Mindfulness for mind-wandering
With life getting busier, we find ourselves doing things on auto-pilot. Instead of concentrating and noticing the task at hand, we think or notice other things.
The findings of this task are especially important for treating people who are anxious by helping them alleviate their worries.
Unlike other animals, humans spend a lot of time thinking about things which are not happening at the moment and our mind wanders to other thoughts – contemplating events that happened in the past, might happen in the future, or may never happen at all.
But mind wandering can be costly, especially when we are engaged in demanding tasks which need out attention, like driving.
Mind-wandering accounts for nearly half of a person’s daily stream of consciousness.
For people with anxiety, mind-wandering and repetitive thinking of other thoughts can negatively affect their ability to learn new things, to complete their tasks or to function properly.
Researchers from the University of Waterloo found that just 10 minutes of daily mindful meditation can prevent the mind from wandering.
Mindfulness meditation is also effective for people who tend to have repetitive anxious thoughts.
To understand the impact of mindfulness meditation on mind-wandering, the researchers recruited 82 participants who were highly anxious undergraduate students.
Participants were asked to perform a task on the computer while experiencing interruptions to gauge their ability to stay focussed on the task.
The participants were then randomly assigned to a meditation group or control group. The control group was given an audio story to listen to while the meditation group was asked to participate in a short meditation exercise.
After which the participants repeated the sustained-attention task again.
The results indicate that mindfulness training has a protective effect on mind-wandering for anxious people and its helps them shift their focus from their own internal worries to the present-moment external world. This enables them to focus better on the task at hand.
The findings of this study are especially important for treating people who are anxious by helping them alleviate their worries, which coincides with the findings of another study reported here.
Next time you catch yourself thinking about last night’s conversation with your friends, instead of concentrating on the task at hand – consider allocating just 10 minutes of you time to mindfulness meditation.
With so many benefits of mindfulness already proven, you can be assured of a healthier and happier you.
Source: Consciousness and Cognition