Meditation for Anxiety, Depression, ADD, and PTSD with Daniel Goleman
Date: November 8th, 2022
Author: Billie Bradshaw
The benefits of meditation and mindfulness show up immediately. In this day and age, we are constantly multitasking, which means our attention is divided. Focused attention is an endangered species.
It turns out that the brain doesn't do multitasking. All it is really doing is switching quickly from one thing to another, and every time we switch to another focus, it uses up a large amount of our energy, and when we get back to that big thing we were working on, we aren't as focused, and it takes a while to ramp back up to the level of attention and focus we were at before.
Meditation is being explored as a remedy for attention deficit disorder. It has been shown to be incredibly helpful, especially in children. Watch the full video to see how meditation can strengthen and hone our mental focus.
What’s surprising, at least to scientists, is that the benefits from meditation show
up right from the beginning.
You can do, for example, mindfulness—that’s a very popular meditation—if you do mindfulness
practice ten minutes a day or ten minutes three times over the course of a day something
remarkable happens to your attention, and it has to do with the fact that we’re all
multitasking these days.
People on average look at their email about 50 times a day, they look at their Facebook
20-something times a day and that's just the tip of the iceberg.
There's Instagram, there's your phone calls, there’s whatever it is you have to do.
And what this means for attention is that we’re challenged.
Focused attention is an endangered species, however, we need that focus to get work done
So it’s a real problem and meditation, it turns out, even at the beginning, has some
of the answers.
It goes like this: when you’re really intensely focused on that one thing you have to do or
you want to do—the paper you’re writing or the project you’re working on—then
you think, 'Oh, I better check my email,' and then that leads to your Facebook and that
leads to the phone call, it leads to—we call this multitasking.
The brain actually does not do multitasking, it doesn’t do several things at once in
parallel, rather it works in serial and it switches very rapidly from one thing to the
Then when you go back to that project or whatever it was you were so focused on, your concentration
had been at a very high level before you started doing the other things, now it’s much lower
and it takes a while to ramp up to that same level, unless—and this is so interesting—unless
you’ve done that ten minutes of mindfulness; focused on your breath, for example, just
watched it in and out, noticed when your mind wandered, brought it back.
That’s the basic move in meditation.
And if you do that it turns out just ten minutes of practice nullifies that loss of concentration.
And this works, for example, for people who might do mindfulness in the morning, it will
wane during the course of the day, but if you do ten more minutes at lunch, ten more
minutes at break in the mid-afternoon, it helps you stay concentrated through the day.
So that is a very palpable, concrete pay off from daily meditation that works for beginners.
There are many others too.
For example, in terms of handling stress—I mean we’re all stressed out these days—and
beginners in mindfulness or other meditations, it turns out right from the get-go, they have
a better reaction to stress.
We see this in brain function; the area of the brain which reacts to stress is called
the amygdala—it’s the trigger point for the fight or flight or freeze response, it’s
what makes us angry all of a sudden or anxious all of a sudden—the amygdala is quieter,
it’s calmer in the face of stress and this lets us be calmer in the face of the stress.
And this is another benefit that we see right from the beginning.
Because meditation has been found to work so well with anxiety and depression and possibly
PTSD, where that’s being looked into, one of the areas that seems promising is meditation
with Attention Deficit Disorder.
In a way this is a no-brainer because at base, in essence, every kind of meditation retrains
attention and what Attention Deficit Disorder is is a problem with attention.
So there’s now a whole host of studies underway, mainly with kids because it’s where ADD
tends to show up first, where they’re helping them strengthen the muscle of attention.
I was in a classroom of seven year olds in Spanish Harlem, this is a very impoverished
area of New York City, and those kids live in housing projects, they have very troubled
lives and some of them had ADD—in fact half the kids in that classroom had what are called
special needs, ranging from ADD to autism.
I thought the classroom would be totally chaotic, but actually the kids were calm and focused
and the teacher said: "Here’s why," and then they did their daily ritual of what they
called Belly Buddies.
Each child, one by one, went to their cubby, got a favorite little stuffed animal, found
a place to lie down on a rug, put that animal on their belly and then they listened to a
tape that guided them through watching their belly rise on the in-breath and fall on the
One, two, three on the in-breath, one, two, three on the out-breath.
This is basically the beginning of mindfulness or meditation for kids.
Cognitive science would say this is the training of attention.
So you can do it with very young kids and this helps them get stronger in their ability
Attention Deficit Disorder is basically not being able to control your mind wandering
off from what you’re paying attention to.
Every time you watch your belly rise and then your mind wanders off and you bring it back
to your belly, you’re strengthening the neural circuitry for focus and countering
So this seems very promising, and early studies, early pilots, show that this may well counter
the problems kids face in ADD and I’m very happy to say that major studies are underway.
We’re waiting for those results, but I think they’re promising.