Even a Few Minutes of This Can Boost Happiness, Says Study

Psychological scientist Christopher Moyer, and a group of colleagues at the University of Wisconsin — Stout, designed a brain study to see if there might be at least some benefit after a very brief period of meditation training.


…The scientists recruited a group of volunteers, ranging in age from 18 to 73, all interested but inexperienced at meditation practice. The volunteers completed an emotional inventory before starting the study, and they also closed their eyes and tried to meditate for 18 minutes on their own. All they were told was to focus on their breathing, and if thoughts intruded, to re-focus their attention on their breathing. During this trial, they were hooked up to an EEG, which measured their baseline brain activity.


The participants had volunteered in exchange for training by experienced instructors, and half were immediately enrolled in such training. The others were wait-listed; they received training later on, but served as controls for the brain study. In the actual study, the meditation trainees were offered nine 30-minute sessions over five weeks, each session consisting of a short lesson and 5 to 20 minutes of “sitting.” After the five weeks, all of the volunteers — trainees and controls — repeated the 18-minute meditation trial, again hooked up to the EEG…


…As reported online in the journal Psychological Science, the trainees ended up averaging fewer than seven sessions, and meditated at home just a couple times a week — so they only got about six hours of training and practice in all over the five weeks. That comes to minutes a day, not hours. But even with this very modest commitment of time, the novices showed a significant shift in brain activity from their right to their left frontal hemispheres over the course of the study. Such brain asymmetry is associated with a shift to more positive emotional processing. In short, the promised benefits of meditation may be much more accessible than previously thought.