Health and Wellness

Science says listening to this meditation can help you make fewer mistakes

@InLightOut | Twenty20

On days when you feel spacey, forgetful or tired at work, taking a 20-minute break to meditate could help you pay closer attention to tasks and ultimately make fewer mistakes, according to a new study out of Michigan State University. 

Lots of successful people, from billionaire Ray Dalio to Twitter and Square CEO Jack Dorsey, swear by daily meditation. But in this new study, researchers found that listening to a guided meditation for just 20 minutes is enough to make an impact — even if you've never meditated before.

For the experiment, 212 undergraduate college students with no meditation experience followed along with a guided meditation recorded by Steven Hickman, a licensed clinical psychologist and the founding director of the University of California San Diego Center for Mindfulness. The meditation instructed participants to notice the feelings, thoughts and physical sensations that arose in the moment and take note of them without judgement.

After meditating, participants completed a quiz on a computer that was intended to distract them and test their concentration. Throughout the experiment, participants were wearing electroencephalography (EEG) sensors, so researchers could measure their brain waves.

Researchers were looking for a specific neural signal that fires a half-second after you make a mistake, called "error positivity." They found that the strength of the "mistake" signal was stronger in people who had meditated, meaning they were able to recognize and correct their slip-ups.

"It makes us feel more confident in what mindfulness meditation might really be capable of for performance and daily functioning right there in the moment," Jason Moser, co-study author said in a press release.

The specific meditation that the participants listened to is also unique. Unlike other meditation styles, such as mindfulness meditation, which have you pay attention to your breath, this type coaches you to pay close attention to everything going on in your body and mind, including your thoughts, Jeff Lin, co-author explained in a press release. "The goal is to sit quietly and pay close attention to where the mind travels without getting too caught up in the scenery," he said.

Listen to the meditation below and see if you feel sharper:

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