By now we’ve all heard of the benefits of mediation. It’s a calming practice that promotes a healthy lifestyle by reducing stress, enhancing happiness and increasing self awareness.
Meditation also has big brain boosts for anxiety sufferers. If they simply incorporate just 10 minutes of meditation into their daily routine, they could greatly reduce their wandering thoughts and improve their focus, according to research.
Mindful meditation is defined as purposely paying attention and being in the present moment without judgment or distraction. The study found that it was a good solution for those troubled by anxiety and plagued with repetitive, off-task thinking.
“Our results indicate that mindfulness training may have protective effects on mind wandering for anxious individuals,” said Mengran Xu, a researcher and Ph.D. candidate at Waterloo. “We also found that meditation practice appears to help anxious people to shift their attention from their own internal worries to the present-moment external world, which enables better focus on a task at hand.”
The study, done by Canada’s University of Waterloo, consisted of 82 people who experienced anxiety. They were asked to complete various tasks on a computer, and were also intentionally interrupted to see how well they were able to stay on task. Then the group was randomly split in two; one set of participants listened to an audio story, while the other control group took part in a short meditation exercise. When the entire group was reassessed, the findings showed that those who took part in the meditative exercise had less mind wandering and much better task performance than those who listened to the audio story.
“Mind wandering accounts for nearly half of any person’s daily stream of consciousness. For people with anxiety, repetitive off-task thoughts can negatively affect their ability to learn, to complete tasks, or even function safely,” said Xu.
“It would be interesting to see what the impacts would be if mindful meditation was practiced by anxious populations more widely,” he added.
Other research shows that some meditation has better results for women than for men. A study from Brown University found that mindfulness, a segment of meditation which emphasizes focus and concentration on a person’s present emotions and sensations, improved women’s emotional states. Men, in comparison, had lesser results.