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Who's in the Video
Daniel Goleman is a former science journalist for the New York Times and co-founder of the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning at the Yale University Child Studies Center (now[…]

Multitasking is our new normal, and our ability to focus is being challenged like never before. We’re constantly checking our emails, scrolling social media, consulting our endless to-do lists, and even watching YouTube videos, and, according to renowned psychologist Daniel Goleman, it’s slowing us down in more ways than one. 

According to Goleman, a remedy for our fast-paced lives can be found in a simple, ten-minute exercise. He explains how a daily mindfulness practice can significantly enhance attention span, reduce the negative effects of multitasking, and help individuals remain concentrated and productive. 
Goleman’s insights reveal how mindfulness meditation offers immediate stress reduction and a calmer mind, showcasing its potential benefits for people with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and enhancing focus in children facing challenging environments. Drawing from cognitive science and recent research, Goleman provides actionable advice for incorporating mindfulness into daily routines, aiming to improve mental clarity, emotional balance, and overall wellness.

Daniel Goleman: What's surprising at least to scientists is that the benefits for meditation show up right from the beginning. You can do, for example, mindfulness- that's a very popular meditation. If you do mindfulness practice 10 minutes a day or 10 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 some 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, that focused attention is an endangered species. However, we need that focus to get work done well. So it's a real problem.

And meditation it turns out even at the beginning has some of the answer- 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-we call this multitasking.

The brain actually does not do multitasking, doesn't do several things at once in parallel, rather it works in serial and it switches very rapidly from one thing to the next. Then when you go back to that project or that 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 10 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 10 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 10 more minutes at lunch, 10 more minutes at a break in the mid-afternoon, it helps you through the day stay concentrated. So that is a very palpable concrete payoff 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. Beginners in mindfulness or other meditations it turns out right from the get-go have a better reaction to stress. What that means is that, and we see this in brain function, the area of the brain which reacts to stress 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 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's 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 belly rise on the in breath, fall on the out breath. 1, 2, 3 on the in breath, 1, 2, 3 on the out breath.

This is basically the beginning of mindfulness or meditation for kids. You know, in cognitive science we'd 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 to concentrate. 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 are strengthening the neural circuitry for focus and countering mind-wandering- 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 are promising.