Working Mindfulness: How It Can Impact Our Smarts
New research says we should go back to the basics and let our minds rest. Mindfulness and cognitive development are positively linked, but too much mindfulness could take a toll on our mental health. New research conducted by California State University, Fullerton and the UC Irvine School of Management, and released at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association in Vancouver, is underway to determine what our minds need when we perform a task.
Mindfulness and cognition
Researchers at the Texas A&M Mind Brain Research Institute are examining levels of mindfulness on mental function and cognitive abilities. Despite many earlier studies tying mindfulness to various measures of cognitive ability, a more comprehensive look has been lacking. These new studies plan to explore whether mindfulness and cognitive abilities are positively and negatively correlated.
In recent years, the mind has become a key part of our day-to-day lives. We may be walking around with a cloud over our heads, always being aware of the here and now. Research suggests our minds are very efficient at processing information and synthesizing it into a sense of progress, so we’re constantly thinking about the future. This might come in handy if we’re stuck in traffic or bored. On the other hand, however, research has connected a steady amount of mental processing to problems with performance, judgment, and attention.
Partners in Mindfulness
Mindfulness relies on small moments of pause, observation, and focus on the present moment. Typically, though, we need more than moments of mindfulness to progress. Many topics, from job hunting to eye pain, are processed quickly and need to be processed more efficiently for benefits, or for an optimal result. Psychology Today details the advantages that mindfulness offers in preparation for job searches, and many argue for the greater productivity and concentration for more everyday tasks.
Other studies have found that mindfulness also enhances concentration, reduces stress, and increases inner strength. Additionally, it has been shown to improve mental flexibility.
How We Shift Toward Better Thinking
People who practice mindfulness say they have found a way to shift their thoughts from the bad stuff to the good stuff. “Our lab provided individuals with supervised meditation and yoga training, leading to increased self-awareness and awareness of inner processes, including attention and attentional processing,” said James Duffy, one of the lead investigators on the project, in a previous interview. “By introducing an awareness into these processes, we found an improved ability to shift our thinking from reacting to stressful situations to thinking about what causes stress.”
Researchers at the Baylor College of Medicine took a closer look at this relationship between mindfulness and cognitive development. They followed 86 children to discover whether mindfulness was successful in preventing child depression and anxiety.
It is typically not recommended to meditate to reduce anxiety or depression, but one study noted that children showed signs of decreased anxiety and depression before the mindfulness practice began. This is much better than waiting for a negative mood to take hold, which may fail to match up with reality. The practice of mindfulness is catching on for the opposite reasons as well. The Mental Health Professional Education Center found that most social media networks allow users to “practice mindfulness.”
Can mindfulness deliver?
No one project is likely to prove how mindfulness and cognitive development work together to create better thinking skills. Our mental processing is easily affected by the way we think about problems. It’s not just the mind that needs to be sharp, but how we use it. It is also essential to nurture a healthy relationship with our mind.