Multitasking can seem like a necessary evil for many people. But can mindfulness meditation ease its stressful effects?
A group of researchers at the University of Washington say yes.
One group received an 8-week training course on mindfulness meditation while another group took an 8-week training course on body relaxation. A third group made up the waitlist control.
Each training group received pre- and post-training multitasking tests, followed by a 12-question survey that gauged their memory of the tasks involved in the tests.
The groups also received the Mindful Attention Awareness Scale (MAAS), a self-assessment by each participant of his or her ability to stay attentive to the present moment.
Levy and his colleagues gathered results in four main areas: participants’ multitasking performance, their memory of the tasks performed, their self-reported emotional state, and their self-reported mindful awareness.
Sure enough, it was the participants in the meditation group who garnered the most positive outcomes in all four areas.
Compared with their pre-training results, the group trained to meditate spent more time focused on a given task and switched their attention to other tasks less often. And although all of the groups found the test stressful, only the meditation group showed less of a drop in mood – despite feeling stressed – and had a sharper memory of the tasks performed.
What’s more, the waitlist group eventually received the same 8-week training course on mindfulness-based meditation, and showed nearly identical results to the mindfulness group post-training.
The relaxation group, on the other hand, experienced no change in focus after training, but did show an improvement in their memory of the tasks they performed.
We do want to be cautious of overlooking one thing that may have affected the outcome of this study – participants were recruited from two different cities, which prevented a fully randomized assignment to groups.
Still, these findings are promising, as they suggest that mindfulness works – particularly on the job.
Results like these show that mindfulness can be a viable and natural way to reduce our stress and stabilize our mood, even as we navigate demanding schedules and seemingly limitless workloads.
For more, you can read the full study – it was published in Graphics Interface in May 2012.
Mindfulness can work for many different problems and in many different settings – learn more about how by signing up for our Mindfulness webinar series featuring Jack Kornfield, PhD, Steven Hayes, PhD, and US Congressman Tim Ryan.
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Have you ever introduced mindfulness to one of your stressed or busy clients? Please share your experience in the comments.