Not long ago I found myself on a strange, unplanned journey. It started with an on-air panic attack and led to interviews with a gaggle of gurus, none of whom could give me any practical, actionable... See More
Not long ago I found myself on a strange, unplanned journey. It started with an on-air panic attack and led to interviews with a gaggle of gurus, none of whom could give me any practical, actionable advice for taming the voice in my head. Until finally I stumbled upon the last thing I ever would have expected. Meditation. I always assumed meditation was for people who liked crystals, incense, and John Tesh music. In other words, there was no way I was going to meditate. But then I heard about scientific studies showing that meditation can, among other things, lower your blood pressure and boost your immune system. And then I learned that meditation does not necessarily involve wearing robes, lighting incense, or believing in anything in particular. People of any faith or no faith can do it. In fact, it's totally straightforward. There are basically just three steps. Number one, sit upright. Doesn't have to be cross-legged. You could do it in a chair, on the floor, whatever. Two, just try to feel your breath coming in and going out. And three, whenever your mind wanders, which it will a million times, simply return your attention to the breath. So one day after I learned all of this I very reluctantly gave it a shot. Breathe in. What kind of bird was big bird? Breathe out. Do I need a haircut? Shrubbery. I like that word. Reporter: In a way it was like the panic attack, my mind hurling a lot of crazy thoughts at me. Idea for old school hip-hop show, rap van winkle. Reporter: But this time I had a weapon. Get in the game, dude. Reporter: In those brief moments where I was simply focused on my breath -- Breathe in. Breathe out. Reporter: It was like pressing the mute button on the voice in my head. Where do gerbils run wild? Would I describe myself as more of a -- Breathe in, breathe out. Reporter: And it created space between the thoughts before they inevitably came marauding back in. Meditation is like exercise for your brain. I'm not speaking metaphorically here. Check this out. Brain scans show that short daily doses of meditation literally grow the gray matter in areas associated with self-awareness and compassion and shrink the area associated with stress. As for me, it's not like my life has become a nonstop parade of rainbows and unicorns. I still sometimes let work stress me out and distract me. But my emotions and impulses no longer yank me around as much, which frankly is a superpower. Meditation has also helped me slow down enough that the good stuff in my life has become much more vivid, from the fact that ABC lets me be the co-anchor of "Nightline" to simply eating cookies with my wife or playing with our cat. An important point here. It is possible to get happier in this way without going soft. These Marines here are part of an experiment to see if meditation makes more resilient warriors. First time they said to you we're going to teach you how to meditate, what was your gut reaction? This is going to be absolutely ridiculous. Reporter: Corporate executives are using it too. Even the lead singer of weezer, who told me meditation helped him cure crippling stage fright. About eight years ago I started practicing two hours every day. And at first actually the unpleasantness got worse before I was going on stage. And I was wondering, is this really working? But I stuck with it. And now I feel so much calmer. Reporter: And check out this list of other conditions meditation has been shown to be good for. There are no miracle cures, despite what you hear from the self-help gurus. I like to say meditation has made me roughly 10% happier. If it can work for a fidgety, skeptical news man, maybe you too should give it a shot.
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