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Meditation and Focus

UNABLE TO FOCUS?

Whether we’re an Olympic athlete or just learning to play football, a concert violinist or an amateur guitarist, a surgeon, mathematician, builder – whatever our pursuit – our performance and ability to learn new things is dependent on our ability to focus.

But it goes beyond this. Focus can have far reaching consequences in many areas of our lives. Being able to focus and resist distraction is also linked to our ability to control our impulses, emotions and achieve long-term goals.

SUCCESSFUL PEOPLE ARE MORE FOCUSED

Studies have found that children who are better able to regulate their attention and impulses are four times less likely to have a criminal record, three times less likely to be addicted to drugs, have more satisfying marriages and have significantly lower body mass indexes as adults. The ability to control our impulses and focus our attention has even been found to be a better predictor of academic success than IQ. No point in having an amazing brain if you can’t focus its power and put it to use

Research suggests that people use a range of “smart drugs” – from prescribed types to illicit ones – to boost their work or academic performance. Wouldn’t it be safer
and healthier, to develop focus more naturally through training the mind, and mindfulness meditation?

HOW CAN MINDFULNESS IMPROVE YOUR FOCUS?

A 2012 US study examined how meditation training affected individuals’ behaviour in multitasking at work (if you’re an employer or an employee, this is well worth your attention). Researchers tested three groups: (1) those who underwent an 8-week training course on mindfulness-based meditation, (2) those who endured a wait period, were tested, and then underwent the same 8-week training, and (3) those who had 8-weeks of training in body relaxation.

The researchers found that, compared with the people who didn’t meditate,

“those trained in meditation stayed on tasks longer and made fewer task switches, as well as reporting less negative feedback after task performance.” 

Numerous studies have shown that mindfulness meditation can improve our ability to sustain attention. The ability to concentrate on our breathing for long periods of time transfers over to other pursuits. If we can focus on a subtle object like our breath for 20 minutes, think how easy it will be to focus on sports, work, our partner, or anything else for that matter.

MEET THOSE DEADLINES

A US experiment found that just four days of training for just 20 minutes per day could help on a battery of cognitive tests. The researchers discovered that the mindfulness meditation practitioners performed particularly well on tasks with time constraints, suggesting that mindfulness could be useful for any of us who have to work to deadlines too.

BRAIN-CHANGING BENEFITS

Not only have scientists observed changes in people’s performance after completing attention tasks, but they’ve also found corresponding changes in the structure and function of meditators’ brains. Neuroscientists found that, after just 11 hours of meditation, practitioners had structural changes around the anterior cingulate cortex, a part of the brain involved in monitoring our focus and self control.