We’ve always had gadgets to make our lives easier. Ever since we crawled out of the primordial soup and developed opposable thumbs, we’ve been coming up with new and wondrous ways to make our lives easier. The I-Rock from the Paleolithic era was no doubt very helpful for breaking open the shells of nuts, the Sony Horse Shoe allowed our four legged friends to take us faster and further afield; and the Blackberry pigeon was a truly astounding invention that allowed us to send messages quickly and easily. Whatever problem we seem to have, eventually we’ll find a way to do it better, quicker and more efficiently.
The development of technology has increased dramatically over the last decade; we have all manner of gizmos and devices, designed to make our lives more productive. The daily bleeps, boings and buzzes that originate from the numerous devices we all have help us plan, respond and keep our lives ticking along at a healthy pace. Well-done humanity, another step towards efficiency enlightenment.
But, at what point do the constant alerts, messages and reminders become unhelpful. When does the NHS issue a new health warning categorised as beeping anxiety. The incessant prompting from our mobile phones that we still have “stuff to do”.
Every day the average person receives data equivalent to 174 newspapers and we spend almost 30% of our time in our inbox. One of the main drawbacks from these constant interruptions is the frequent breaking of our concentration.
Producing good, quality work and being efficient at what we’re doing sometimes takes our unbroken focus and attention.
We see it in sport when athletes “get in the zone”, the elusive Shangri-La of sporting achievement. A place where we’re so single minded on the task at hand that we produce our greatest performances without even thinking about it: intuition, focus and concentration all combining to help us reach our full potential.
The most powerful device we have to improve this focus is our own brain. Meditation is one tool we can all utilise to help sharpen and focus our concentration and mental acuity. For years meditators have been professing its virtues and how it can help with both physical and mental health. Modern science is starting to back-up this anecdotal evidence with research and scientific data.
A recent paper in the journal Psychological Sciencetries identified the brain functions that are actually enhanced by meditating. The study showed that intensive meditation can help people focus and sustain their attention over longer periods of time.
On one particularly challenging computer test of sustained attention, students who meditated did 10 times better than a control group. They also did significantly better on timed information-processing tasks that were designed to induce deadline stress.
In 2012 the University of Washington examined the effects of meditation training on multitasking in a real-world setting. They asked a group of human resources professionals to engage in the type of simultaneous planning they did habitually.
After the multitasking free-for-all, one group attended a meditation course for eight weeks before they all met again to repeat the tests.
The only participants to show improvements were the group who had practiced meditation on a daily basis. Their ability to concentrate had significantly improved and they switched between tasks less frequently.
Meditation appears to work not just on a behavioural level but actually changes the physiology of our brain. The neuronal connections in the areas of the brain associated with attention are reinforced and this improved connectivity makes us less prone to distraction.
With a finite amount of processing power available and living in a world full of interruptions, the key to productivity may lie in something that’s been around for 200,000 years. All we have to figure out is how to download it.
Author Bio: Nick Huxsted works for Will Williams Meditation London who aims to help individuals and organisations reach their full potential. Visit http://www.willwilliamsmeditation.co.uk
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