Mediation seems to be everywhere these days. While Buddhist monks have been mediating for centuries, it’s only recently begun to infiltrate popular culture – especially in the west. Scientists are still trying to figure out the exact benefits of meditation, but it’s been clear that there are mind and body benefits from spending anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours in daily meditation. Even better, the act of concentrating in meditation can increase your concentration in other areas.
Research dating back to the 1970’s shows those Buddhist monks may have been onto something. Years of meditation made them perform better than most of us on concentration tests. A study in 2010 also found that meditation could increase concentration. Sixty participants were chosen to engage in the meditation study, where thirty people went to a three month intense retreat, mediating for over five hours a day, and the other thirty participants spent three months waiting to meditate. As you can expect, those who actually spent their time meditating experienced an increase in concentration. As with most things, it’s not enough to just want to do something; you have to actually do it.
Most of us can’t relate to doing five hours of mediation a day, nor would we want to! The whole purpose of increasing our concentration is so that we are more capable at our jobs, present in our lives, and feel more productive. If we had the freedom (and dedication) to meditate for five hours a day, we probably also wouldn’t have a lot of responsibilities. People who have adult ADHD are also prone to having concentration problems, and while the idea of spending large portions of the day meditating is tempting if it will help control the ADHD diagnosis, it’s not practical.
But none of that is to say that you shouldn’t meditate at all! Even spending a small portion of your day in concentrated mediation will help improve your ability to concentrate in other areas. So, where to start?
First, establish a time of day to meditate. You have to be intentional about establishing new habits, and determining a non-negotiable time each day to meditate is the first step in making it a daily practice. Choose a time of day where you’re not likely to be distracted by pressings task, like early morning, lunch time or at the end of the day. Early morning might be best as it sets the tone for the rest of the day.
Now, when you have thought about mediation in the past, you might have imagined yourself sitting on pillows in a serene room, eyes closed, and breathing deeply. Unfortunately, most of us don’t have a room perfectly suited to mediation (not that we need one) and a sitting meditation is harder for beginners to attempt. It’s not easy to stop your mind from wandering when you’re attempting to sit still. The frustration of being unable to control your thoughts may cause you to quit before you feel any of the positive effects of meditation. Instead, try a walking meditation.
Find a space outside and simply walk at a slow to medium pace while concentrating on your feet. It’s probably a good idea to do this in your back yard instead of a busy sidewalk. Extend exquisite concentration to the sensations in your feet; from the way your toes feel on the grass to when your heel is bearing most of your weight. When your mind wanders, gently bring it back.
How does concentrating on your feet help improve your concentration? Quite simply, you’re learning how to devote your concentration to one thing at a time and noticing when your attention drifts. Think how this skill will apply to completing a task at work, finishing an errand without getting distracted, or simply being more present when you’re with people you love. It’s a simple meditation to help improve your concentration, but the effects could be powerful. Start today and see how it helps your ability to focus!