Just 10 minutes of meditation helps anxious people have better focus

on 31 October 2017
The power of meditation

Meditation, as a state of a brain/mind phenomenon, has striking similarities with hypnosis. The main difference, simplistically, is how each state is induced. How can you access these states . . . . .

Meditation and hypnosis, two pathways to the same destination!

In its most simplistic form, "Meditation" is entered by emptying the mind, thus creating the absence of the self. In contrast, "Hypnosis" is entered by filling the mind, albeit with something different, specific. The vehicle for such musings is our imagination, the part of the brain/mind that hears unspoken sounds and sees pictures, with the eyes closed, of such clarity as to be more vivid than the real thing. It is also the brain's inability to distinguish real from false that makes hypnosis so empowering. Think of dreaming, that dream of falling, that feels so real as to elicit intense feelings of fear! Yet in reality, it is a total falsehood a real experience of a non-existent falseness!

So the research below may be of help or comfort to those who suffer from abnormal or unwanted anxiety or stress. It can also help those who suffer from depression, for it is always the case that such people will have higher levels of anxiety and/or stress. It is difficult to make progress in the lessening of the symptoms and feelings of depression when one's fight or flight response is activated. By reducing the symptoms of anxiety, stress or depression, as well as the false or real underlying cause(s), normal function is eventually restored. Normal functioning occurs in the presence of real danger or difficulty; that's what anxiety and fear are for, essentially, it is to protect and keep us safe!

The research:
Just 10 minutes of daily mindful mediation can help prevent your mind from wandering and is particularly effective if you tend to have repetitive, anxious thoughts, according to a study from the University of Waterloo.

The study, which assessed the impact of meditation with 82 participants who experience anxiety, found that developing an awareness of the present moment reduced incidents of repetitive, off-task thinking, a hallmark of anxiety. "Our results indicate that mindfulness training may have protective effects on mind-wandering for anxious individuals," said Mengran Xu, a researcher and PhD 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 term mindfulness is commonly defined as paying attention to purpose, in the present moment, and without judgement. As part of the study, participants were asked to perform a task on a computer while experiencing interruptions to gauge their ability to stay focused on the task. Researchers then put the participants into two groups at random, with the control group given an audio story to listen to and the other group asked to engage in a short meditation exercise prior to being reassessed.

"Mind wandering accounts for nearly half of any person's daily stream of consciousness," said Xu. "For people with anxiety, repetitive off-task thoughts can negatively affect their ability to learn, to complete tasks, or even function safely.
"It would be interesting to see what the impacts would be if mindful meditation was practised by anxious populations more widely."

Story Source:
Materials provided by the University of Waterloo. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference:
1. Mengran Xu, Christine Purdon, Paul Seli, Daniel Smilek. Mindfulness and mind-wandering: The protective effects of brief meditation in anxious individuals. Consciousness and Cognition, 2017; 51: 157 DOI: 10.1016/j.concog.2017.03.009