Have trouble focusing? Just 10 minutes of daily mindful meditation may help prevent your mind from wandering and reduce repetitive, anxious thoughts, a new study has found. Researchers from University of Waterloo in Canada assessed the impact of meditation with about 82 participants who experience anxiety. 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.
They 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 from University of 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,” Xu said.
Mindfulness is defined as paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and without judgement, researchers said. “For people with anxiety, repetitive off-task thoughts can negatively affect their ability to learn, to complete tasks, or even function safely,” Xu added.