Mindfulness Improves Attention, Review Finds

We often hear about gaining greater focus through mindfulness practice. A new research review sheds light on some of the nuances regarding how improvements in attention are measured.


Regular meditation practice can improve attention, according to researchers. But how is it that practices like meditation hone our focus?

Seeking to expand our knowledge around this question, researchers at Ryerson University in Toronto, Canada, examined the existing research on the relationship between meditation practice and changes in attention. They reviewed published studies of healthy adults who practiced focused attention (FA), open monitoring (OM), or both. Focused attention (FA) meditation involves being able to keep one’s attention fixed on a particular object, such as the breath. Open monitoring (OM) meditation emphasizes staying in the present moment while paying attention to one’s experience, without allowing the mind to get lost in thought. 

Meditation Improves Attention—in Some Cases

To evaluate the effects of these forms of meditation on different aspects of attention, data from 87 studies were categorized into attentional brain networks like those responsible for focusing, orienting, or blocking out distractions, and/or executive control domains like shifting attention, or inhibiting a response. 

Their investigation revealed that experienced practitioners of FA, OM or both, or those assigned to a meditation practice as part of an intervention had better attention skills than nonmeditators. Meditators…