Toss the coffee. Flush the energy drink. If you’re trying to keep up with those perpetual motors we call little dudes and dudettes, there might be a better way to help you think your way around those obstacles you love so much: It’s called meditation. No, really.
Scientists have found in a recent study that brief periods of meditation can help to improve your cognition, that is make your thinkin’ parts do more, um, thinkin’ better.
While past research using neuroimaging technology has shown that meditation techniques can promote significant changes in brain areas associated with concentration, it has always been assumed that extensive training was required to achieve this effect. Though many people would like to boost their cognitive abilities, the monk-like discipline required seems like a daunting time commitment and financial cost for this benefit.
Surprisingly, the benefits may be achievable even without all the work. Though it sounds almost like an advertisement for a “miracle” weight-loss product, new research now suggests that the mind may be easier to cognitively train than we previously believed. Psychologists studying the effects of a meditation technique known as “mindfulness ” found that meditation-trained participants showed a significant improvement in their critical cognitive skills (and performed significantly higher in cognitive tests than a control group) after only four days of training for only 20 minutes each day.
I dunno, but it sounds doable to me. Of course, I’m the idiot who thought it was a good idea to try and use dish soap in the dishwasher and didn’t expect to see all those bubbles flowing all over my kitchen floor, so I’m not sure if I’m the right person to start advocating this. Still. What the heck. Competence or lack thereof has never stopped me before, so why now?
The experiment involved 63 student volunteers, 49 of whom completed the experiment. Participants were randomly assigned in approximately equivalent numbers to one of two groups, one of which received the meditation training while the other group listened for equivalent periods of time to a book (J.R.R. Tolkein’s The Hobbit) being read aloud. Prior to and following the meditation and reading sessions, the participants were subjected to a broad battery of behavioral tests assessing mood, memory, visual attention, attention processing, and vigilance.
Both groups performed equally on all measures at the beginning of the experiment. Both groups also improved following the meditation and reading experiences in measures of mood, but only the group that received the meditation training improved significantly in the cognitive measures. The meditation group scored consistently higher averages than the reading/listening group on all the cognitive tests and as much as ten times better on one challenging test that involved sustaining the ability to focus, while holding other information in mind.
So, I guess what they’re saying is that one ring really doesn’t rule them all. Either that, or they found the Lord of the Rings as insufferably boring as I did.
The meditation training involved in the study was an abbreviated “mindfulness” training regime modeled on basic “Shamatha skills” from a Buddhist meditation tradition, conducted by a trained facilitator. As described in the paper, “participants were instructed to relax, with their eyes closed, and to simply focus on the flow of their breath occurring at the tip of their nose. If a random thought arose, they were told to passively notice and acknowledge the thought and to simply let ‘it’ go, by bringing the attention back to the sensations of the breath.” Subsequent training built on this basic model, teaching physical awareness, focus, and mindfulness with regard to distraction.
I love the irony here. In order to think better, you’ve got to settle down, clear your mind and do no thinking at all. I wonder if that’ll help me with the diet. To lose the weight, I’ve got to sample the food even more. Hmm. This might have possibilities.
Seriously, this does sound good.However, I have one teeny, tiny problem with this. If we’re going to be using this to help us outthink the little dudes and dudettes running riot through our house, when are we going to get the 20 minutes a day to train ourselves and then the time we need to settle down calmly and start doing the actual meditation?
I don’t know about you, but I’m certainly not going to get up any earlier than I’m already forced to do just so I can do this. Maybe I can come up with a solution. Let me meditate on it for a while. Wait! What?Share on Facebook Tags: A Dude's Guide to Life, behavior, Brain, Brain Areas, cognition, Cognitive Abilities, Cognitive Skills, Cognitive Tests, Control Group, Diet, Discipline, Dish Soap, dude, Dudettes, Ea, eat, Energy Drink, Experiment Participants, Extensive Training, food, Fr, Freak, Freaky Friday, Freaky Friday, information, Kitchen Floor, little dude, little dudes, Lord Of The Rings, Man, Mcsquared, Meditation, Meditation Technique, Meditation Techniques, Memory, men, Mindfulness, Miracle, Ohm, Psychologist, Psychologists, Rea, research, richard, science, Scientist, Scientists, Significant Improvement, Student Volunteers, study, Time Commitment, weight, What The Heck