A recent study conducted by researchers from the University of Copenhagen suggests that mindfulness based stress reduction (MBSR), a technique known to decrease stress and symptoms of trauma, depression and anxiety, can also increase focused attention. A primary tenet of MSBR is concentrating on the present moment and achieving self-actualization through meditation. “Furthermore, attentional training and improvement are core elements in traditional meditation practices, and meditation types are often defined according to their attentional characteristics,” said the researchers. According to the study, MSBR, which encourages embracing a non-judgmental attitude and open and accepting presence, may also increase an individual’s ability to sustain attention. Although people who regularly practice MBSR may have already realized significant relief from symptoms of stress and anxiety, they may be enjoying increased attention spans as a result as well.
To test their theory, the researchers randomly enrolled 48 participants into traditional MSBR therapy, non-mindfulness stress reduction (NMSR) or into the control group. After the therapy, the participants were required to complete five separate attentional tasks over two hours including the Dual Attention to Response Task (DART), the Spatial and Temporal Attention Network (STAN), the Stroop color-word task, and the d2 Test of Attention to determine selective attention. The team discovered that the participants in the MBSR group showed significantly more mindfulness and concentrated attention than the control group. Additionally, the same participants experienced the lowest amount of perceived stress of all the participants. “Physiologically, the MBSR group showed significantly decreased cortisol secretion and significantly lower secretion than did the inactive controls at T2 [time two],” said the team. “From pre- to post-test, cortisol secretions were reduced significantly more in the MBSR group than in the inactive controls.” In addition to the benefits previously revealed from MBSR, these new findings suggest that this form of therapy may offer additional positive outcomes for individuals suffering from impaired attention due to psychological stress.
Jensen, C. G., Vangkilde, S., Frokjaer, V., & Hasselbalch, S. G. (2011, September 12). Mindfulness Training Affects Attention—Or Is It Attentional Effort?. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0024931
© Copyright 2011 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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