Mindfulness techniques have been used as a means of self regulation for thousands of years. The more popular meditation, yoga, and other mindful activities become in western culture, the more resources we devote resources to our empirical knowledge of their effects on the brain and body! In previous articles we talked about mindfulness as a means of reducing stress and improving our emotional regulation. Today, I would like to share with you how mindfulness can improve our productivity and ability to focus! Let’s break down the effects of mindfulness on our attentional systems!
Mindfulness activities revolve around working to maintain focussed attention on the “present moment” (Baltar & Filgueiras, 2018). Like all other cognitive skills we develop, continued practice leads to an increase in our ability. By practicing mindfulness, we are essentially training our brain to maintain focussed attention at will! The effects of this training can be seen through the results of research on both structural changes in the brain and functional ability.
Neuroimaging studies have shown mindfulness-induced modulation of the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex, ventromedial prefrontal cortex, temporal parietal junction, and several other brain regions. All of these brain regions have been previously defined as areas involved in attention and executive functioning (Marchand, 2014).
Several studies have been conducted on mindfulness and attentional focus in the context of sports. Current research has provided evidence that athletes who engage in mindful activities experience lower levels of performance anxiety and are able to achieve a flow state (thought to be mediated by attention) for longer periods of time (Baltar & Filgueiras, 2018; Colzato & Kibele, 2017).
Time and time again, researchers have espoused the benefits seen with consistent dedication to mindfulness. I want to take a moment to remind our readers that mindfulness looks different for every individual. There are an infinite number of ways you can engage in mindfulness and you should not feel discouraged when it does not come naturally!