Study shows that a short meditation session betters cognitive skills even in people doing it for the first time
Even a short session of meditation can improve cognitive abilities, including in first timers, researchers from Yale University and Swarthmore College in the US have found. They observed that college students who listen to a 10-minute meditation tape perform better on cognitive tests than peers who listen to a “control” recording on a generic subject.
The study, published in the journal Frontiers of Neuroscience, shows even people who have never meditated before can benefit from even a short meditation practice. The researchers wrote that the findings “suggest that a brief 10-min guided mindfulness meditation instruction period can improve executive attentional control even in naïve, inexperienced meditators. This is a novel and important finding, suggesting that individuals who are merely initiating a meditation practice may reap benefits after a single brief session. As such, it redefines the boundary conditions of the efficacy of meditation practice, which has predominantly been studied with longer courses of meditation training.”
“Mindfulness meditation practice is known to affect various psychological outcomes, including cognitive performance and attention”
However people who are neurotic, they cautioned could stand to benefit less. “We have known for awhile that people who practice meditation for a few weeks or months tend to perform better on cognitive tests, but now we know you don’t have to spend weeks practicing to see improvement,” said Hedy Kober, associate professor at Yale.
The research team randomly divided college students into two groups. One group listened to a 10-minute recording on meditation prior to performing cognitive tests and the second group listened to a similarly produced tape about sequoia trees. Both groups were then given simple tasks designed to measure cognitive dexterity. Those who listened to the meditation recording performed significantly better, across two studies.
The researchers concluded: “Mindfulness meditation practice is known to affect various psychological outcomes, including cognitive performance and attention. Across two studies, we tested the boundary conditions of brief mindfulness meditation, and showed that even a very small ‘dose’ can have beneficial effects in individuals with very little or no practice—especially in individuals lower in neuroticism.”