Just 10 minutes of daily meditation can help prevent your mind from wandering and is particularly effective if you tend to have repetitive, anxious thoughts, say researchers.

The team from the University of Waterloo 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, researcher and PhD candidate at Waterloo.

The team 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.

As part of the study, 82 participants who experienced anxiety 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,” Xu added.

The study, co-authored by Waterloo psychology professors Christine Purdon and Daniel Smilek and Harvard University’s Paul Seli, was published in the journal Consciousness and Cognition.

First Published | 1 May 2017 10:27 PM
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