Ancient mandala with meditation symbols.
Inspired by Buddhist meditation techniques, researchers have determined that meditation improves people’s attention span and in distinguishing small differences in what they are viewing.
The recent study involved selecting 60 participants, then sending half of them to a meditation retreat while the rest waited their turn ~ and essentially functioned as the control group. All 60 were experienced meditators. The retreat for the study lasted about three months.
According to ScienceDaily:
At three points during the retreat, participants took a test on a computer to measure how well they could make fine visual distinctions and sustain visual attention. They watched a screen intently as lines flashed on it; most were of the same length, but every now and then a shorter one would appear, and the volunteer had to click the mouse in response.
Participants got better at discriminating the short lines as the training went on. This improvement in perception made it easier to sustain attention, so they also improved their task performance over a long period of time. This improvement persisted five months after the retreat, particularly for people who continued to meditate every day. The task lasted 30 minutes and was very demanding.
"Because this task is so boring and yet is also very neutral, it’s kind of a perfect index of meditation training," Katherine MacLean of the University of California and one of the authors of the study, told ScienceDaily. "People may think meditation is something that makes you feel good and going on a meditation retreat is like going on vacation, and you get to be at peace with yourself. That's what people think until they try it. Then you realize how challenging it is to just sit and observe something without being distracted."
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