Meditation Research

Mindful Multitasking: Meditation First Can Calm Stress, Aid Concentration

Mindful Multitasking: Meditation First Can Calm Stress, Aid Concentration

Need to do some serious multitasking? Some training in meditation beforehand could make the work smoother and less stressful, new research from the University of Washington shows.

Work by UW Information School professors David Levy and Jacob Wobbrock suggests meditation training can help people working with information stay on tasks longer with fewer distractions and also improves memory and reduces stress.

Their paper was published in the May edition of Proceedings of Graphics Interface.

Levy, a computer scientist, and Wobbrock, a researcher in human-computer interaction, conducted the study together with Information School doctoral candidate Marilyn Ostergren and Alfred Kaszniak, a neuropsychologist at the University of Arizona.

“To our knowledge, this is the first study to explore how meditation might affect multitasking in a realistic work setting,” Levy said.

The researchers recruited three groups of 12 to 15 human resource managers for the study. One group received eight weeks of mindfulness-based meditation training; another received eight weeks of body relaxation training. Members of the third, a control group, received no training at first, then after eight weeks were given the same training as the first group.

Before and after each eight-week period, the participants were given a stressful test of their multitasking abilities, requiring them to use e-mail, calendars, instant-messaging, telephone and word-processing tools to perform common office tasks. Researchers measured the participants’ speed, accuracy and the extent to which they switched tasks. The participants’ self-reported levels of stress and memory while performing the tasks were also noted.

The results were significant: The meditation group reported lower levels of stress during the multitasking test while those in the control group or who received only relaxation training did not. When the control group was given meditation training, however, its members reported lower stress during the test just as had the original meditation group.

The meditation training seemed to help participants concentrate longer without their attention being diverted. Those who meditated beforehand spent more time on tasks and switched tasks less often, but took no longer to complete the overall job than the others, the researchers learned.

No such change occurred with those who took body relaxation training only or with the control group. After the control group’s members underwent meditation training, however, they too spent longer on their tasks with less task switching and no overall increase in job completion time.

After training, both the meditators and those trained in relaxation techniques showed improved memory for the tasks they were performing. The control group did not, until it too underwent the meditation training.

“Many research efforts at the human-technology boundary have attempted to create technologies that augment human abilities,” Wobbrock said. “This meditation work is unusual in that it attempts to augment human abilities not through technology but because of technology—because of the demands technology places on us and our need to cope with those demands.”

Levy added, “We are encouraged by these first results. While there is increasing scientific evidence that certain forms of meditation increase concentration and reduce emotional volatility and stress, until now there has been little direct evidence that meditation may impart such benefits for those in stressful, information-intensive environments.”

http://www.massagemag.com/News/massage-news.php?id=12781&catid=16&title=mindful-multitasking-meditation-first-can-calm-stress-aid-concentration

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Meditation Research

Meditation Practice May Decrease Risk for Cardiovascular Disease in Teens

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Regular meditation could decrease the risk of developing cardiovascular disease in teens who are most at risk, according to Georgia Health Sciences University researchers.

In a study of 62 black teens with high blood pressure, those who meditated twice a day for 15 minutes had lower left ventricular mass, an indicator of future cardiovascular disease, than a control group, said Dr. Vernon Barnes, a physiologist in the Medical College of Georgia and the Georgia Health Sciences University Institute of Public and Preventive Health.

Barnes, Dr. Gaston Kapuku, a cardiovascular researcher in the institute, and Dr. Frank Treiber, a psychologist and former GHSU Vice President for Research, co-authored the study published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

Half of the group was trained in transcendental meditation and asked to meditate for 15 minutes with a class and 15 minutes at home for a four-month period. The other half was exposed to health education on how to lower blood pressure and risk for cardiovascular disease, but no meditation. Left ventricular mass was measured with two-dimensional echocardiograms before and after the study and the group that meditated showed a significant decrease.

“Increased mass of the heart muscle’s left ventricle is caused by the extra workload on the heart with higher blood pressure,” Barnes explained. “Some of these teens already had higher measures of left ventricular mass because of their elevated blood pressure, which they are likely to maintain into adulthood.”

During meditation, which Barnes likens to a period of deep rest, the activity of the sympathetic nervous system decreases and the body releases fewer-than-normal stress hormones. “As a result, the vasculature relaxes, blood pressure drops and the heart works less,” he said.

School records also showed behavioral improvements.

“Transcendental meditation results in a rest for the body that is often deeper than sleep,” Barnes said. “Statistics indicate that one in every 10 black youths have high blood pressure. If practiced over time, the meditation may reduce the risk of these teens developing cardiovascular disease, in addition to other added health benefits.”

http://www.massagemag.com/News/massage-news.php?id=12794&catid=16&title=meditation-practice-may-decrease-risk-for-cardiovascular-disease-in-teens

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