mindfulness and focus

read below to discover the history of mindfulness and how you can practice it today. some of these behaviors and beliefs are referred to as a psychological process or as a skill developed over time. well, if you are constantly aware of your surroundings, you are practicing mindfulness to some degree. meditation is used as a mindfulness technique to help us achieve this optimal state of awareness, which can help you improve concentration and reduce stress. for example, instead of thinking that our emotions or thoughts need to be put into a category of right or wrong, practicing mindfulness allows us to accept how we feel in any given moment and allow ourselves a sense of freedom. practicing mindfulness has been shown in research to increase gray matter in the brain.

an increase in density may mean an increase in connectivity between the cells, and an increase in two areas known as the pons and raphe nucleus can improve our overall psychological well-being. a study conducted at massachusetts general hospital was the first to report changes in density in the gray matter of the brain. these changes can help improve your focus and enable you to remember what you read more thoroughly. as you learn to concentrate and focus on your breath, you will notice more thoughts because you are aware of them. but this means your attention is actually working better — you will notice brain wandering and how easily you can get distracted from just sitting and staring at the wall. the more you are used to racing, uncontrolled thoughts, the more aware you will need to be in order to stop them.

in two studies, we sought to investigate the effects of a brief, 10-min meditation session on attention in novice meditators, compared to a control activity. the orienting network is responsible for attending selectively to a sense modality or a location in space (petersen and posner, 2012) by prioritizing attention to a subset of possible inputs. furthermore, the control conditions utilized in both studies were arguably not well matched to the 20-min meditation and allow for a number of confounds (e.g., visual and auditory input, cognitive effort) that complicate interpretation of their results. in sum, research on the effects of a single, brief session of mindfulness meditation on cognitive performance is extremely rare and has produced few reliable findings. in an initial attempt to examine the effects of brief meditation on attention in novice meditators, we asked participants to listen to a 10-min audio tape: mindfulness meditation vs. control. each participant was seated in front of a desktop computer and was asked to wear headphones and a blindfold, to allow them to focus on the audio tape. finally, participants completed a funneled debriefing interview in which they were given the opportunity to report any suspicion about the true purpose of the study, as well as reporting any previous experience with meditation, including duration and frequency of practice. to further probe the effects of brief meditation on attention on the flanker task, we calculated difference scores to capture the “flanker effect” in rts on correct trials (incongruent—congruent) and accuracy (congruent—incongruent), separately. to examine moderation of the effects of meditation on attention by individual differences in neuroticism, rts were subjected to a 2 (condition: meditation, control) × 2 (trial type: congruent, incongruent) × z-scored neuroticism glm, with the first factor manipulated between-participants, the second factor manipulated within-participants, and neuroticism entered as a continuous between-participants covariate. we employed the ant to allow for a replication of results from study 1; specifically, that following a brief meditation tape, participants would show better performance on a test of executive control. after providing informed consent, they were seated in front of a desktop computer and were given oral and visual instructions on how to complete the ant (fan et al., 2002).

the ant differs from the flanker task as utilized in study 1 in a number of ways. before each experimental session, the net was soaked in a saline solution for 5 min to saturate the sponges with a conductive fluid and allow for the recording of eeg from the scalp without direct contact. we used raw scores rather than difference scores (e.g., incongruent rts—congruent rts) for two reasons: (1) this allows for an investigation of overall differences in rts as a function of other factors (i.e., neuroticism, meditation/control tape condition); and (2) if performance on the ant is affected by meditation as in study 1, using raw scores allows us to examine whether the effect is driven by incongruent or congruent trials. to further probe the effects of meditation on executive attention, we calculated difference scores in rts on correct trials (incongruent—congruent) and accuracy (congruent—incongruent), separately. in sum, results for the p3b parallel those for the n2 such that in both cases, individuals higher in neuroticism showed reductions on neural indices of attentional allocation on incongruent trials after listening to a brief mindfulness meditation tape. individuals who completed a brief meditation had faster correct rts on the ant, regardless of trial type, than did those in the control condition, especially when they were relatively lower in neuroticism (hypothesis 2a and 2b). results for the p3b also showed an interaction between tape condition, trial type, and neuroticism, such that individuals higher in neuroticism who listened to the meditation tape exhibited a marginally reduced p3b on incongruent trials as compared to those who listened to the control tape. in future studies, measuring and controlling for individual differences in neuroticism may be necessary for uncovering the effects of brief sessions of mindfulness meditation on cognition. we suggest that neuroticism, a trait often associated with anxiety and self-consciousness, may directly impact the ability of individuals high in neuroticism to engage with mindfulness instructions. it is also worth noting that this is a preliminary study, and the first to our knowledge to test the effects of one’s first encounter with mindfulness meditation instructions, as one might do when beginning an mbsr course. ultimately, although much remains to be studied, the current studies expand our understanding of the initial effects of brief meditation, and suggest that brief meditation impacts attention even in novice practitioners—an effect that was revealed when controlling for neuroticism. the interaction between neuroticism and condition in response times (rts) on correct trials in study 2. individuals lower in neuroticism who listened to a meditation tape were faster on correct trials than were those who listened to a control tape.

two skills define a mindful mind: focus and awareness. more explicitly, focus is the ability to concentrate on what you’re doing in the moment, 1) sit in an upright, stable, and alert posture. 2) tune into the breath-related sensations. 3) pay attention to what arises in your mind. 4) one key aspect of mindfulness is the ability to calm and focus the mind. this ability to stabilize and direct the mind is especially, .

by focusing on one fruit, you practice paying attention. everything else fades away when you concentrate on one single thing. mindfulness is mindfulness is being aware of each moment that passes, while being fully present of our thoughts, feelings, physical sensations, and surrounding much of the past research has focused on the effects of mindfulness meditation training on attentional processes, including alerting,, .

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