pressure. It was carried out at American University in Washington, DC and included 298 students randomly assigned to either a meditation group or a waiting list.

Students who were at risk of hypertension and practiced meditation, reduced systolic blood pressure by 6.3mm of mercury and their diastolic pressure by 4mm of mercury on average, reported the Times.

It’s worked for us

Kataraina Nock, principal of Edmund Hillary School in Papakura, reflects on the changes engendered by teaching TM to her pupils.

Our school motto – bestowed by Sir Edmund Hillary at the official opening in 1963 – is ‘Aim High, Be Determined’. It presents a formidable challenge to all who have participated in the transformation process of turning around a school with a long history of failure. Now, in the sixth year of change, it is a much better place.

This is mainly attributable to the many people who have entered the gates with their hands up to help. They are all passionate, committed people who see a need and want to contribute. Among them is our Transcendental Meditation family, who began by training staff and later students. The Board, school, families and community have given their wholehearted support and the entire school has been practising the TM technique twice each day at school for the past two-and-a-half years. Yrs 1–5 students walk either inside or outside their classroom for five minutes with their eyes open and meditate. Students from Yrs 6–8 sit at their desks in the classroom, close their eyes and meditate for 12 minutes.

What have we noticed over those two-and-a-half years? The school is now a much more peaceful place most of the time. The number of incidents involving children in conflict has significantly reduced over time and there are no longer queues waiting to see the principal. Visitors make various comments about the tone of the school. Some say there is a feeling of ‘aroha’, others remark on how happy and friendly the children are. Those who know the history, comment on the remarkable change in the school environment.

Teachers report that students are more settled in class, have increased concentration and are doing their work better. This is evident in the changes in student achievement. In 2011, reading results school-wide showed some outstanding improvement. For example, in 2010, for Yr 4 Pacifika Boys, 87 per cent were below or well below the national standard, while 13 per cent were above. In 2011, for the same group, 86 per cent were reading at national standard and 14 per cent were above. As a result, by 2012 there were no children in this year group in need of additional learning support; they had moved from poor-achieving to high-achieving readers. The children themselves say they find it easier to study and they feel calmer, happier and less pressured.

Another significant difference now is the stability of staffing. Up until 2010, the recruitment and retention of quality teachers was a major issue. Now, in 2012, most of the teachers have been in the school for two years or more. All staff except for a new teacher this year have trained in TM.

We appreciate and value the opportunity we have been given as a result of the introduction of TM into Edmund Hillary School. We are aiming high and are determined to reach the top of the mountain, just as Sir Edmund Hillary did. Transcendental Meditation is helping us get there.

You can get more information at:

Tall Poppies is a quality magazine aimed at gifted children and their families, professionals in the field of gifted education, and the general public. It is published three times a year and posted to all NZAGC members (including overseas members) as part of their subscription.

TM Can Reduce Health Care Costs

September 13, 2011

Meditation Can Reduce Health Care Costs

By Rick Nauert PhD Senior News Editor
Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on September 13, 2011

Meditation Can Reduce Health Care CostsStress can contribute to a wide array of health problems, and finding ways to reduce stress could presumably impact overall health care costs as well. A new study suggests that meditation can do just that.

According to the research, people with consistently high health care costs experienced a 28 percent cumulative decrease in physician fees after an average of five years practicing the stress-reducing Transcendental Meditation technique compared with their baseline.

The study is published in the September/October 2011 issue of the American Journal of Health Promotion.

Experts have recognized that in most populations, a small fraction of people account for the majority of health care costs.

In the U.S., the highest spending 10 percent in the general population incurred 60 percent to 70 percent of total medical expenditures annually.

In the Medicare population, the highest spending 5 percent incurred 43 percent of total Medicare costs, and the highest spending 25 percent of seniors accounted for 85 percent of total expenses.

Individuals in these groups have consistently high medical bills year after year.

For many, chronic stress is the number one factor contributing to high medical expenses. Stress reduction may help reduce these costs.

This new study compared the changes in physician costs for 284 consistent high-cost participants—142 Transcendental Meditation practitioners with 142 non-practitioners, over five years in Quebec, Canada.

The non-TM subjects were randomly selected from Quebec health insurance enrollees with the same age, sex, and region to match the TM participant profiles.

The TM participants decided to begin the technique prior to choosing to enter the study. In the year before the intervention began, there were no significant differences between the groups in payments to physicians.

During the five-year assessment period, the TM group’s annual health care costs declined significantly (p = 0.004), while the comparison group’s utilization showed no significant changes.

After the first year, the TM group decreased 11 percent, and after 5 years, their cumulative reduction was 28 percent (p = 0.001).

The primary measure for assessing the effectiveness of TM practice in decreasing medical costs was the fees paid by the Quebec health insurance agency to private physicians in all settings for treating study participants.

In Canada and U.S., physician payments have been 20 percent of national health expenditures.

This study’s findings were similar to earlier ones. In a previous Canadian study, the TM group exhibited reduced medical expenses between 5 percent and 13 percent relative to comparison subjects each year for 6 consecutive years.

In a subsequent Canadian study of senior citizens, the TM group’s five-year cumulative reduction for people aged 65 years and older relative to comparison subjects was 70 percent. In a sample of American health insurance enrollees, the TM participants had reduced rates of illness in all disease categories.

An 11-year, cross-sectional study in Iowa found that subjects age 45 and over who practiced the TM technique had 88 percent fewer hospital days compared with controls. Their medical expenditures were 60 percent below the norm.

Other studies, including randomized clinical trials, indicate the TM technique can improve physical and mental health, decrease tobacco use, reduce substance abuse, and decrease other unhealthy habits and risk factors that lead to chronic disease and costly treatments.

“This article has major policy significance for saving Medicare and Medicaid without cutting benefits or raising taxes,” said the paper’s author, Robert E. Herron, Ph.D.

“Almost no intervention for cost containment has decreased medical expenditures by 28 percent over five years from a baseline. Now, it may be possible to rescue Medicare and Medicaid by adding coverage for learning the Transcendental Meditation technique.”

Source: Roth Media

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2011). Meditation Can Reduce Health Care Costs. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 13, 2011, from

Also see: High Medical Costs Decrease 28% after 5 Years of Transcendental Meditation Practice | New study: TM Reduces Health Care Costs by 28%

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