Beyond The Headline

How Meditation can make you “10% Happier”

Beyond The Headline

In Dan Harris's book "10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works--A True Story,” the ABC News correspondent recounts how suffering a massive on-air panic attack eventually led him to meditation.

“I never in a million years thought I'd be the type of person who meditates. I've had an aversion to all things airy-fairy since age five,” says Harris, “But then, a few years ago, I heard about an explosion of scientific research suggesting that meditation has an extraordinary range of health benefits. In particular, I found the neuroscience compelling. Studies say you can sculpt your brain through meditation just as you build and tone your body through exercise.”

As Harris began his exploration on mediation he discovered new research and scientific studies that demonstrated how the simple act of sitting-up straight, focusing your breath, and clearing your mind produced positive tangible results. Basically, mediation works.

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison scanned the brains of Tibetan monks. What they found was a "connection between meditation and resilience." Specifically, they were looking at the amygdala, the region associated with emotions and emotional memories. Their work suggests the more you meditate, the quicker your amygdala recovers from stress and trauma.

Of course, critics have pointed out that studies of monks may not apply to the rest of us. Which is why the next example is so powerful…

An MRI study from Harvard found that beginners who took an eight-week meditation course literally had thicker gray matter in the areas of the brain associated with self-awareness and compassion, while the regions associated with stress actually shrank.

A study out of Yale looked at the part of the brain known as the "default mode network," which is active when we're lost in thought—ruminating about the past, projecting into the future, obsessing about ourselves. The researchers found people that meditate were not only deactivating this region while they were practicing, but also when they were not meditating. In other words, meditation created a new default mode.

Scientists at UC Santa Barbara found that meditation helped students reduce their mind-wandering, and even perform better on the Graduate Record Exam (G.R.E.). Meditation has also been found to boost focus among office workers and grade- schoolers.

A trio of studies out of the University of Miami looked at three very stressed-out groups: incarcerated youth, college students and Marines preparing to be sent overseas. In each case, the scientists found that short bursts of daily meditation protected the study subjects from stress-related degradation of mental functions such as attention and short-term memory.

As a result of all of his research into meditation, the practice is being embraced by executives, elite athletes, rock stars and even network news anchors. Despite his initial uneasiness with anything “hippie-dippy,” Harris has written a book designed to make meditation palatable to skeptics. And it’s called "10% Happier."

View Comments (3)

Recommended for You

  • Thousands in Germany protest against Europe-U.S. trade deal

    By Noah Barkin BERLIN (Reuters) - Thousands of people marched in Berlin, Munich and other German cities on Saturday in protest against a planned free trade deal between Europe and the United States that they fear will erode food, labor and environmental standards. Opposition to the Transatlantic…

    Reuters55 mins ago
  • Diplomacy out, blunt talk in as Obama gets tough on GOP

    WASHINGTON (AP) — Diplomacy is out, blunt talk is in as President Barack Obama and his White House team single out Republican lawmakers by name for criticism over their words and actions on Iran, Cabinet nominations and climate change.

    Associated Press
  • Babysitter Calls 911 to Say He’s Watching Abducted Child

    The toddler had allegedly been kidnapped by the boy’s paternal grandmother and the girlfriend of the boy’s father, police in Washington state told ABC News. The girlfriend asked her brother John Truong to watch the 2-year old, and Truong was the one to call police once he realized who he had in his…

    ABC News
  • Missouri drops charges against officer indicted in shooting of man

    By Kevin Murphy KANSAS CITY, Mo. (Reuters) - A Missouri prosecutor on Friday dismissed charges against a Kansas City police officer indicted in February by a grand jury for the non-fatal shooting of a 37-year-old man last summer. The dismissal comes amid heightened attention to police shootings…

    Reuters
  • Kiev lists Russian military units allegedly in Ukraine

    Ukraine's army chief of staff on Saturday listed for the first time some of the specific Russian military units alleged to be fighting against Kiev alongside pro-Moscow separatists in eastern Ukraine. "Regular Russian army troops are still in Ukraine" despite a ceasefire agreement signed in…

    AFP
  • Fish found in suspected tsunami debris boat quarantined

    PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — The wreckage of a fishing boat that appears to be debris from the 2011 Japanese tsunami was carrying some unexpected passengers — fish from Japanese waters — when it was spotted off the Oregon coast.

    Associated Press
  • Americans Are Changing Their Minds About Pot Legalization

    A new Pew Research Center poll has found that 53 percent of Americans believe marijuana use should be legalized. Twenty-one percent of Americans surveyed by Pew have changed their minds about marijuana and no longer oppose legalization. Meanwhile, a new poll from Bloomberg Politics shows that 58…

    Takepart.com
  • View

    Deadly suicide attack in Afghanistan (11 photos)

    The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for a suicide attack in Afghanistan Saturday that killed 33 people and wounded more than 100 others, President Ashraf Ghani said, in what appears to be the first major attack by the jihadists in the country. Ghani's government has repeatedly raised…

    Yahoo News
  • US military option 'old habit that dies hard': Iran FM

    Iran's foreign minister dismissed Saturday the threat of a US military strike against Tehran's nuclear sites, describing such warnings as an "old habit that dies hard" given ongoing diplomacy. Mohammad Javad Zarif, who leads the Iranian side in talks with six world powers that aim to end the…

    AFP
  • Shooting that wounded baby no longer considered road rage

    SEATTLE (AP) — A 1-year-old girl was shot in the head and critically wounded as she sat in a car with her parents in suburban Seattle.

    Associated Press
  • NHL's Jarret Stoll arrested for cocaine, MDMA possession

    (Reuters) - Los Angeles Kings player Jarret Stoll was arrested on Friday at a Las Vegas resort pool for carrying cocaine and the party drug MDMA, also known as "Molly," officials said. The Canadian-born Stoll was taken into custody around 4:30 p.m. local time at the MGM Grand Hotel's Wet Republic…

    Reuters
  • Mugabe 'shocked, disgusted' by South African anti-immigrant violence

    By MacDonald Dzirutwe HARARE (Reuters) - Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe on Saturday expressed shock and disgust at attacks on immigrants in neighboring South Africa and said his government was working to bring back home affected Zimbabwean citizens. At least four people have been killed in a…

    Reuters
  • 5 years on, empty graves, full hearts for Gulf survivors

    JONESVILLE, La. (AP) — Courtney Kemp was getting dressed for work when husband Wyatt walked in and sat down. He didn't speak, but she could tell something was weighing on him.

    Associated Press
  • Why Apple just bought 36,000 acres of forest land

    Together with The Conservation Fund, Apple on Thursday announced its plan to acquire upwards of 36,000 acres of forest land in the eastern United States, in Maine and North Carolina to be precise. The purpose behind the purchase is that so Apple can exert even further control over its paper supply…

    BGR News
  • Play

    Missing Woman's Husband Admits to Police Wife Is Dead

    Act 4: Michael Wilkie tells a detective that Shelby Wilkie killed herself and that he cremated her.

    ABC News Videos
  • Can Drinking Milk Prevent Alzheimer's Disease?

    For the study, researchers from the University of Kansas Medical Center examined the dietary intake of 60 older adults over the course of a week. The team then performed brain scans on the participants to measure the levels of a naturally occurring antioxidant, called glutathione, floating through…

    U.S.News & World Report
  • Limbo for millions of immigrants as Obama action stalls: What next?

    The ability of a US President to use government discretion to achieve major real-world outcomes became on Friday the heart of a wide-ranging legal discussion at the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, which is weighing whether to lift an injunction against an Obama executive action…

    Christian Science Monitor