Always making mistakes during the day? A new study has found meditation might be the answer to becoming less error prone.
For most of us, the mental load is very real. Our brains are full to the brim with to-do lists, emails that need to be sent, birthday wishes unsung. So, making small errors, whether it’s forgetting your keys or clumsily knocking over your morning coffee, is pretty easy to do.
However, the answer to making fewer of these small mistakes could be simpler (and a lot more zen) than you think. Researchers from Michigan State University have found that aside from all its other proven benefits – reducing stress, lowering anxiety, and so on – meditation can also help you to become less error prone. A new study, published in Brain Sciences, revealed that open monitoring meditation – which focuses awareness on feelings and thoughts as they unfold in the mind or body – can alter brain activity and work to increase a person’s error recognition.
“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, MSU psychology doctoral candidate and study co-author. “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.”
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To conduct the study, researchers measured the brain activity of 200 people who had never meditated before while taking them through a 20-minute open monitoring meditation session. Participants then completed a computerised distraction test.
Researchers used electroencephalography (EEG) which can measure brain activity at the millisecond level, which ensured precise measures of neural activity right after mistakes compared to correct responses. Dr Lin explained, “A certain signal occurs about half a second after an error called the error positivity, which is linked to conscious error recognition. We found that the strength of this signal is increased in meditators relative to controls.”
While this is not to suggest a single meditation practise will result in immediate task improvement, the findings do offer a promising picture of the potential of sustained 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. “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.”