A string of recent deaths within the banking world have brought global attention to the stressful conditions that financiers work in and around. Large banks have attempted to respond to the problem by limiting working hours on the weekends but the effectiveness and ability to enforce those rules have come into question. Studies have found that stockbrokers are three times more likely to suffer from depression than the general adult population. Excess stress is a leading cause of heart and brain disease. So what's a banker to do?
Some prominent investors have taken to transcendental meditation (TM). Some teach the relaxation method to their entire company. The technique requires 20 minutes of silent meditation two times a day and is popular with folks like Bridgewater's Ray Dalio (who offers TM to his 400 employees), Bill Gross, Dan Loeb, Nigol Koulajian (Quest Partners) and Kevin Kimberlin (Spencer Trask & Co).
"I’ve been teaching transcendental meditation for over 40 years and I would say the interest on Wall Street had been pretty level…but just over the last year or two there’s been a huge spike and hundreds and hundreds of people on Wall Street, whole firms, are learning to meditate,” says Bob Roth, executive director of The David Lynch Foundation told The Daily Ticker in a recent interview.
Transcendental meditation is often thought of as a remnant of the hippie culture of the 1960s-- images of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and The Beatles wearing necklaces of flowers come to mind. The David Lynch Foundation is attempting to reinvent the TM image.
"Today typical TM practitioners are people on Wall Street, whole schools, architects or mothers at home. These days everybody is a typical transcendental meditation practitioner because everybody suffers from stress," says Roth.
The non-profit readily points to a slew of scientific studies that prove TM reduces health risks and improves brain power. Roth and his employees use the money they make teaching TM (which can get quite expensive at around $1000 for an intensive course) to teach it to underprivileged and emotionally distressed populations for free.
The group is also working with Blue Cross and other insurance giants to get TM covered. "Stress is a huge problem -- one of the top HR companies in the UK has called workplace stress the black plague of the 21st century," says Roth. "It costs American business over $300 billion a year and there was a recent study that came out saying 83% of American workers feel high levels of stress on the job…who wants to live the rest of their life on Xanax of Prozac?"
Wall Streeters are evidence-based people says Roth, and are surprisingly open to new off-the-beaten-trail ideas. With the use of transcendental meditation, "evidence shows that [bankers] think more clearly, that they make better decisions, plan better and solve more problems and if you do that the chances of making money are far greater…you have a leg up and a competitive edge," says Roth.
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