Soldiers returning home from with life-changing events or refugees from war-torn countries may suffer post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Individuals with PTSD often cannot stop thinking about the horrifying event, reliving the experience again and again. To ward off its symptoms, a number of studies have shown transcendental meditation lowers the painful effects of PTSD.
Transcendental meditation is a technique specifically designed to steer your mind away from distracting thoughts and promote a state of relaxed awareness. It consists of sitting with eyes closed and repeating a mantra, which is a meaningless sound from the Vedic tradition of India. Experts point out that when meditating, the ordinary thinking process becomes replaced by a state of pure consciousness, or "transcended." In this state, PTSD patients can achieve stillness, rest, stability, order and an absence of mental boundaries.
PTSD in Refugees
A recent, small study indicates that Congolese war refugees who learned transcendental meditation showed significant reduction in PTSD in just 10 days. The research was published in the February 2014 issue of the Journal of Traumatic Stress.
In the study, 11 subjects were assessed using the PTSD Checklist for Civilians, which ranks PTSD on a scale from 17 to 85. A score less than 35 means the symptoms of the disorder have abated.
Initially, the participants received an average score 77.9. After only 10 days of practicing transcendental meditation, their PTSD test scores dropped to an average of 48, a shockingly significant reduction. At the 30-day mark, the subjects were tested again, with scores falling to an average of 35.3, meaning they were almost without their disorder.
"What makes this study interesting is when we tested them in the 90 days before they began the TM technique, their PTSD scores kept going up," co-author of the study Fred Travis, director of the Center for Brain, Consciousness, and Cognition at Maharishi University of Management, said in a statement. "During that period their scores were rising, from 68.5 at the beginning to 77.9 after 90 days. But once they started the transcendental meditation technique, their PTSD scores plummeted."
According to the researchers, something profound happens when one experiences a traumatic event. It locks into a specific brain functioning by over stimulating the amygdala, thereby trapping people into a rut of thinking and feeling, in this case fear, mistrust and vigilance. However, with transcendental meditation, people enter a deep state of restfulness, which calms the amygdala and alleviates PTSD symptoms. Researchers note it allows the individual to "see more possibilities."
Esperance Ndozi, a 35-year-old mother of five, was among the Congolese refugees traumatized by the civil war. Before the transcendental meditation, Ndozi could hardly sleep and was disturbed by her dark memories. Yet after a week of mediating 20 minutes a day she said she found noticeable relief from the symptoms.
"Your mind, your body relaxes," Ndozi told the Maharishi University of Management. "You feel you are out of the outside world. You are just in your peaceful world. No negativity. It doesn't come near me now."
This was the fourth study to highlight an improvement in PTSD through meditation. Currently, transcendental meditation is being considered as a viable treatment by the U.S. military.
PTSD affects at least 7.7 million adults in the U.S. Meditation has proven to relieve stress in PTSD and provide relief to the sufferers. Learning how to live with yourself can seem like an insurmountable hurdle for natural treatments, but this type of meditation has proven a beaming ray of light.
Ilchi Lee, an innovative leader in the human brain potential development, encourages transcendental meditation to overcome the personal challenges, no matter how big they are.