Have you ever had those days where you just can’t seem to focus? Or you are having trouble with remembering what you’ve just learnt? Scientists have found some pretty interesting effects of mindful meditation on our bodies and minds.
What is mindful meditation?
One study, co-authored by a University of Pennsylvania cognitive neuroscientist, Amishi Jha, found that mindfulness training (a form of meditation), which teaches people how to stay alert and in the moment without becoming emotionally disruptive improved the moods of the US Marines who were preparing for deployment to Iraq. The study also found that practicing mindfulness also improved a type of memory that enables people to complete complex mental tasks.
The study involved 48 US Marine men who were deployed to Iraq – 31 of the participants spent 2-hours in mindfulness training classes each week, and the remaining 17 participants had no mindfulness training. All 48 participants were prescribed a 30-minute mindfulness exercise each day – this included focused breathing and meditation-like sessions. The study found that each participant’s working memory, which allows for short-term retrieval and storage of information, is closely related to the kind of mental control used in mindful meditation. The study also found that those who did their mindfulness exercise diligently saw a slight increase in working memory capacity, reported more positive moods, and fewer negative moods, compared to the participants who did not do their mindfulness exercise diligently. You can read more about the study here.
Another study, co-authored by a University of California – Davis graduate student, Katherine MacLean, found that daily mindful meditation could improve a person’s attention span and focus.
The study involved 60 participants with an average age of 49-years-old. The participants were split into groups of 2. 30 of the participants (group 1) went on a 3-month meditation retreat in Colorado, USA while the remaining 30 participants (group 2) waited their turn and went on the 3-month meditation retreat 3-months after the end of the first group. All participants had been on meditation retreats before and during the study, they studied with B. Alan Wallace – a co-author of the study, a meditation teacher, and a Buddhist scholar. The participants were asked to complete various tests which were meant to measure visual attention span and the ability to make fine visual distinctions. As the meditation training progressed, participants got better at sustaining their focus which meant improved performance on the tests over a long period of time. The study showed that the participants’ performance continued to improve for at least 5-months post-retreat (which was the length of the follow-up period), particularly for those who continued to meditate every day, compared to those who did not continue to meditate every day. You can read more about the study here.
What can mindful meditation do?
Mindful meditation can also be used in place of punishment to help children (and adults) understand the consequences of their actions, teach them to control their behaviours and emotions, and help them work through their issues. The Robert W. Coleman Elementary School in Baltimore, USA has been trying something different when their students act out. Instead of punishing disruptive kids or sending them to the principal’s office, the Baltimore school is prescribing meditation sessions in the school’s Mindful Moment Room.
This room was specially designed to create a conducive environment for children to meditate in. It looks nothing like your standard windowless detention room. Instead, the room is filled with plush purple pillows, warm lamps, and friendly decorations which helps the children calm down and re-center their emotions and thoughts.
So the next time you feel overwhelmed, agitated, or unfocused, it might be a good idea to look up some tips on mindful meditation and try to incorporate it into your daily routine. It might help you achieve better results for your exams, retain information for a longer period of time, and might even help you with your daily lives!
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