Anyone who’s ever spent time on a university campus would probably agree, there’s plenty there to distract a young college student.
Since academic success relies heavily on a student’s ability to sustain focus over the course of a semester, those having any kind of attention deficit can find the college experience especially challenging.
That’s why I was excited to read about a recent study conducted at the University of Miami that looked at how Mindfulness Training (MT) might reduce mind wandering among college students and enhance their working memory.
For this study, researchers assigned students to a 7-week mindfulness training interval or wait-list control group. All participants were tested, both before and after the study, using the sustained attention to response task (SART) instrument as well as two measures for evaluating working memory.
Those students in the MT program participated in instructor-led sessions based on content modeled on John Kabat-Zinn, PhD’s Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) concepts. They also participated in supervised practice sessions.
So what did researchers find?
At the end of the 7-week session, those who had participated in the Mindfulness Training program showed greater sustained attention task performance and lower self-reported mind-wandering when attempting to complete tasks, as compared to the control group.
The researchers did not, however, see significant working-memory performance following the short-term MT experience.
There were some limitations to this study, however, including the semi-random assignment of subjects to control groups. Although all participants in the MT program were chosen from the same group of volunteers, a non-random variable was introduced as researchers had to take student schedules into account when making assignments.
Still, this is an encouraging study for those of us interested in the potential benefits of mindfulness practice within not only the field of education, but in every area of life.
If you’re interested in reading more about this study, it was published in the January 2014 issue of Frontiers in Human Neuroscience.
And, if you’d like to know more about how mindfulness could help you become more focused and present in everyday life, I hope you’ll check out our courses on mindfulness. There are features of Jack Kornfield, PhD, one of the world’s most beloved mindfulness teachers.
I’m curious – where are you seeing the growing conversation about mindfulness take place? Where you work? On a campus? Please tell me about it in the comments below.
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