While the practice of Transcendental Meditation is an established relaxation technique found to relieve stress, research evaluating TM for onsite employee wellness initiatives has been limited. A new study by investigators from The Center for Wellness and Achievement in Education (CWAE) discovers school district staff in California who practiced TM for four months had significant improvements in emotional intelligence and perceived stress.
TM is a simple technique practiced 20 minutes twice each day while sitting comfortably with the eyes closed. Unlike other forms of meditation, this practice involves no concentration, no control of the mind, no contemplation, no monitoring of thoughts. It automatically allows the active thinking mind to settle down to a state of inner calm.
Results from the randomized controlled trial appear in The Permanente Journal.
“Workers, especially in our school districts, are under a growing amount of stress and asked every day to find solutions to increasingly complex problems,” said Laurent Valosek, lead author of the study and executive director of the Center for Wellness and Achievement in Education.
“This study demonstrates the benefits of meditation in the workplace. And with a growing body of research on the value of emotional intelligence and the harmful effects of psychological stress, organizations are looking to give their employees tools for reducing stress and developing EQ competencies like centeredness, self-awareness, and empathy.”
Investigators explain that psychological stress adversely affects organizational commitment, work engagement and productivity, and contributes to poor mental and physical health.
Traditionally, psychological stress has been shown to hamper employee effectiveness and well-being. A new concept, that of emotional intelligence, has garnered considerable attention in the workplace because of its positive association with mental and physical health and its connection to leadership capacity and performance.
Emotional intelligence refers to the ability to perceive emotions in oneself and others, and to use that content to build healthy relationships with oneself and others. In the new study, TM has been found to improve emotional intelligence and lower perceived stress in school administrators and staff.
The randomized control study involved 96 central office staff at the San Francisco Unified School District. The study found that during a four-month period, those practicing the Transcendental Meditation technique experienced significant improvements in emotional intelligence and perceived stress, as compared with controls.
These findings are consistent with past research on TM showing benefits for emotional intelligence and psychological distress. This study extends prior research by demonstrating the beneficial effects of TM as part of a wellness program in the workplace.
The primary outcomes in the study were the Emotional Quotient Inventory (EQ-i) and the Perceived Stress Scale.
In addition to observing improvements in total EQ and perceived stress, the researchers found improvements in five of the six EQ composite scales: general mood, stress management, adaptability, intrapersonal awareness, and reality testing.
The researchers also observed a dose response; those who meditated more regularly scored higher on total EQ and lower on perceived stress.
Recent research highlights the importance of emotional intelligence as a predictor of important work-related factors such as stress management, job performance, negotiation, leadership, emotional labor, trust and work-family conflict.
These results have implications for organizations interested in improving the mental health and social-emotional competencies of employees, and, in turn, their overall performance.