Can we discipline our wandering minds?

One of the benefits most commonly associated with mediation is its ability to increase concentration – and this certainly isn’t a coincidence. One study has shown that even after just four days of meditating the attention span of some subject were improved!

Of course, a really palpable increase in concentration from meditation takes a little longer to generate. Regardless of timespan, the scientific literature on the topic is legion.

a women focuses on meditation

Here’s how it works…

The quality of an attention span has two main aspects to it: the ability to maintain that ‘zoned in’ state and the ability to return to the task if our thoughts wander. Thankfully, meditation, as the studies and scriptures say, helps with both.

Maintaining concentration is a muscle flexed during meditation. Putting our attention on a simple task such as breathing, helps us build up that muscle and gives us an arena to practice in and see our progress without risk. One scientific study [1] has shown that meditation helps us to rewire the pathways in our brains that take us away from the task in hand, helping us to remain concentrated for longer.

The correct direction towards better concentration

On the other side of the theorem is ‘mental orientation’. One thing we all learn at the beginning of meditation is how hard it is to keep our mind focused on one thing without another thought popping in and distracting us. There’s no shortcut around that fact that we have very busy minds. We have to really try and make them submit to our will. Meditation, especially Vipassana meditation, is centered on building up the mental muscle that brings our mind back when it wanders. By practicing this task, we teach ourselves that we can actually control what we focus on. Whether it’s concentrating on your breathing, or a tricky task at work, studying for an exam, or trying to increase your time efficiency, we have the choice and power to bring our attention back to where we need it. This ability is perhaps the key to unlocking your concentration potential and meditation has long been shown to help find that resource within you. [2]

Not only does meditation increase the length we meditate and our ability to make our minds return to the task, but it also actually helps us retain the work we have done – it really is as powerful as people make it out to be.

And here’s for the science, take a look in full: