Only 8 weeks of daily meditation can decrease negative mood and anxiety and improve attention, working memory, and recognition memory in non-experienced meditators. These findings come from a recent study published in Behavioural Brain Research.
Meditation is a mental exercise that uses mindfulness techniques to work on attention and awareness with the goal of achieving a calmer state of mind. The practice of meditation is said to foster greater self-awareness, enhance emotional regulation, improve focus, and alleviate stress. But little is known about whether short, practical meditation sessions provide cognitive benefits for inexperienced meditators.
Throughout the study, researchers had participants complete neuropsychological tasks to test their cognitive functioning and answer self-reported questionnaires to assess their mood state.
Results showed no significant difference in cognitive function, mood, or cortisol levels between the meditation and podcast groups at the 4-week point. However, results at the 8-week mark were a different story. When compared to the podcast listening group, participants in the meditation group showed decreased mood disturbance, anxiety, and fatigue scores. They also showed improved attention, working memory and recognition memory and a decrease in the behavioral anxiety response to the Trier Social Stress Test.
Although cognitive benefits related to meditation practice have been demonstrated before, this study was the first to show them for novice meditators. Mindfulness research is relatively new and much needs to be explored with regards to specific mechanisms in the brain that are involved in meditation. The current study suggests that daily meditation has significant benefits to practitioners, even those who are new to meditation and only practicing in brief sessions.