You’re in the middle of working on a project, when all of the sudden… your phone rings. Long after you’ve wrapped up the call, you’re surfing social media, and checking up on texts. When you finally summon your attention back to your work, you don’t have any of the concentration you had before.
Sound familiar? That’s because the brain isn’t wired to multitask, says psychologist and science journalist Daniel Goleman. In this video from BigThink, Goleman talks about how the brain is unable to work on parallel tasks at once, instead switching rapidly from one thing to the next. As a result, our concentration levels drop each time we attempt to come back to a task.
Our concentration levels drop each time we attempt to come back to a task.
With more distractions at your fingertips than ever before, focused attention has become “an endangered species.” Luckily, researchers are finding that as little as 10 minutes of meditation a day can help turn the tide, and these benefits can be observed from the moment a person begins their practice.
Three ways meditation improves mental focus
- You’re better able to bounce back from distractions. Goleman says bringing attention back to the breath each time you feel your mind wandering during meditation helps strengthen the brain’s neural circuitry for focus. Translating that into daily life, when we notice that we’re off track, distracted by a text or our phone buzzing, we’re better able to come back to the task at hand. If you find your focus wanes during the course of a day, taking a brief meditation break at lunch can restore your attention.
- You can tame the stress reaction. Those who meditate have a better reaction to stress. Research has found that with meditation, the amygdala—the area of the brain that responds to stress—becomes quieter. This could give meditators a little more leeway during high-pressure situations to hold things more lightly (e.g. a snarky email) and not devote all of their attention to emotional triggers.
- It helps with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). Because meditation has previously been found to work well in treating those with anxiety and depression, researchers have begun looking into the potential for meditation to treat ADD. In Harlem, researchers found that a classroom of children with special needs, including ADD, became calmer and more focused when they learned a simple breathing practice.
Video: BigThinkRead More