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“Meditation can significantly benefit all brains.” That’s according to Shannon Odell, the resident neuroscientist at Inverse.
Attorneys’ days are predominantly populated with intellectual tasks that require sustained levels of focus. But distractions abound. When that need for prolonged, focused mental tasks - like legal writing, legal research, or document review - is bombarded with the uncountably many attention-grabbers that are commonplace, the attorney’s brain suffers added stress.
Meditation, however, can increase mental performance. “One of the most prominent advantages of meditation,” according to Odell, “is in memory and attention. Longtime meditators show increased performance in cognitive skills for focus-based tasks. Even among Alzheimer’s patients, just eight weeks of meditation showed significantly increased memory function and cognitive performance among subjects.”
According to Odell, “Meditation can also lead to an increase in the ability to emotionally regulate. While emotional regulation may sound easy enough on paper, in practice, it can be incredibly difficult and have a significant impact on your mental health.”
While it is overlooked in law school, attorneys confront emotional challenges as much as they do legal ones. Over the length of a legal matter - which can span several years - attorneys become invested emotionally in the success of their clients and the outcomes of their cases. When difficulties arise or when cases fail, attorneys can find themselves emotionally bankrupt.
Mediation, however, can improve counsel’s control of activity in his or her amygdala, which controls how a person responds to potentially threatening situations, and thus can help an attorney temper the intensity of emotions.
While you may not see dramatic results a first, don’t be fooled. According to Odell, studies show that “even when subjects thought nothing was happening, there was still significant brain activity” while meditating. “The act of meditation has proven that sitting still and trying to clear your head will ultimately lead to more positive effects on the brain.”
So, “if you’re finding it hard to remain focused,” Odell counsels, “maybe it’s time for you to take up meditation.” Check out Creative’s popular course “Get Wise: Mindfulness for Attorneys,” and earn MCLE credits today.