While the world is getting more and more technologically connected, a lot of people seem to be feeling more mentally disconnected—from others, and from themselves.
“I’m on mobile devices all day long,” said Anderson Cooper on tonight’s 60 Minutes (which you can watch here). “I feel like I could go through an entire day and not be present. It’s exhausting.”
Mindfulness may be the antidote, say more and more practitioners, and an increasing number of scientific studies. The ages-old practice teaches a person to be more focused on the present moment, rather than caught up in thoughts about the past or worries about the future. The practice has gained popularity in the U.S., and apparently with good reason: Every other week there seems to be a new scientific study showing just how it can change the brain. Corporations and politicians are also jumping on board, and learning how to simply be, in the present moment.
The Brain Science Behind Mindfulness
Lest people think that mindfulness is “new-age gobbledygook,” Cooper allowed himself to be a subject in a one-person experiment showing the neurological effects of meditation. There are dozens of studies showing the functional and structural changes meditation can bring about in the brain, and Cooper wanted to see if his own practice had any measurable effects. Researcher Judson Brewer, head of the University of Massachusetts’ Mindfulness Center, hooked Cooper up to an EEG – electroencephalography – machine, which measures the brain’s electric potentials through the scalp. Now knowing how to deactivate the stress centers of the brain, Cooper wanted to see if the recordings could capture the moment when he dropped into mindfulness.