A study has found that changes in brain activity occur after only five weeks of meditation training.
Previous studies have found that Buddhist monks, who have spent tens of thousands of hours meditating, have different patterns of brain activity.
But Jane Anderson, who was working as a landscape architect, and who did this research as an undergraduate student together with a team of University of Wisconsin-Stout faculty and students, wanted to know if they could see a change in brain activity after a shorter period.
At the beginning of the study, each participant had an EEG, a measurement of the brain's electrical activity.
They were told: "Relax with your eyes closed, and focus on the flow of your breath at the tip of your nose; if a random thought arises, acknowledge the thought and then simply let it go by gently bringing your attention back to the flow of your breath."
Then 11 people were invited to take part in meditation training, while another 10 were told they would be trained later.
The 11 were offered two half-hour sessions a week, and encouraged to practice as much as they could between sessions, but there wasn't any particular requirement for how much they should practice.
After five weeks, the researchers did an EEG on each person again. Each person had done, on average, about seven hours of training and practice.
But even with that little meditation practice, their brain activity was different from the 10 people who hadn't had training yet.
People who had done the meditation training showed a greater proportion of activity in the left frontal region of the brain in response to subsequent attempts to meditate.
Other research has found that this pattern of brain activity is associated with positive moods.
"The shift in brain activity was clearly evident even with a small number of subjects," Christopher Moyer, one of Anderson's co-authors at the University of Wisconsin-Stout, said.
"If someone is thinking about trying meditation and they were thinking, 'It's too big of a commitment, it's going to take too much rigorous training before it has an effect on my mind', this research suggests that's not the case. It can't hurt and it might do you a lot of good," he stated.
The findings will be published in an upcoming issue of Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.