Study: Just 10 minutes of meditation increases focus, reduces anxiety

WATERLOO, Ontario — Taking just a few minutes out of your day to sort out your thoughts through meditation may not only reduce anxiety, it may also help with finishing any everyday chores, a new study finds.

The University of Waterloo study on mindfulness — defined as paying attention on purpose and being in the present moment — finds that only 10 minutes of daily meditation helps push out repetitive, anxious thoughts.

Woman meditating in nature
A new study finds that meditating for just 10 minutes a day can reduce anxiety and prevent mind-wandering while concentrating on a task.

Eighty-two participants were asked to perform a task on a computer while experiencing various interruptions intended to gauge their ability to stay focused. A control group was split off and given an audio story to listen to, while a second group participated in a short meditation practice before both groups were reassessed.

Those in the meditation group experienced more success with staying on task.

“We found that meditation practice appears to help anxious people to shift their attention from their own internal worries to the present-moment external world, which enables better focus on a task at hand,” says Mengran Xu, a researcher and PhD candidate at Waterloo, in a university news release.

Xu says the short period of meditating helped slow the cycle of unhelpful and monotonous mind-wandering that can often distract those with anxiety issues from completing everyday tasks.

“Mind wandering accounts for nearly half of any person’s daily stream of consciousness,” adds Xu. “For people with anxiety, repetitive off-task thoughts can negatively affect their ability to learn, to complete tasks, or even function safely.”

Researchers at Lund University had similar findings in a recent study that found people with depression and anxiety can experience more positive results from meditation than even psychotherapy.

A recent Brown University study on mindfulness also found that practicing meditation may actually be even more effective for women than men. There was no indication how gender played a role in this particular experiment.

The study’s findings were published in the Consciousness and Cognition journal.

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