Natural Stress Relief Meditation as a Tool for Reducing Anxiety and Increasing Self-Actualization

By Coppola, Fabrizio; Spector, David | Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal, April 2009 | Go to article overview

Natural Stress Relief Meditation as a Tool for Reducing Anxiety and Increasing Self-Actualization


Coppola, Fabrizio, Spector, David, Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal


In recent years, psychologists and other scientists have studied certain standardized forms of meditation such as Transcendental Meditation (TM) and Natural Stress Relief (NSR) Meditation. The results of these studies indicate that these forms of deep meditation hold therapeutic promise not only as techniques for dissolving stress but also for increasing many characteristics associated with self-actualization, including autonomy, creativity, inner satisfaction, focus, alertness, and productivity.

These forms of deep meditation, although only mental techniques, appear to generate a unique and reproducible state of physiology in which the mind displays increased alertness without an object of perception (we call this mental experience transcendence) while the body gains an unusually deep state of rest. Wallace, Benson, and Wilson (1971) were among the first to identify this unique physiological state, which they called "a wakeful hypometabolic state". However we name it, transcendence allows the nervous system to dissolve stress (stored abnormalities in response to stressors), as documented in several physiological and psychological studies, such as Wallace and Benson (1972) and Dillbeck and Orme-Johnson (1987).

Abraham Maslow, a father of humanistic psychology, believed that people have the capability of showing love and creativity in interactions with others, and that malicious behavior is a reaction to frustration (1954). We postulate that his concepts of transcendence and of plateau experience, presented as a means for achieving personal growth and fulfillment (1971), are similar to the state we call transcendence that can be reached during deep meditation.

We postulate that the regular practice of suitable deep meditation develops a reproducible and lasting state of self-actualization in the practitioner. Several studies since the 1970s have shown the effectiveness of Transcendental Meditation (TM) in increasing self-actualization (e.g., Alexander, Rainforth, & Gelderloos, 1991; Seeman, Nidich, & Banta, 1972). The instrument used in those studies was the Personal Orientation Inventory (POI) (Shostrom, 1964), which attempts to measure qualities such as spontaneity, self-acceptance, self-regard, inner reference, and capacity for intimate contact. However, Ray (1984) noticed that the POI did not have good psychometric characteristics and validity. Recent research in the field of personality psychology has included use of the Short Index of Self-Actualization (SISA; Jones & Crandall, 1986), which has proven to be a better instrument, has a high correlation with the POI (r = .67) and has been shown to exhibit better psychometric qualities (Richard & Jex, 1991).

Istituto Scientia developed NSR Meditation (Istituto Scientia, 2003; Natural Stress Relief, Inc., 2006) in an attempt to replicate the results obtained by TM in increasing self-actualization and reducing trait anxiety (summarized in Eppley, Abrams, & Shear, 1989) independently and inexpensively. Unlike TM, NSR meditation is self-taught using a manual and an audio file or CD. Over two thousand people, mostly in Italy and the USA, have learned NSR Meditation.

In September 2005, measurements of skin electrical resistance performed on six subjects showed a strong increase during NSR sessions (Istituto Scientia, 2005). A study conducted in December 2006 and January 2007 on 25 subjects with the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI; Spielberger, Gorsuch, Lushene, Vagg, & Jacobs, 1983), suggested that NSR is as effective as Transcendental Meditation in reducing trait anxiety (Coppola, 2007). The amount of anxiety reduction was highly significant and comparable to that achieved by TM, with a remarkable effect size d (calculated following Cohen, 1988) of .67 after only two weeks, while most meditation and relaxation techniques barely reach .30 or .40 after ten weeks.

The same author conducted a further study in March and April 2007 on 31 subjects, again with the STAI, and with the Short Index of Self-Actualization, (SISA; Jones & Crandall, 1986), which confirmed the remarkable effectiveness of NSR in reducing state anxiety and showed its capability to increase self-actualization. …

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