Science Tells You To Meditate Your Mistakes Away

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Science Tells You To Meditate Your Mistakes Away

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We all know what it is like when we forget where we put our car keys, where we left our phone, where we left the TV remote, however it seems that science has now identified a way to overcome the forgetfulness that often accompanies stress and over-commitment. 

A new study conducted by researchers from Michigan State University (MSU) in the United States has found that the ancient practice of meditation can help you be less prone to both forgetfulness and making mistakes.

The study, published in the scientific journal Brain Sciences, tested how open monitoring meditation (OMM) — or, in lay terms meditation that focuses awareness about feelings, thoughts or sensations as they happen in both mind and body – changed brain activity in a way that suggests an increase in accuracy and recall.

“People’s interest in meditation and mindfulness is outpacing what science can prove in terms of effects and benefits,” says Jeff Lin, a doctoral candidate in psychology at MSU and the study’s co-author. “But it’s amazing to me that we were able to see how one session of a guided meditation can produce changes to brain activity in non-meditators.

And so there you have it. Meta-psychics meets the metaphysical.

Science examining and condoning a spiritual practice that has come down to us through the ages. Maybe the ancients were on to something after all.

The findings suggest that different forms of meditation can have different neurocognitive effects. Jeff Lin says that there is little research about how open-monitoring meditation impacts error recognition.

“Some forms of meditation have you focus on a single object, commonly your breath, but open-monitoring meditation is a bit different,” Jeff Lin says. “It has you tune inward and pay attention to everything going on in your mind and body. The goal is to sit quietly and pay close attention to where the mind travels without getting too caught up in the scenery.”

The MSU researchers recruited more than 200 participants to test how OMM affected how people detect and respond to errors.

None of the participants had ever meditated before. They were taken through a 20-minute OMM exercise while the researchers measured brain activity through electroencephalography or EEG. Then, they completed a computerized distraction test.

“The EEG can measure brain activity at the millisecond level, so we got precise measures of neural activity right after mistakes compared to correct responses,” Jeff Lin said.

“A certain neural signal occurs about half a second after an error called the error positivity, which is linked to conscious error recognition. We found that the strength of this signal is increased in the meditators relative to controls.”

These findings, the researchers say, are a strong demonstration of what just 20 minutes of meditation can do to enhance the brain’s ability to detect and pay attention to mistakes.

“It makes us feel more confident in what mindfulness meditation might really be capable of for performance and daily functioning right there in the moment.”

While meditation and mindfulness have gained mainstream interest in recent years, Jeff Lin is among a relatively small group of researchers that take a neuroscientific approach to assessing their psychological and performance effects.

Looking ahead, he says that the next phase of research will be to include a broader group of participants, test different forms of meditation and determine whether changes in brain activity can translate to behavioural changes with more long-term practice.

“It’s great to see the public’s enthusiasm for mindfulness, but there’s still plenty of work from a scientific perspective to be done to understand the benefits it can have, and equally importantly, how it actually works,” Lin said. “It’s time we start looking at it through a more rigorous lens.”

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