Come on, how often can you do something the Dalai Lama and Katie Perry both love? Just the fact that meditation is a must-do for both the spiritual leader and the pop music star should be enough to convince your family to give the ages-old art of mindfully focusing on the present moment a try. But situational irony isn’t the only reason to tap into regular meditation. Meditation can help your homeschool take a turn for the happier in a few different ways.
Meditation helps your brain work better. One downside of modern life’s constant multitasking is that it can bog down brain function. During adolescence, kids train their brains to think critically and analyze information, a process that requires focus on one topic at a time. Switching back and forth between your iTunes playlist, texting about theater practice, and memorizing biology facts can actually stop your brain from building the deep neural connections associated with sophisticated thought. It can be hard to focus on a single subject when so much information is so easily accessible, but people who meditate can hold their concentration better than those who don’t, found researchers at the University of Washington. Meditating for just ten minutes a day made people faced with a to-do list less distractible and better able to stay focused on one task a time. (And in case you were curious, meditating super-focusers finished their task lists at the same time as those who multitasked their way through the list.)
Meditation helps reduce stress. You can train your brain to manage stress more effectively the same way you train your body to run a marathon, says Richard Davidson, M.D., author of The Emotional Life of Your Brain. Even just a fifteen-minute-a-day meditation session made test subjects at the University of Massachusetts feel calmer and less worried during exams than their non-meditating peers. Students started out consciously using the breathing and concentration techniques they used during meditation to calm themselves pre-test, but after eight weeks of regular meditation, they calmed themselves without thinking about it.
Meditation can boost your memory power. Worried about falling into the memorize-it- for-the-test-and-then-forget-it trap? Meditation can help. Researchers at the University of Washington discovered that students who meditated before tackling a list of projects were better able to remember the information they worked on than students who didn’t meditate, even when both groups spent the same amount of time on task, suggesting that meditation strengthens the effectiveness of your working memory.
Meditation can help manage mood swings. Adolescent mood swings are the stuff of legend, but teens who meditate are better able to deal with the hormonal upheaval. A combination of deep breathing and meditation helped teens manage mood swings and improve their overall moods in a study conducted at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School.
Meditation can bolster self esteem. As any John Hughes film will tell you, being a teenager can be hard. Meditation may help smooth some of those rough edges, if a study in this spring’s global Journal of Health Science is any indication. In the Korean study, kids who meditated reported higher self-esteem and adapted more easily to new situations than those who didn’t practice meditation. Solid self-esteem can make it easier for kids to form relationships, make smart choices about things like sex and drugs, and improve overall confidence.