Meditation has gained widespread attention over the past couple of years; various forms of meditation have been touted for their ability to help improve sleep, manage stress, and stabilize moods. Now, a new study from Michigan State University has found that open monitoring meditation may help you to become less error prone. That's good news for anyone who's looking for ways to improve their focus and productivity.
As part of the study, 200 participants who had never meditated before were guided through a 20-minute open monitoring meditation exercise while researchers measured each individual's brain activity through electroencephalography (EEG). "Some forms of meditation have you focus on a single object, commonly your breath, but open monitoring meditation is a bit different," said Jeff Lin, a MSU psychology PhD candidate and co-author of the study. "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."
The goal of the study was to understand how open monitoring meditation affected how people detect, and respond to, errors. While the participants did not show immediate cognitive improvements, the EEG detected stronger neural signals linked to conscious error recognition after the participants had completed their meditation. "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," said co-author Jason Moser said. "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."
The researchers hope to conduct a similar study with even more participants and test other forms of meditation to understand behavioral changes with long-term practice. "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," Lin said. "It's time we start looking at it through a more rigorous lens."