More reasons to meditate, part #1

In recent years, dozens of researchers have turned their attention to studying meditative and contemplative practices. This research continues to produce results that confirm how important these practices are for our physical, psychological, and mental health.  A very recent study adds yet another important benefit to the already long list: meditation helps us to focus attention and concentrate.

The authors studied college students who were preparing to take the Graduate Records Examination, an extremely important test for anyone wishing to pursue an advanced degree in the social sciences and humanities. Just two short weeks of meditation training and practice lead to a significant decrease in mind wandering and increase cognitive performance. The training improved both GRE reading-comprehension scores and working memory capacity. In in just two weeks!

The contemplate practice used in the study was simple and easy to use. The authors describe it this way:

Classes focused on (a) sitting in an upright posture with legs crossed and gaze lowered, (b) distinguishing between naturally arising thoughts and elaborated thinking, (c) minimizing the distracting quality of past and future concerns by reframing them as mental projections occurring in the present, (d) using the breath as an anchor for attention during meditation, (e) repeatedly counting up to 21 consecutive exhalations, and (f) allowing the mind to rest naturally rather than trying to suppress the occurrence of thoughts.

This entire practice could be done in less than 15 minutes. Perhaps this could be one of your coffee breaks, or a nice way to end your lunch?

We always have to be very careful in assuming too much from the results of any one study. I remember when oat bran was portrayed as the wonder food, based upon the results of a single study. We now know oat bran does have beneficial effects, but not quite as miraculous as we were initially told.

But this is one in a long and growing series of studies on the effects of meditative/contemplative practices. I will have more to post about meditation in the coming days. For now, remember that there are dozens and dozens of different kinds of meditative/contemplative practices, and all of them seem to have the same or very similar benefits. This means that all of us should be able to find a practice that works for us.

We hope that you are flourishing (and meditating)!

Matt and the entire Flourishing team

Mrazek, M. , Franklin, M. , Phillips, D. , Baird, B. , & Schooler, J. (2013). Mindfulness training improves working memory capacity and GRE performance while reducing mind wandering. Psychological Science, 24(5), 776-781.

Comments are closed.