A recent study published in PLOS One reveals that a brief 10-minute session of mindfulness meditation can enhance cognitive capacity, even if one is new to the practice.

Mindfulness meditation is a mental exercise that involves focusing attention on the present moment with curiosity, acceptance, and openness. It helps individuals become self-aware of their thoughts, emotions, and sensations without judgment or expectations, and it involves two critical components: orientation to experience and self-regulation of attention. While long-term mindfulness practice has demonstrated significant improvements in attention, cognitive flexibility, and inhibition, the short-term effects have not been thoroughly examined until now.

The study, conducted by Rita Sleimen-Malkoun and colleagues, aimed to determine the immediate cognitive impacts of a guided mindfulness meditation session and examine how prior mindfulness practice affects the results. The research included 22 individuals who regularly meditated and 20 who were new to the practice.

Participants underwent both interventions, including attentive listening and guided mindfulness meditation, in a randomised sequence to minimise individual response bias. The study found that both interventions were equally engaging for participants, regardless of their previous experience. However, mindfulness meditation had a more significant effect on heart rate, likely due to the breathing exercise involved.

The Stroop task, which involves identifying the colour of a word displayed on a screen without paying attention to its meaning, was used to assess participants’ cognitive performance before and after the interventions. The study found that participants were faster in all three Stroop task conditions after both interventions, with mindfulness meditation resulting in the fastest reaction times. The research team suggests that focusing attention on a specific object, such as the breath in mindfulness meditation, can enhance the ability to select relevant information and inhibit irrelevant stimuli.

The study’s findings have significant implications, as they demonstrate that acute cognitive benefits can result from even a single 10-minute session without requiring prior mindfulness training or experience. This finding is particularly relevant to people with full-time jobs, who may have limited time to engage in mindfulness practices. Individuals can potentially enhance their cognitive performance and well-being by incorporating brief mindfulness meditation sessions into their daily routine. Further research is needed to confirm the potential of this practice to enhance brain functioning and well-being in the long run.

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Joanne is the editor for Workplace Wellbeing Professional and has a keen interest in promoting the safety and wellbeing of the global workforce. After earning a bachelor's degree in English literature and media studies, she taught English in China and Vietnam for two years. Before joining Work Well Pro, Joanne worked as a marketing coordinator for luxury property, where her responsibilities included blog writing, photography, and video creation.