Although memory problems are much more common in older individuals, memory improvement is beneficial to individuals in all age groups. A new study assessed the effectiveness of a mindfulness meditation intervention on working memory capacity in teens. Practicing this technique by a teen might make the difference between acceptance or rejection from a college by boosting high school grades. This was accomplished via a randomized controlled study that compared mindfulness meditation to hatha yoga and a control group that was on a waitlist for intervention. The findings were published online on November 11 in the Journal of Adolescent Health.
The study group comprised 198 teens who were recruited from a large public middle school in southwest United States and randomly assigned to mindfulness meditation, hatha yoga, or a waitlist control group. Before the onset of the intervention, the adolescents completed a computerized measure of WMC (Automated Operational Span Task) and self-report measures of perceived stress (Perceived Stress Scale) and anxiety (Screen for Childhood Anxiety Related Emotional Disorders). The tests were repeated following the intervention.
The investigators found that the subjects who participated in mindfulness meditation showed significant improvements in WMC; however, those in the hatha yoga and waitlist control groups did not. No statistically significant between-group differences were found for stress or anxiety.
The authors concluded that this was the first study to provide support for the benefits of short-term mindfulness practice, specifically mindfulness meditation, in improving WMC in adolescents. The results underscored the importance of investigating the components of mindfulness-based interventions among adolescents given that such interventions may improve cognitive function. Moreover, in a broader perspective, mindfulness interventions may be delivered in an abbreviated format, which could increase their potential for integration into school settings and into existing treatment protocols.
In mindfulness meditation, one focuses on an awareness of the present moment. It begins with a single central point, such as breath, and is then expanded to include thoughts, emotions, and sensations. Here are some tips to keep in mind when you meditate: Find a quiet place with few distractions. Sit in a chair or on the floor. Become aware of your breathing and focus on the sensation of air moving in and out of your body as you breathe. Feel your belly rise and fall and the air enter your nostrils and leave your mouth. Watch every thought come and go. When thoughts come up, don’t hold them back. Simply note them and return to your breathing. As the time comes to a close, sit for 1 minute or 2 minutes, becoming aware of where you are. Get up slowly.
For an introduction to mindfulness meditation developed by UCLA Health System that you can practice on your own, click on this link. Then turn on your speakers and click on the “Play” button.