Doctor behind seasonal affective disorder brings meditation mission to Britain
“I’ll be a long time dead before the last sceptic is converted”, says Dr Norman Rosenthal, the psychiatrist who spent years convincing the medical world to recognise seasonal affective disorder (SAD) as a type of depression.
This week, the Washington professor is visiting the region to persuade GPs and specialists of his latest research claim – that a late yoga guru’s meditation technique can help reduce the symptoms of illnesses like post-traumatic stress disorder.
Dr Rosenthal, author of Transcendence: Healing and Transformation Through Transcendental Meditation, will make his first stops at Colchester Hospital and Ipswich Hospital tomorrow, before public lectures in Rendlesham, Colchester and London, where he will also address the Institute of Psychiatry, at Kings College, between talks at Broomfield Hospital, Chelmsford, the University of Essex and University of Cambridge.
“Firstly, I would like doctors to know that transcendental meditation is a powerful tool for healing – both physically and psychologically,” said Dr Rosenthal, who pioneered the use of light therapy to treat seasonal affective disorder, and has since published research on Botox for alleviating depression.
“A pervasive theme of my almost 40 years of research has been ‘high risk, high yield’ strategies. One of those was seasonal affective disorder – at the time, a bit of a laughing stock among some colleagues, who thought it trivial alongside more pressing problems.
“It was my first leap of faith – and I now want to encourage the use of transcendental meditation as a tool for treating things like anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.
“There will always be a spectrum of scepticism – from the very open, to the wholly sceptical.
“I remember how the idea of light therapy to treat seasonal affective disorder was received. I know I’ll be a long time dead before the last sceptic is converted – some people are thus inclined. But, if one or two administrators discover how something can transform their own lives, it can be more effective than a million-dollar paper on the subject.”
Transcendental meditation was introduced by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in the 1950s. Claims about its benefits range from promoting a state of relaxed awareness, to reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease and cutting reconviction rates among prisoners.
Famous proponents include film director David Lynch, fashion designer Stella McCartney, actor Hugh Jackman and media mogul Oprah Winfrey.
Dr Rosenthal now wants to convince NHS doctors to adopt its techniques as a supplement for more conventional remedies.
“Experienced practitioners understand that medication has limitations,” he said. “Some have side effects, while others don’t work for everyone.
“With my own patients, I say there are medicines available, but that there are also other methods that can help, like therapy, exercise and this other approach, with which I have seen noticeable results.
“Oddly, people seem more likely to be suspicious of transcendental meditation than drugs. Perhaps it ought to be the other way round.”
For more on Dr Rosenthal’s tour, visit normanrosenthal.com.