Military Vets See Benefits Of Transcendental Meditation On PTSD

By Victoria Kim 02/23/17

TM has even been found to reduce the reliance on psychotropic medication for some veterans.

Man meditating outside.

It’s helped Jerry Seinfeld. Martin Scorsese. And more recently, Lindsay Lohan, who said she found peace through the practice while on a Monday  (Feb. 20) appearance on The View. Its star-studded roster of devotees may make Transcendental Meditation (TM) seem like a gimmick.

But among its greatest proponents are military veterans who suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, who say TM has dramatically changed their lives for the better. 

The TM practice, 20 minutes twice per day, “takes users from a level of active thinking to a state of inner quietness that reduces levels of stress hormones and activation of the sympathetic nervous system, which drives the so-called fight-or-flight response by increasing heart rate and blood pressure,” according to a 2016 press release by the Medical College of Georgia.

A physiologist at the medical college, Dr. Vernon Barnes, led a study that observed the effects of TM on members of the military in treatment for PTSD or anxiety disorder. The study found that generally, service members who practiced TM were able to better manage their PTSD symptoms and even reduce their reliance on psychotropic medication.

These findings echo the testimony of other veterans who found it difficult or impossible to adjust to life back home. Many try to cope with the stress by taking medication or abusing substances. Last year the Department of Veterans Affairs reported that in 2014, veterans accounted for 18% of all suicides in the United States, though they make up less than 9% of the population.

While some were skeptical of TM, many have credited meditation with helping them recover, and improving their health and their relationships. “All that feeling of stress and heaviness, I can feel it melt away,” said one vet.

Students at Norwich University, the oldest private military college in the United States known as the birthplace of ROTC, also attest to TM’s holistic benefits. They are part of a study to determine the effects of TM on the students amid a grueling academic schedule.

Students reported improved focus, energy, patience, alertness, and better stress management. As a result, they perform better at school. “This appears to be an effective tool for our cadets to help them handle the stressful military environment where they are really striving for excellence academically, militarily, and in a lot of cases physically,” said LTC Mark Hagenlocher, VSM of Norwich University Corps of Cadets.

The university’s president, Richard Schneider, is also a believer in TM. He says the practice adds to the school’s goal of strengthening students in all aspects of life. “In leadership positions in the U.S. Military, you have to be a whole person,” said Schneider. “We’ve always concentrated not only on making you very smart, very strong, a great leader, an ethical leader. I think that TM will provide us another whole dimension of integrating all of that—improving performance in all of those domains—and I haven’t found anything else that can do that yet.”

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr