Meditation can improve memory and reduce stress
Multitasking - whether you’re talking on the phone while cooking or navigating a route while driving - can get more difficult as you get older. Simple things such as your mobile phone beeping as you stand in the queue at the supermarket check-out can cause you stress as a result. But according to research from University of Washington Information School, meditation can help – not only by reducing your stress but also by improving memory and helping you stay on a task for longer.
Researchers asked three groups of 15 people, all of whom worked in human resources (HR), to go through different procedures. The first group had eight weeks of ‘mindfulness-based’ meditation training, the second had eight weeks of body relaxation training; and the third group had no training for eight weeks (although after those eight weeks had passed, they too were given the meditation training). Before and after the eight weeks of training, study participants were given tests to assess their multitasking skills. They were asked to use email, calendars and instant messaging, as well as phone and word-processing tools. Their speed and accuracy were assessed, and they were asked to say how stressed they felt.
Interestingly, meditation didn’t necessarily make people quicker at a task – in fact, they took slightly longer – but they were able to concentrate for longer on one task at a time without being distracted. They also switched tasks less often, indicating that they were fully focused on the task in hand. Perhaps less surprising was that the meditation group showed lower levels of stress than the other two groups, and when the control group was given the meditation training (in the second eight-week time slot) they also reported significantly reduced stress. Both the meditation and body relaxation group showed improved memory.