Have you ever found it hard to keep focused and stop your mind from wandering? According to a new study conducted in the US, meditation might just be the answer.
The study, which was inspired by Buddhist monks, has found that meditation helps people to focus for a long time on a particular task and pick up on small differences between things that they see.
"You wonder if the mental skills, the calmness, the peace that (monks) express, if those things are a result of their very intensive training or if they were just very special people to begin with," said lead author Katherine MacLean.
Co-advisor Cliffod Saron conducted research into monks a few years ago and was interested in studying the effects of meditation by seeing how intensive meditation training could change a person's mental capabilities.
The study, published in the journal Psychological Science, involved 60 people, half of whom were required to study Buddhist meditation for three months at a retreat, whilst the remaining half were kept as a control group and did not attend a retreat. All participants had been on meditation retreats in the past and so were not beginners to the practice.
At three points during the retreat, participants took a computer test which measured their ability to make detailed visual distinctions and sustain their attention. Those at the retreat showed an improvement in attention span as the retreat progressed, which continued some five months following the end of the retreat. This was particularly apparent in people who continued to meditate every day following the retreat.
The authors said that the findings suggest meditation is more than just something which helps us to relax and feel better.
“People may think... going on a meditation retreat is like going on vacation, and you get to be at peace with yourself. That's what people think until they try it. Then you realise how challenging it is to just sit and observe something without being distracted," MacLean said.