Regular doses of meditation might prevent
work-related stress and burn-out, a small US study suggests.
Teachers and support staff working at a
school for children with behaviour problems felt less stressed after practicing
20 minutes of Transcendental Meditation (TM) twice a day for four months.
But participants "reported feeling
less stressed and more energetic within a few days," said the study's
senior author Sanford Nidich, of Maharishi University's Institute for Natural
Medicine and Prevention in Fairfield, Iowa.
Starting stress levels among the
participants had averaged 39 on a 40-point scale and fell 5 points by the end
of the study period. In comparison, 20 school staffers who did not meditate
started with stress levels around 37 on the same scale and those rose 2 points
during the same period.
Meditating participants also felt less
depressed and less emotionally exhausted, according to Nidich and his co-authors.
But meditation seemed to have the strongest effect on stress levels, they note
in their report, published in the Permanente Journal.
Read: How to meditate?
The researchers don't describe the
techniques taught to participants in the study in detail, but TM, a trademarked
method of meditation, generally involves sitting with one's eyes closed for 20
minutes twice a day and thinking about a particular sound or mantra.
techniques, such as TM, involve the effortless use of a sound without meaning
(mantra), which allows the mind to settle to quieter levels of thought,"
Nidich's team writes.
Certified instructors teach the practice
nationwide at a cost of $960 for the full course, according to the TM.org
website. "The devil's advocate might claim that the effect is non-specific,
and has nothing directly to do with TM," said alternative medicine researcher
Dr Ezard Ernst in an email to Reuters Health.
Costly side effects of stress
Workplace stress can have costly side
effects in the form of employee turnover. A 2012 study by the Centre for
American Progress puts the cost of replacing an employee at 10% to 30% of
that worker's annual salary.
Read: Tips on how to overcome office stress
Getting back to the present
Some meditation can be done without leaving
your desk, said Janice Marturano, founder and director of the Institute for
Mindful Leadership in Oakland, New Jersey. "Mindfulness meditation is
retraining our mind's ability to direct our attention," said Marturano,
who was not connected to the new study.
"Simply putting your feet on the
floor, and paying attention to the weightiness of your legs or the breath in
your body can bring your mind back to the present," she said.
Meditation is a way to avoid working on
"auto-pilot", Marturano said, explaining that today's 24/7 workplace
connectivity requires employees to be mentally present at most times –
something that doesn't necessarily come naturally.
The workplaces of the future could benefit
by having a quiet room for workers to visit for 10 minutes or less, Marturano
said. "Employees who come out of a stressful meeting or situation can then
go inside and reset their minds so they do not have to carry that stress with
them for the rest of the day," she said.
Picture: Meditation from Shutterstock
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