Practicing meditation might make your workday less stressful and improve your memory and concentration. A new study from the University of Washington explored the effects of meditation on three groups of human resource managers. To assess how well the participants dealt with stress before and after meditation training they all took a test of their ability to multitask that required using email, calendars, instant-messaging, the telephone and word processing tools. The researchers measured the speed and accuracy of the participants’ performances and recorded their self-reported stress levels. Then, group one underwent eight weeks of mindfulness-based meditation training; group two received eight weeks of relaxation training and group three continued to work without any special training at all for eight weeks and then participated in the same meditation training as group one. After training, group one reported lower levels of stress during the multitasking test, but group two did not. After group three completed mediation training, its members also reported lower levels of stress when tested. All told, meditation training enabled the participants to concentrate longer, spend more time on tasks and switch tasks less often, but they didn’t take any longer to complete the test.
My take? I’m not surprised by these findings. People who meditate regularly experience many subtle benefits. Over time, meditation may result in a restructuring of the mind that allows you to detach from thoughts that cause emotional swings. It can even have the effect of leveling out mood cycles, and help you learn to do things more effectively - whether it is cooking, writing or martial arts. Overall, you may find that you become mindful - more aware of everyday aspects of your life - and able to bring more awareness to everything you do. And of course meditation has proven to provide beneficial effects on physical health. These include enhancement of immune function, lowering of blood pressure, and even relief from chronic pain due to arthritis and other disorders.