People who practice meditation often hail it as a fix for anything from anxiety to physical pain. Indeed, some studies suggest that it may improve our sense of well-being. Now, new research finds that one type of meditation — transcendental meditation — can relieve stress and boost emotional intelligence.
group of people meditating
Transcendental meditation can help you feel less stressed and boost your emotional intelligence, a new study shows.

The practice of meditation does appear to bring many benefits, and recent studies have supported this idea.

For instance, meditators are less likely to experience cognitive decline, and practicing mindfulness techniques seems to reduce chronic pain.

There are many different kinds of meditation, and each person may find that certain techniques work for them while others do not.

Still, a new randomized controlled trial from the Center for Wellness and Achievement in Education (CWAE) in San Francisco, CA, finds that one particular type of meditation, known as “transcendental meditation,” is effective when it comes to relieving stress and improving a person’s emotional intelligence.

The CWAE are a nonprofit organization who state that their mission is to “optimize educational performance, reduce violence, stress, and substance abuse, and improve the psychological wellness of students, faculty, and administrators.”

Verifying the benefits of meditation

Last year, a survey from the American Federation of Teachers indicated that 61 percent of educators were stressed at work, while 58 percent would describe their mental health as “not good.”

The CWAE were interested in learning whether certain much-praised meditation techniques would allow teachers and other staff to feel less stressed and more attuned to their students.

“Workers, especially in our school districts, are under a growing amount of stress and asked every day to find solutions to increasingly complex problems,” notes Laurent Valosek, lead author of the study and executive director of the CWAE.

This study demonstrates the benefits of meditation in the workplace.”

Laurent Valosek

“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 [emotional quotient] competencies like centeredness, self-awareness, and empathy,” Valosek adds.

Meditation lowers stress and boosts EQ

In a recent randomized control study, CWAE investigators worked with 96 participants who were central office staff at the San Francisco Unified School District. They report their findings in The Permanente Journal.

The participants practiced transcendental meditation — a type of meditation that involves repeating a mantra — over a period of 4 months.

At the end of this period, the researchers found that those who had practiced transcendental meditation reported less perceived stress and improved emotional intelligence when compared with the control group.

The researchers used the Perceived Stress Scale and the Emotional Quotient Inventory, both of which use self-assessment, to measure these outcomes.

Experiencing stress can significantly alter a person’s mental and physical health, as can their level of emotional intelligence, or EQ.

Emotional intelligence refers to an individual’s ability to be attuned to their own and others’ emotions and to be able to recognize and label each emotion appropriately.

Researchers have suggested that people with high EQ measures are better able than others to manage their own emotions, which they also tie in with these individuals having better mental health overall.

The current trial indicates that not only do people who practice transcendental meditation have higher EQs, but they also specifically show improvements in up to five of the six characteristics of emotional intelligence — namely, general mood, stress management, adaptability, intrapersonal awareness, and reality testing.

Importantly, the measure of these improvements appeared to be dependent on how much the participants meditated. That is, those who meditated on a regular basis reported higher EQ and lower perceived stress than peers who meditated less often.