Focus & Mindfulness Meditation
LEARN NEW SKILLS
Whether you’re an Olympic athlete or just play the occasional pickup game, a college professor or fourth grader, your performance and ability to learn new things
depends on your ability to focus.
But focus also does more than just help you pick up new skills. Being able to focus and ignore distractions is linked to controlling impulses, emotions and achieving long-term goals. All of which can be pretty helpful in life.
Scientists in the US investigated the effects of brief meditation training on cognition. And their findings suggest that meditating for just four days is enough to improve novice meditators’ working memory, executive functions and ability to process visual information.2
In fact, a recent study also showed that participants who practiced meditation improved their ability to focus attention during a laboratory task compared to participants who didn’t meditate. If we can concentrate on a subtle object like our breath, think how easy it could be to focus on sports, work, our partner, or anything else for that matter.3
FOCUS UNDER PRESSURE
Mindfulness has also been shown to improve our ability to focus in tense moments.4 Stress reduces what’s called “working memory capacity,” or our ability to manage cognitive demands and regulate emotions. So if you ever need to think under pressure (and who doesn’t?), mindfulness meditation could help.
Not only have scientists observed changes in people’s performance after completing attention tasks, but they’ve also found corresponding changes in the structure and function of meditators’ brains. Neuroscientists found that, after just 11 hours of meditation, practitioners had structural changes around the anterior cingulate cortex, a part of the
brain important for developing self-control.5
- Levy, D., Wobbrock, J., Kaszniak, A. & Ostergren, M. (2012). The Effects of Mindfulness Meditation Training on Multitasking in a HighStress Information Environment. Proceedings of Graphics Interface. 4552.
- Zeidan, F., Johnson, S. K., Diamond, B. J., David, Z., & Goolkasian, P. (2010). Mindfulness meditation improves cognition: Evidence of brief mental training. Consciousness and Cognition. 19, 2. 597605.
- MacLean, K. A., Ferrer, E., Aichele, S. R., Bridwell, D. A., Zanesco, A. P., Jacobs, T. L., Saron, C. D. (2010). Intensive Meditation Training Improves Perceptual Discrimination and Sustained Attention. Psychological Science. 21, 6. 829839.
- Jha, A. P., Stanley, E. A., Kiyonaga, A., Wong, L., & Gelfand, L. (2010). Examining the protective effects of mindfulness training on working memory capacity and affective experience. Emotion, 10(1), 54.
- Tang, Y., Lu, Q., Geng, X., Stein, E. A., Yang, Y., & Posner, M. (2010). Shortterm meditation induces white matter changes in the anterior cingulate. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 107, 35. 1564915652.