Photo by Jared Rice on Unsplash.

When we hear the word meditation, certain images come to mind. For some, it’s that annoying neighbor chanting om at the top of their lungs. Sure, it’s easy to joke about these eccentrics. But there’s a reason the practice has endured for thousands of years.

Director David Lynch says, “Meditation is to dive all the way within. To go beyond thought, and to the source of pure consciousness. When you come out, you come out refreshed, filled with energy and enthusiasm for life.”

We spend so much time focusing on the health of our bodies, that we often neglect the health of the mind. Of course, meditation has long been a symbol of calm and concentration. But can this technique be useful in the complex world of acting jobs and auditions? Can meditation be a type of acting coach?

In this post, we want to show how meditation benefits an actor at all stages of their career. Through scientific research, we see that the activity does a lot more than simply keeping a person at ease.

So, as David Lynch would say, let’s dive in!

The Science Behind Meditation

Under meditation, activity within the human nervous system slows down. As the processing of information decreases, the production of gray matter increases. Gray matter is neural tissue that aids in the distribution of information. The more gray matter you have, the more powerful your brain is.

Recent studies have shown that during meditation gray matter accumulates in the frontal lobe area of the brain. The frontal lobe is responsible for strategy and problem solving. By strengthening this area a number of cognitive functions benefit. In fact, with meditation, the entire structure of the brain changes. This is known as neuroplasticity.

Meditation Reduces Fear

Of all the emotions affecting an actor, fear is the most common. Whether attending casting calls or preparing for acting jobs , thoughts of making a mistake hinder a performance.

Fear begins in the almond-shaped area of the brain known as the amygdala. Once an emotional stimulus is detected, the amygdala signals whether a person should stay or flee. This tug of war between fight or flight is all too common for actors.

Well, meditation may prove a helpful solution. In a Harvard University study, researchers conducted an eight-week meditation trial. In it, participants were asked to meditate for 30 to 40 minutes a day. At the end of the trial, researchers discovered a reduction in brain volume. Specifically, the amygdala area had grown smaller. Participants felt more at ease, and less fearful of upcoming responsibilities.

For actors, it’s important to balance preparation with spontaneity. If you’re constantly afraid of making an error, you can’t concentrate on acting roles or casting calls.

Improve Memory With Meditation

Ah yes, memorization. That vital task every actor must master. But with so much to process during auditions and acting jobs, it’s easy to draw a blank during these important moments.

This is where meditation comes in handy. Researchers at UCSB had 48 undergraduate students take a meditation class four times a week. The results showed that the cortical walls of the brain grew thicker. Cortical thickness is associated with decreased aging, and improved memory. Students confirmed that their memorization abilities seemingly improved. In fact, during a span of two weeks, their GRE scores went from 460 to 520.

In an industry where memorization is key, meditation can keep the mind of an actor healthy.

Meditation Eases Stress

Okay, it’s the night before an audition. You have to research the casting director, decide on an outfit and find someone to watch your cat. Understandably, it’s going to be stressful.

The culprit behind stress is cortisol. Cortisol is often called the stress hormone, and is released from the adrenal glands during times of conflict. When released, the hormone causes increased heart rate, blood pressure and respiration. Three things a performer doesn’t need when pursuing acting jobs.

Here, meditation again comes to the rescue. A study in the journal Health Psychology shows that increased meditation slows down the production of cortisol. During the trial, 57 people spent three months at a meditation retreat. At the end of the study, researchers measured a clear reduction in cortisol levels. Participants reported feeling less anxious and more energetic.

Stress can be crippling. In the world of performance, it’s something that needs to be managed.

Learn To Focus For Acting Jobs

Be it casting calls or an acting workshop, actors need to focus. This of course is no easy task. With everything to remember and accomplish, it’s easy to get distracted.

Meditation has long been associated with focusing one’s thoughts. Through breathing exercises, the practice helps to regulate emotion and attention. But recent research shows it’s more than breathwork that helps meditators focus.

A study by the Journal of Neuroscience examined twelve zen meditators who had been practicing for at least three years. Researchers compared the meditators to a control group of twelve individuals who had never meditated. An MRI showed the meditators had more stability in their ventral postermedial cortex (VPMC). Yeah, that’s a mouthful. Basically, the VPMC region of the brain is linked to spontaneous thoughts and mind-wandering.

As researchers tested the subjects with logic games, they found the mental focus of the meditators to be stronger and more reliable. Getting distracted can sabotage acting roles. With its ability to stabilize wandering thoughts, meditation again proves to be a valuable resource for actors.

Sleep Better With Meditation

For some actors, sleep is a luxury. With auditions, acting jobs and a day gig, it’s easy to neglect this important function. As we know, sleep deprivation causes major health problems. If not attended to, the personal and professional consequences can be dire.

Perhaps it’s no surprise that meditation is a powerful tool in promoting healthy sleep. In a Harvard Medical School study, researchers examined 49 individuals suffering from sleeplessness. After practicing mindfulness meditation for six weeks, the subjects experienced less fatigue, insomnia and depression.

Sleep influences every aspect of our being. With the physical and emotional demands of casting calls and acting roles, regular, healthy sleep is essential.

Meditation Combats Pain

Actors are used to conjuring emotional pain. But, a performance can be physically taxing as well. Long days with repetitive tasks can take their toll on a body.

Medications have traditionally been the mainstay for treating pain. However, the often-addictive quality of such products have made some people hesitant to use them. Now, researchers at Wake Forest University are suggesting meditation may be helpful.

The study found that mindfulness meditation reduced pain intensity in their subjects by more than 40 percent. This is impressive considering most pain-relieving medications, including morphine, typically reduce discomfort by only 25 percent.
Of course, meditation is not going to cure diseases. But, its abilities in reducing pain can help actors tolerate demanding situations.

Wrapping Up Meditation For Acting

It’s often said that frustration makes you more creative. Sure, that’s easy to say. But it’s another thing when you’re standing nervous in front of a casting director or acting workshop. Although meditation may not work for everything, science has shown that it can have a significant impact on the human mind and body.

As we said, think of meditation as another type of acting coach. A tool that can ease your fears, and help you to find balance in uncertain situations.

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