Study Finds Brief, Basic Use of Meditation Yields Positive Effects

When discussing meditation as a health benefit, many people may suspect that months if not years of training are required, necessitating the use of all manner of special courses, books, and other learning materials. While the quest to achieve expert meditation practice may indeed be a long one, new research has found that even a brief introduction to mindfulness meditation can have positive benefits for cognition and mood. As meditation is often used in conjunction with psychotherapy or is suggested to those in search of a way to improve their overall well-being, the findings may prove valuable in their suggestion that meditation doesn’t have to involve a big time commitment in order to be effective.

The researchers, based at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, worked with a group of nearly fifty participants who were assigned either to a reading group in which participants heard readings from a popular book, or to a mindfulness meditation group, in which basic principles of the practice were shared. Meditation participants met for four days and received only twenty minutes of training. Prior to and following these activities, participants were given a battery of tests to assess their mood and a range of cognitive abilities, and while both were able to boost mood, only the meditation group experienced a rise in performance in cognitive tasks.

Those who participated in the meditation group were also up to ten times as proficient with certain tests involving focus and the attention, suggesting that the practice may have especially important implications for improving focus-related tasks. The results warrant further study into the capabilities of meditation, and may also make the practice feel more accessible to those who are curious but who may have shied away from meditation because of doubts over their potential to master the skill.

© Copyright 2010 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Catherine Boyer, MA, LCSW

    Catherine Boyer, MA, LCSW

    April 16th, 2010 at 11:11 AM

    I love seeing blog posts like this one and studies such as the one the post references. Teaching mindfulness has become an integral part of my psychotherapy practice. In our over-stimulated, multi-tasking world, I believe it is something people are hungry for, whether or not they’ve ever heard the word “mindfulness.”

    Catherine Boyer, MA, LCSW

  • gerald P.B.

    gerald P.B.

    April 16th, 2010 at 12:19 PM

    It is good to know that we do not have to spend too much time in order to derive the positive results from meditation,because our lives are already hectic what with the already over-cramped days that we all have… its great to know and will be great to tell others that even a small amount of time devoted to meditation can have effects :)

  • Johnna

    Johnna

    April 17th, 2010 at 12:07 PM

    Meditation gives me a much needed time out, a chance to refocus and start again. There are many days when I cannot do without that.

  • Melissa

    Melissa

    April 19th, 2010 at 4:38 AM

    How brief? I thought that meditation was something that is supposed to be done for a while to free your mind and thoughts and refocus on something good. How long is long enough for it to be beneficial?

  • Catherine Boyer, MA, LCSW

    Catherine Boyer, MA, LCSW

    April 19th, 2010 at 7:06 AM

    I think it’s more a matter of meeting people where they are. It’s fine to start with five minutes if that’s all someone can manage to sit still for (or all they believe fits into their schedule). Those things will likely change if even just five minutes continues, then perhaps ten minutes, then…

    Also, I find it helpful with clients to suggest a number of different mindfulness practices and have them see which resonates. For example, someone who is so anxious they think sitting still is torture may do very well with a walking meditation.

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