Reiki and the Mind

When the list of “to do’s” grows long, we can feel anxious as we rush to meet work deadlines and complete our daily tasks. After a traumatic event, we can feel varying degrees of depression, grief, and helplessness. While it’s important to acknowledge and experience these difficult feelings as they arise, we don’t want to become stuck inside them. Reiki can help us process these feelings, release our stress, and reach the other side. This month, I’ll explore how Reiki supports health and wellbeing by helping reduce emotional and mental distress.

Last month, I presented some clinical research studies that concluded Reiki decreased pain in patients with cancer and patients after surgery. However, they also found that Reiki significantly reduced feelings of anxiety and depression while improving emotional wellbeing.1, 5-7, 9 Here are a few clinical studies that focus on Reiki’s effect on mental and emotional health in university students and adults of all ages.


In a study of undergraduate students practicing self-hypnosis or relaxation during ten 20-minute sessions over two and a half to twelve weeks, those who also received Reiki shows a greater tendency toward less illness while there was an increase in those who didn’t receive Reiki. Also, the Reiki group had less feelings of stress than the control group although they originally reported feeling more stress.2

In a study examining Reiki’s impact on depression, anxiety, and sleep in university students, participants listened to a guided meditation while blindfolded where half received Reiki without contact and the other half did not receive Reiki. Those who received six 30-minute Reiki sessions over a two to eight week period showed improvement in overall mood which was significantly better at a five-week follow-up than those who didn’t receive Reiki.3

Another study examined the effects of Reiki and distance Reiki on participants with symptoms of depression and stress ranging from 19 to 78 years of age. Participants who received weekly hands-on or distance Reiki by a practitioner over six weeks showed a significant decrease in depressive and stress symptoms over the groups that received simulated hands-on or distance Reiki by an actor. After following up a year after completing the active study, the Reiki groups maintained a significant improvement.8

Whenever I offer a Reiki session, I also get to experience what these research studies conclude. During the session, I become deeply calm and feel centered, secure, and grounded. When I finish the session and coax my client to slowly sit up, I feel refreshed, alert, and uplifted. My smile isn’t only to show my client compassion, but also because I feel a refreshed lightness of being.

After their Reiki sessions, clients often take a few moments to reorient to the space, as if waking up from a deep sleep. They say they feel calm, relaxed, refreshed, and uplifted when I ask how they are feeling. Often, they sleep more deeply that night with less interruptions from thoughts or worries and wake feeling restored. Reiki clients feel a sense of peace and calm even when I begin by placing my hands over an area of pain on their wrist or lower back, before beginning traditional hand placements at their head. Although this phenomenon no longer surprises me, I am always amazed and grateful.

Reiki and the Mind

In addition to mental and emotional balance, Reiki supports cognitive health as well. In a study of patients with mild cognitive impairment or mild Alzheimer’s disease, participants who received Reiki had significant increases in mental functioning, memory, and behavior compared to those who didn’t receive Reiki.4

Carla came to me for Reiki about three weeks after a car accident left her with a concussion. Her mind was foggy and her thinking was slow, she felt tired all of the time, and she worried about her recovery. I spent the majority of her Reiki session at her head, gently placing my hands at the crown of her head, over her forehead, and on the back of her head. I also spent time on her neck, shoulders, and back, where there was lingering tension from the car accident. At the end of her session, she told me she felt relaxed, energized, and strong and that the warmth of my hands had felt soothing on her back. I sent Carla a follow-up email the next day to see how she was doing. She responded by saying she felt better and more clear-headed than she had in weeks.

I love the holistic support that Reiki offers body, mind, and emotions. What we think about ourselves and our lives has a big effect on our physical health. When our emotional and mental health improves, our physical and overall wellbeing improves. When we feel better, how we relate to ourselves and our relationships with loved ones and passersby improve. When our relationships improve, we offer kindness and compassion that ripples out beyond our immediate connects and into our communities and the world. Who knew taking care of ourselves could be a way of creating positive change in the world? It’s a good place to start.


1. Baldwin, Ann Linda et al. “Effects of Reiki on Pain, Anxiety, and Blood Pressure in Patients Undergoing Knee Replacement: A pilot study.” Holistic Nursing Practice, vol. 31, no. 2, 80-89. April-May 2017. ResearchGate, doi: 10.1097/HNP.0000000000000195. 

2. Bowden, Deborah, Lorna Goddard, and John Gruzelier. “A Randomised single-blind trial of the Effects of Reiki and Positive Imagery on Well-Being and Salivary Cortisol.” Brain Research Bulletin, vol. 81, no. 1, 66-72. January 2010. PubMed, doi: 10.1016/j.brainresbull.2009.10.002.

3. Bowden, Deborah, Lorna Goddard, and John Gruzelier. “A Randomised Controlled Single-Blind Trial of the Efficacy of Reiki at Benefitting Mood and Well-Being.” Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, vol. 2011, article ID 381862, 8 pages. 2011.

4. Crawford, Stephen E., V. Wayne Leaver, and Sandra D. Mahoney. “Using Reiki to Decrease Memory and Behavior Problems in Mild Cognitive Impairment and Mild Alzheimer’s Disease.” The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, vol. 12, no. 9. November 2006. PubMed, doi: 10.1089/acm.2006.12.911.

5. Fleisher, Kimberly A. Et al. “Integrative Reiki for Cancer Patients: A Program Evaluation.” Integrative Cancer Therapies, vol. 13, no. 1, 62-67. 2014. SagePub, doi: 10.1177/1534735413503547. 

6. Midilli, Tulay Sagkal and Ismet Eser. “Effects of Reiki on Post-cesarean Delivery Pain, Anxiety, and Hemodynamic Parameters: A Randomized, Controlled Clinical Trial.” Pain Management Nursing, vol. 16, no. 3, 388-399. June 2015. PubMed, doi: 10.1016/j.pmn.2014.09.005. 

7. Olson, Karin et al. “A Phase II Trial of Reiki for the Management of Pain in Advanced Cancer Patients.” Journal of Pain and Symptom Management, vol. 26, no. 5, 990-99. November 2003.

8. Shore, Adina Goldman. “Long-term Effects of Energetic Healing on Symptoms of Psychological Depression and Self-Perceived Stress.” Alternative Therapies, vol. 10, no. 3, 42-48. May/June 2004.

9. Vitale, Anne T and Priscilla O’Conner. “The effect of Reiki on pain and anxiety in women with abdominal hysterectomies: a quasi-experimental pilot study.” Holistic Nursing Practice, vol. 20, no. 6, 263-272. November 2006. PubMed, PMID: 17099413.