Brief, daily meditation enhances attention, memory, mood, and emotional regulation in non-experienced meditators

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Abstract

Meditation is an ancient practice that cultivates a calm yet focused mind; however, little is known about how short, practical meditation practices affect cognitive functioning in meditation-naïve populations. To address this question, we randomized subjects (ages of 18–45) who were non-experienced meditators into either a 13-min daily guided meditation session or a 13-min daily podcast listening session (control group) for a total duration of 8 weeks. We examined the effects of the daily meditation practice relative to podcast listening on mood, prefrontal and hippocampal functioning, baseline cortisol levels, and emotional regulation using the Trier Social Stress Test (TSST). Compared to our control group, we found that 8 but not 4 weeks of brief, daily meditation decreased negative mood state and enhanced attention, working memory, and recognition memory as well as decreased state anxiety scores on the TSST. Furthermore, we report that meditation-induced changes in emotional regulation are more strongly linked to improved affective state than improved cognition. This study not only suggests a lower limit for the duration of brief daily meditation needed to see significant benefits in non-experienced meditators, but suggests that even relatively short daily meditation practice can have similar behavioral effects as longer duration and higher-intensity mediation practices.

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