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Meditation improves school performance    Translate This Article
15 April 2015

It seems like common sense that happy, focused students learn more and feel better at school. Yet the idea that educational outcomes depend on the learner's state of mind, and not just on what is taught and how, usually gets far less attention than it deserves.

Luckily, there are schools in the USA, South Africa, Kenya, Uganda, Ghana, Ecuador, Brazil, Peru, Bolivia, India, Australia, Vietnam, Nepal, United Kingdom, Netherlands, Northern Ireland and Israel where developing the ''knower'' is considered an essential part of great education. In order to do so, the Transcendental Meditation practice is incorporated into the school day.

Better behaviour, better abilities

The reasons why schools with curricular Transcendental Meditation practice have high achievements in academics and extracurricular activities can be related to two main factors.

First, Transcendental Meditation practice reduces stress. When students are less stressed they naturally learn and behave better.

Second, TM practice improves brain functioning, making the studies much easier.

Here are some highlights from research that has looked at the effects of TM meditation on students in different age groups.

Research: college students

Numerous studies with college students demonstrate that Transcendental Meditation practice:
∙ increases brain coherence in measures correlated with improved cognitive functioning; [1] [2]
∙ reduces stress, anxiety and depression; [3] [4]
∙ reduces sleepiness. [1]

Research: middle and high school students

Three randomized experiments compared the effect of Transcendental Meditation, napping and contemplative meditation on high school students. TM practice improved student test scores in:
∙ ability to successfully reason in new situations;
∙ speed of information processing;
∙ ability to achieve and maintain emotional and physical well-being, succeed in work, love, social relationships;
∙ a cluster of traits including cognitive functioning, personality and social behaviour;
∙ balanced use of cognitive, affective and volitional domains (traits like comprehension, analysis, curiosity, unconventionality, synthesis, and risk/avoidance);
∙ anxiety (with Transcendental Meditation practice anxiety reduced).

Napping had no effect on the scores, and the contemplative meditation group improved only on results of two tests (measuring speed of information processing and the cluster of traits including cognitive functioning, personality and social behaviour). [5]

In a study with 15 to 18-year-old students, four months of Transcendental Meditation practice resulted in:
∙ less absenteeism;
∙ fewer rule infractions;
∙ fewer suspension days.

For the control group, all variables increased during the same period. [6]

In one qualitative report, middle school students described the changes Transcendental Meditation practice brought along as follows:
''I am relaxed and I can concentrate more.''
''If I meditate, I feel calm and feel like I don't have to argue with anybody.''
''I used to be mad and frustrated but now I'm just calm and happy.''

Students also reported improved grades. [7]

Another recent study looked at the change in California Standards Test (CST) results for public middle school students with below-grade-level academic achievement scores.

After three months of Transcendental Meditation practice there was significant improvement in both English and math scores among meditating students compared to students in the control group. [8]

Research: preschoolers and elementary school students—leaving no child behind

Children from disadvantaged backgrounds often fail to achieve their full academic potential because of the negative effect of stress on their brains. As shown in some of the studies quoted above, it is by ensuring that children's minds are in their best possible shape for learning that truly we can ''leave no child behind''.

Hopefully, these findings will soon translate into meaningful educational reform which takes seriously not just the process of knowing and the known but also the one at the center of it all—the knower.

Copyright © 2015


1. Effects of Transcendental Meditation practice on brain functioning and stress reactivity in college students

2. Cross-sectional and longitudinal study of effects of Transcendental Meditation practice on interhemispheric frontal asymmetry and frontal coherence

3. A Randomized Controlled Trial on Effects of the Transcendental Meditation Program on Blood Pressure, Psychological Distress, and Coping in Young Adults

4. The Effect of Meditation on Self-Reported Measures of Stress, Anxiety, Depression, and Perfectionism in a College Population

5. Three randomized experiments on the longitudinal effects of the Transcendental Meditation technique on cognition

6. Impact of stress reduction on negative school behavior in adolescents

7. The Experience of Transcendental Meditation in Middle School Students: A Qualitative Report

8. Academic Achievement and Transcendental Meditation: A Study with At-Risk Urban Middle School Students

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