What was born thousands of years ago, predating Buddhism, can sharpen your mind today. A new study says that meditation — sitting quietly and focusing on each breath — can allow you to have much greater attention. If you train yourself in meditation, this change in attention will be nothing short of profound.
Recently, studies have found that meditation has special effects on the brain. But it also promotes overall health, too. Meditation can strengthen the immune system, lower stress, reduce anxiety, calm the heart rate, and reduce blood pressure (to name a few). This is the first study to see how the ancient practice affects attention.
Meditation involves getting your mind on another plane. It involves allowing thoughts to come to your mind, but then to quietly let them drift away when they come. Our minds are very active, so it can take a little while to really learn how to “release” thoughts. Researchers say this releasing act helps free up the brain to focus attention elsewhere. People who meditate are quicker to detect visual things that change quickly. An example is the rapid change of a smile evening out on somebody’s face.
In the study, scientists examined something called the “attentional blink.” If 10 photographs are looked at in a row, most people won’t notice two photographs that were flashed at them in half a second. So really there were 12 photos, but the two happened so fast they went undetected. Why? Because the people’s brains “blinked.”
In life, things can happen too quickly for our brain to react. Its attention is not diverted fast enough. But some people can see this second visual target. That means we must have some control over it. And sure enough, meditation strengthens it, proving that it makes your mind sharper.
In the study, meditation worked to correct these blinks, showing that attention is actually a skill you can train. It can help with listening skills, forming clear memories, following complicated plots, and among all the aspects of life where attention is needed.
There have been hundreds and hundreds of studies done on meditation. They have helped us understand that we can actually take control of our mind and nervous system. It is best learned first by a professional. There are meditation groups everywhere now. Once you learn the proper techniques, you can do it quietly at home, whenever you need. It is the ultimate relaxation therapy.