Research paper authors Bjørn Lau, Anne Grete Hersoug and Morten Wærsted

a new study shows improved stress management

Positive effects of Acem Meditation – a nondirective technique – was found in a recently published study. This type of relaxation technique can be a positive supplement to other tools for the prevention of negative health reactions due to stress.

«Less worry and nervousness were among the most striking findings,» says Bjørn Lau, Ph.D., one of the authors of a scientific article recently published in the journal Nordic Psychology.* Dr. Lau is a psychologist at Lovisenberg Hospital and an adjunct professor at the University of Oslo. «Stress associated with uncomfortable emotions remains in the body and mind until meditation enables us to deal with it and let go,» he continues. «More emotional stability is the benefit. Instead of excessive worries, one gets increased capacity for other things in life.»

Healthy working professionals

The aim of the study was to investigate the effects of meditation on stress reactions and stress management. The hypothesis was that practicing such a technique would yield better effects than merely listening to talks about stress and stress management. The study tested this hypothesis with a sample of adult participants who had not practiced meditation before — 73 active working professionals in six companies. At the outset, before the meditation course, the participants attended a lecture on stress reactions and stress management. The control group (43 persons) attended the same lecture but did not learn any relaxation technique.

«The participants were healthy working professionals. They were not seeking treatment for any particular ailment but still obtained significant effects. Previous studies have often examined various groups of patients with specific symptoms, making it easier to demonstrate some degree of change. As more and more studies of healthy, working professionals are becoming available, there is a growing body of documentation of significant, positive effects of meditation for nontreatment-seeking persons,» says another author, Anne Grete Hersoug, Dr. Philos., a psychologist associated with the Division of Mental Health and Addiction, Institute of Clinical Medicine at the University of Oslo.

The participants in both groups completed the same questionnaires, which were standardized, widely used international scales that measure various stress reactions. The questionnaires were completed at the outset, and again after two months, three months and six months. The study explored effects of Acem Meditation on musculoskeletal pain, quality of sleep, worries, nervousness, and the perception of mental distress. Based on experience, these are areas in which meditation often has positive effects. The project was carried out in order to study whether there would be systematic differences regarding these variables between the group who learned meditation and the control group.

Less pain, fewer worries, improved sleep

«The magnitude of the difference meditation made was surprising,» says Dr. Hersoug. «The study yielded surprisingly consistent findings across all six companies.»

Learning Acem Meditation gave significant positive bodily effects and psychological benefits: less pain, fewer sleep problems, and a personal style characterized by less nervousness and worrying. Such effects improve the capacity to cope with stress at work and in daily life. In the control group, there were no such findings.

Long-term personal style

A third author, Morten Wærsted, Dr. Med., from the Department of Work Psychology and Physiology, National Institute of Occupational Health in Oslo, says: «The results indicated that the effects of meditation during the courseeight weeks – remained stable throughout the study period. Meditation made a difference even when the participants were irregular in their practice. This suggests that stress reactions in the body and mind had been reduced.»

Dr. Lau agrees and adds: «The results indicate that participants’ personal style began to change during the six months that the study lasted. A more relaxed person tends to behave in slightly different ways, with a positive impact on the surroundings.»

The new study of Acem Meditation has contributed to the documentation of the positive effects of Acem Meditation. There was a significant difference between practicing Acem Meditation and only receiving information about stress reactions and stress management, without practicing a relaxation technique. Thus, nondirective meditation, such as Acem Meditation, can be a good and effective technique to cope with stress.

The three authors agree that it has been inspiring to take part in the research project and that the positive findings are both interesting and promising. «Although experience has long shown that Acem Meditation has good effects and is suitable for anybody, this study has provided scientific documentation,» they say.

Copy editor: Ann Kunish

* Anne Grete Hersoug, Morten Wærsted & Bjørn Lau (2018): Nondirective meditation used in stress management, Nordic Psychology, DOI: 10.1080/19012276.2018.1443278