Researchers in Santa Barbara enrolled 48 undergraduates in either a mindfulness or a nutrition class.
The classes were held for 45 minutes four times a week for two weeks and taught by professionals with extensive experience teaching their respective subjects.
In the mindfulness class, participants learnt the postural and mental strategies used in meditation. They were taught how to integrate these methods into daily life and were required to complete 10 minutes of meditation each day outside of class.
During the class, students were asked to sit on cushions in a circle and focus on one of their senses i.e. tasting food, feeling their breathing, listening to an audio recording and so on. They were encouraged to minimize distracting thoughts by reframing these as ‘mental projections’ coming from the present. Breathing was used as a way to anchor their thoughts if they ever found their minds drifting.
Both groups – mindfulness and nutrition, were asked to take a standardised test considered for grad school application before and after the two week course. They were also tested on memory and attention span to see how the lessons affected their abilities.
Results showed that those in the meditation class improved their scores on all tests while the nutrition group remained the same.
Experts believe this suggests taking time to focus on thoughts, breathing and posture can all contribute towards overall cognitive function.
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