A hard thing about meditation is its acceptance by people as something useful. “What good is it?”, friends ask. Well, you feel better and it changes your brain for the better.
In my long journey towards understanding the brain better, I have meditated on and off for quite a while. It is only recently I found scientific studies highlighting the cognitive benefits of meditating.
For example, Sue McGreevey of MGH Communications wrote about a study where people meditated for about 27 minutes each day. As a result, there was “..increased gray-matter density in the hippocampus, known to be important for learning and memory..” as well as other tangible physical evidence of great changes in the brain. That’s right! Their brains changed.
Did you know kids can even benefit from meditation using certain techniques? Daniel Goleman, a psychologist well known for his work with Emotional Intelligence, discusses an experience he had when visiting a classroom where half the kids had special needs yet it was a tranquil and orderly classroom. The secret to such success? Watch the video below titled Daniel Goleman: Breathing Buddies:
In the above video and in an article titled How Focus Changed my Thinking about Emotional Intelligence, the technique of breathing buddies is for the kids to ” ..lie on the floor, each with a favorite stuffed animal on their belly, and count 1-2-3 as their breath rises and as it falls.” It’s that easy.
Is it that easy for adults to get started meditating? Yes, one can practice the vipassana, a mindfulness meditation. As described in the Huffington Post article by Sam Harris, one can meditate by focusing on the breath, recognizing distractions, and reverting ones attention back to the breath.
Given the significant scientific evidence of positive brain changes, the straightforwardness of a meditation technique such as the vipassana, and even the positive effect it has on relationships, I highly recommend people add meditation to their list of things they do each day even if only for a few minutes at first. Once you get past 20 minutes, you’ll never feel or be the same.