And even when the mind begins to wander, due to the new connections that form, meditators are better at getting out of it. Simply observe without judgment the thoughts or feelings that arise, and then choose to return your attention to your anchor and to that meditative state. Since focusing attention (on an object, idea, or activity) is one of the central objectives of meditation, it's no surprise that meditation also helps people's cognitive abilities at work, but it's good that science confirms this. In fact, a follow-up study by Lazar's team found that, after meditation training, changes in areas of the brain related to mood and arousal were also related to improvements in the way participants said they felt.
If you've never heard of mindfulness meditation, congratulations, you just did a few moments of it. The meditators did an “insightful Buddhist meditation”, which focuses on what is there, such as noise or bodily sensations. Explain how four regions of the meditators' brain associated with healthy brain function become more substantial, while one of the areas associated with undesirable behavior actually shrinks. Both Grant and Taren, among others, are in the midst of unprecedented large studies that aim to isolate the effects of mindfulness from other methods of stress relief and to track exactly how the brain changes over a long period of meditation practice.
Lazar began meditating about 10 years ago and now practices insightful meditation about three times a week. If you realize without prejudice what is happening to you during meditation and then let it go, you are better able to avoid triggering your fight or flight response when something negative comes up in life. The amygdala, that annoying corner of the brain that produces feelings of anxiety, fear and general stress, is physically smaller in the brain of expert meditators. During the scan, the meditators meditated; the others simply relaxed and thought about what they wanted.
Research suggests that a single ten-minute mindfulness meditation session may improve pain tolerance, the pain threshold, and decrease pain anxiety. To practice this meditation, all you need is to find a comfortable position and start focusing your attention on your breathing.