Level-up your mind

The game-changing benefits of meditation.

Insight Life Solutions

With over 500 million practitioners worldwide, meditation has captured global fascination by its potential to profoundly enrich lives. Our exploration ventures into the transformative realm of meditation, where mindfulness, mental well-being, and insurance seamlessly intertwine. Delve into an array of techniques, notably Transcendental Meditation (TM), endorsed by influential figures like Ray Dalio and Oprah Winfrey. Unveil TM’s scientifically proven impact, from mitigating mortality risk to enhancing mental health, while witnessing insurers adopting mindfulness as a cornerstone of well-being. This fusion forges a path to holistic life and insurance approaches, sparking a revolution in conventional paradigms.

Defining mindfulness, meditation, and mental health:

Before we dive into the wonders of meditation, let’s clarify some essential terms. Meditation encompasses a range of techniques aimed at training the mind to focus and redirect thoughts. On the other hand, mindfulness refers to intentional, non-judgmental awareness of the present moment, fostering a sense of presence and mental clarity. Mental health, in turn, encompasses overall psychological, emotional, and social well-being, crucial for leading a fulfilling life.

Exploring different types of meditation:

Meditation practices come in various forms, each offering unique approaches and benefits. We can categorise most techniques into four groups:

CONCENTRATIVE MEDITATION

Focuses on a specific object, like the breath, a mantra, or visualisation. Transcendental Meditation, mindfulness meditation, and mantra meditation fall into this category.

 

INSIGHT MEDITATION

Aims to develop profound understanding of reality and one’s mind. Vipassana meditation is a notable example of insight meditation.

 

LOVING-KINDNESS MEDITATION

Cultivates feelings of love, compassion, and kindness toward oneself and others. Metta meditation is a common practice in this category.

 

MOVEMENT MEDITATION

Integrates mindful movement or physical activity, such as walking meditation, Tai Chi, or Qigong, to enhance awareness and presence.

 

 

 

Transcendental Meditation (TM)

Among the various meditation techniques, TM stands out as a transformative practice. TM involves using a mantra, a repeated sound or phrase, to guide the mind into a state of deep relaxation and heightened awareness. The simplicity of TM makes it accessible even to beginners, which has contributed to its widespread popularity, attracting business leaders, celebrities, and millions of people worldwide. TM’s Impact on Business Leaders and Celebrities: The effectiveness of Transcendental Meditation has caught the attention of numerous business leaders and celebrities. Renowned figures like Ray Dalio, Russell Simmons, and Rick Goings are avid practitioners of TM, using it to enhance focus, reduce stress, and promote creativity. Notable celebrities like Hugh Jackman, Cameron Diaz, Oprah Winfrey, and Katy Perry have publicly endorsed TM as a crucial tool in maintaining mental clarity and emotional well-being.

The science behind TM

The efficacy of TM is supported by an extensive body of scientific research. More than 600 studies conducted at over 250 independent universities and research institutions in 30 countries have explored TM’s benefits. These studies have consistently demonstrated the positive impact of TM on mental health, cardiovascular health, and overall well-being. TM’s Profound Impact on Mortality and Health: One of the most remarkable findings in the research on TM is its impact on mortality.

A study published in the American Journal of Cardiology examined how TM affects mortality in individuals aged 55 and over, specifically those with high blood pressure. The study design involved dividing the participants into four groups: a control group and three stress-decreasing intervention groups, which included TM. The aim was to investigate the long-term effects of these interventions on all-cause and cause-specific mortality in individuals with high blood pressure. Participants in the study had no prior use of any stress interventions, and all had high blood pressure. The results were measured using relative risk ratios (RR) to assess the strength of association between TM and mortality. RR values less than 1 indicate a decreased risk of death compared to the control group.

The findings were groundbreaking. After analysing the data, all the relative risk ratios for the TM group were less than 1, indicating a significant reduction in mortality risk for those who practised TM. Specifically, the TM group displayed a lower risk of mortality compared to the control group, suggesting that TM may contribute to increased longevity in individuals with high blood pressure. Additionally, a survival function created from the study displayed a higher probability of survival for the TM group compared to the control group over time. This effect was consistent with the overall findings, reinforcing the potential life-extending benefits of TM.

Additional health benefits of TM

Beyond its effect on mortality, TM has been associated with numerous other health benefits. Studies have shown that TM can improve cardiovascular health, work satisfaction, positive health habits, physical function, mental health, and more. It has also been linked to lower blood pressure, increased blood flow to the brain, and improvements in various conditions like epilepsy, chronic pain, and rheumatoid arthritis.

TM and Health Costs: The potential of TM to improve health outcomes has drawn the interest of insurers and medical aid schemes. A study conducted in Quebec, Canada, looked at medical costs for two groups of individuals over a 5-year period. The study’s participants included a TM group and a non-TM group. The non-TM subjects were randomly selected from Quebec health insurance members with the same demographic profile to match the TM participant profiles.

The primary measure for medical costs was the fees paid by the Quebec health insurance agency to private physicians. During the five-year assessment period, the TM group’s annual rate of change in payments declined significantly, while the comparison group’s payments showed no significant changes. After the first year, the TM group’s payments decreased by 11%, and after five years, their cumulative reduction was an impressive 35%. On the other hand, the non-TM group showed only a minimal 1% reduction in medical costs over the same period.

Incorporating meditation into insurance practices

Given its potential to improve mortality and morbidity experience, several leading insurance companies have already embraced the concept of incorporating meditation practices into their health and wellness programs. Below are some examples of how meditation is being utilised by insurers:

BlueCross® BlueShield®

One of the largest health insurance companies in the United States, United Healthcare, has partnered with the meditation app Calm to offer its policyholders free access to guided meditation sessions, sleep stories, and other mindfulness resources. The programme is part of United Healthcare’s wellness initiative, which aims to promote healthy behaviours and prevent chronic disease.

United Healthcare

A federation of health insurance companies in the United States, Blue Cross Blue Shield offers a mindfulness program called Wellvolution to its policyholders. The program includes access to guided meditation sessions, yoga classes, and other wellness resources, designed to help policyholders reduce stress and improve overall well-being.

Cigna

A global health insurance company, Cigna offers a mindfulness-based stress reduction program to its policyholders. The programme includes online resources, meditation sessions, and coaching from mindfulness experts, designed to help policyholders manage stress, anxiety, and depression, and improve their overall mental health.

The aforementioned studies indicate that TM could have a profound impact on mortality, health, and stress reduction. This is not only good for individuals – there is proven potential for insurers and medical aid schemes to benefit from incorporating meditation practices, like TM, into their programmes to promote better health outcomes and reduce costs. Whether through TM or other mindfulness apps, individuals can embark on a journey of selfimprovement and embrace a path of well-being, fulfilment, and better insurance experience.

 


This article was featured in the October 2023 edition of the South African Actuary Magazine. View article here

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