Transcendental Meditation (TM) and its Effectiveness on Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
THC Editorial Team September 23, 2022
- What is Transcendental Meditation (TM)?
- Background/History of Transcendental Meditation (TM)
- Potential Benefits of Transcendental Meditation
- What is ADHD?
- Benefits of Transcendental Meditation (TM) for ADHD
- The Effectiveness of Transcendental Meditation (TM) for ADHD According to Scientific Research
- Summary and Outlook
Finding effective ways to calm the mind when one has Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can be challenging. Sometimes children and adults benefit from techniques designed to quiet their inner thoughts, such as meditation and other forms of relaxation techniques. This article explores the impact of one such form of meditation, transcendental meditation (TM), on people with ADHD.
What is Transcendental Meditation (TM)?
Transcendental meditation, commonly abbreviated as TM, is a meditation technique originating in ancient Vedic and Indian traditions and was popularized in the Western world by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.1 During this type of meditation, a person will silently repeat a mantra (word, phrase, or sound) in their head. This mantra is repeated to achieve a feeling of peace and well-being. With proper practice, TM helps push the body into restful alertness or relaxed awareness and prevents ruminative or repetitive thoughts from controlling the mind.2
This type of meditation is called transcendental because, when done correctly, a practitioner will “transcend” ordinary thinking. They are left with “a state of pure consciousness” characterized by “perfect stillness, rest, stability, order, and a complete absence of mental boundaries.”3
Typically, TM needs to be taught by a certified teacher. The instruction involves several lectures sharing essential information about the technique and its intended effects on the mind and body. By the end of instruction, the teacher provides each student with a mantra specific to them. Notably, mantras are not comprised of English words.4
To experience the full effect of transcendental meditation, it is recommended that students practice the technique for at least 15 to 20 minutes every day, twice a day. Many people set aside time before breakfast and dinner each day.
Background/History of Transcendental Meditation (TM)
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, an Indian philosopher and teacher, developed this meditation technique after studying ancient Vedic traditions. His studies focused on the idea of consciousness, and he brought TM to the United States in the 1960s. Although based on ancient Indian philosophy and religion, TM is not connected to any faith or lifestyle.1
Several nonprofit organizations, including the Maharishi Foundation and the David Lynch Foundation, were established to spread this technique to more people worldwide. Millions of people worldwide have studied transcendental meditation and practiced it for their mental and physical well-being.1
Potential Benefits of Transcendental Meditation
People who regularly practice transcendental meditation have indicated improved physical, cognitive, mental, and emotional health.2 Physical health benefits include lowering blood pressure and improving sleep.5 TM may also be a good option for people who require pain management.
The cognitive benefits of TM are wide-ranging. People report increased productivity, improved focus, and more creativity and awareness during tasks. These cognitive benefits are significant when considering the treatment of individuals diagnosed with disorders affecting the brain, including anxiety, ADHD, and depression.
TM has been shown as effective in helping those dealing with posttraumatic stress disorder, self-esteem, and other mental health issues. In general, transcendental meditation can help improve happiness and lessen stress for many people.
Some people also find that regularly practicing transcendental meditation allows them to cope more effectively with their emotions. That is, they can experience more clarity in their thoughts and feelings and an increased sense of inner peace.
What is ADHD?
Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental condition affecting about 5% of children and 2.5% of adults worldwide, consisting of a long-standing inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that interferes with daily life or healthy development.6
ADHD, a potentially chronic condition that can affect young children, is considered one of childhood’s most common neurodevelopmental conditions and, for most people, continues through adulthood.7
Some of the most common symptoms of ADHD include hyperactivity, inattention, and impulsivity. Inattention may look like having trouble paying attention during tasks or not appearing to be paying attention when being spoken to directly. Hyperactivity and impulsivity are linked. People displaying these symptoms of ADHD may fidget or leave their seats when it is not convenient. They may also feel the need to be constantly moving or talking.8
ADHD treatments include psychosocial treatment, medication, and lifestyle changes. Professionals often recommend that treatments be combined for each one to work successfully.9
Benefits of Transcendental Meditation (TM) for ADHD
Many people are first diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder when they are children. Around 9.4% of children between the ages of 4 and 17 are diagnosed with ADHD in the U.S. alone.10 Treating children with ADHD is not a simple task. There is evidence that ADHD symptom response to these medications varies in children. Similarly, these drugs may be related to certain side effects in children.11
Different meditation practices might benefit people with ADHD, especially children, when drug treatment is not an option. TM is one example of a meditation technique that can be used as a behavioral intervention for ADHD.11
The Effectiveness of Transcendental Meditation (TM) for ADHD According to Scientific Research
In 2011, a pilot study investigated how practicing transcendental meditation impacted brain functioning for 18 students with ADHD between 11 and 14 years old. By the end of the study, which involved the dedicated practice of TM techniques for 3 to 6 months, the students showed improved ability to focus, organizational skills, capacity for independent work, happiness, and quality of sleep.11
Other studies, including one conducted in 2004, compared a small sample of students with ADHD before and after learning transcendental meditation. Although there was no comparison group for this study, the participants self-reported feeling “calmer, less distracted, less stressed, and better able to control their anger and frustration.”12
Other recent studies, which do not focus solely on ADHD, indicate benefits for people dealing with distress, trauma, anxiety, and depression. For example, a 2014 study in The Permanente Journal found that transcendental meditation practices helped teachers cope with psychological stress from their job.13
Compared with controls, a 2016 study found that prison inmates benefited from learning and regularly practicing TM to significantly reduce their trauma, anxiety, and depression.14
Summary and Outlook
While TM is one of the most studied forms of meditation, there is not yet a substantial body of standalone scientific research on transcendental meditation as a treatment for ADHD. However, studies focusing on TM have found significant improvements in individuals, particularly young students, regarding the ability to focus and work independently.15
Several researchers have focused on similar methods of meditation, such as mindfulness meditation, or adjacent practices to TM, such as yoga and Tai Chi11