Before I started meditating, I had an exceptionally hard time focusing on certain things. I have always struggled with anxiety, and as a child and young adult, I lived a great portion of my life in my head. My concentration on my inner world was pretty constant, and it made it difficult to focus on what was going on around me sometimes. I missed social cues that others didn’t. I didn’t follow conversations very well. I bumped into things a lot. Okay, I still bump into things a lot.
When I started meditating, I was 17 years old. My mind was frequently racing at this point in my life, and sometimes it would spin so fast that I had a hard time slowing down and focusing on what was in front of me. This, as you can imagine, led to a lot of poor decisions — not uncommon for teenagers. I had a serious lack of attention to the present moment, and I would weave things in my head based on desires and assumptions, not clear observations. It was a very stressful time for me, and I often felt like I was struggling to stay above water.
Meditation, however, changed my life. While it was was not an overnight shift, when I started practicing regularly, I became more and more able to slow my mind and to focus my attention on the now. Today, I still struggle with anxiety, and I definitely find myself caught up in my head every once in awhile, but I know how to get out. When I notice myself with churning thoughts and not paying attention to what’s going on, I take five or ten minutes to meditate. It makes all the difference.
Research finds meditation can boost attention
Science has recently backed up what practitioners of meditation have known for thousands of years: this ancient practice is wonderful for your brain, and for cognition as a whole. On meditation’s relationship with the brain, Yi-Yuan Tang of Texas Tech University’s Department of Psychological Sciences, explains:
“Meditation encompasses a family of complex practices that includes mindfulness meditation, mantra meditation, yoga, tai chi and chi gong. Of these practices, mindfulness meditation — often described as nonjudgmental attention to present-moment experiences — has received most attention in neuroscience research over the past two decades… With IBMT [Integrative Body Mind-Training] practice, you distance your thoughts or emotions and realize they are not you, then you see the reality in an insightful and different way.”
Regarding some of the benefits of meditation on cognitive function, Tang states:
“Since IBMT could improve self-control effectively, it may help prevent and treat mental disorders. In the education field, since IBMT improves attention, cognitive performance and self-control, it could help those with ADHD or learning difficulties to improve academic performance and school behavior.”
Those are certainly the benefits you’re looking for if you struggle with keeping your head out of the clouds like I do.
Other benefits of meditation
There are so many benefits to meditation that it’s hard to list them all. Among many other perks, meditation may help to:
- Lower your stress levels
- Improve your relationships with others and yourself
- Relieve symptoms of anxiety and depression
- Boost your energy levels
- Improve your motivation
- Increase your productivity
- Increase your spontaneity
- Improve your sleep
- Help you make better dietary choices
- Help you lose weight
- Boost your sex life
- Rebuild your brain (really!)
All in all, if you’re looking to improve your focus, and change your life for the better, start meditating — you’ll be very happy you did.
— Tanya Mead