With the help of meditation, you can make fewer mistakes according to recent research. How?
The researchers studied what are the effects of open-monitoring meditation that focuses on thoughts, feelings, and sensations in one’s mind and how it can alter brain activity, decreasing the number of errors.
Jeff Lin, co-author of the study published in the Brain Sciences and psychology doctoral candidate at Michigan State University said:
“People’s interest in meditation and mindfulness is outpacing what science can prove in terms of effects and benefits. But it’s amazing to me that we were able to see how one session of guided meditation can produce changes to brain activity in non-meditators.”
It’s important to stress that different forms of meditation can have different neurocognitive effects. However, there was little research done on open-monitoring meditation and its impact on error recognition.
“Some forms of meditation have you focus on a single object, commonly your breath, but open-monitoring meditation is a bit different,” 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.”
For this particular study, researchers had more than 200 participants that were tested on how open-monitoring meditation can affect how we detect and how we respond to errors. Participants meditated for 20 minutes while a group of researchers measured their brain activity by using an electroencephalogram (EEG). After 20 minutes of open-monitoring meditation, participants completed a computerized distraction test. According to co-author, Lin:
“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. 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.”
Researchers could not detect an immediate improvement in performing the task, but their findings offer promising data on the potential of sustained and regular meditation. Co-author, Jason Moser said:
“These findings 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.”
Meditation has gained a lot of mainstream publicity in the past few years, but Lin is among a relatively small group of researchers that have a neuroscientific approach in assessing the performance and overall psychological effects of meditation.
According to Lin, the next phase of the research will be to include a larger group of participants to test different forms of meditation and to determine where are the effects and changes in the brain activity to translate behavioral changes with more sustainable and long-term practice of meditation. Lin says:
“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. It’s time we start looking at it through a more rigorous lens.”
If you are not on board with meditation already, you should give it a go. For anyone who has meditated regularly, they are aware of the amazing benefits of relieving stress to an overall better and more positive attitude. On top of this, researchers have suggested that meditation has great health benefits too.