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A 5,000-year-old mindfulness technique might help you make fewer mistakes

A 5,000-year-old mindfulness technique might help you make fewer mistakes
[Photo: Christina Morillo/Pexels]

Did you know that 0.5 seconds after you make a mistake, your brain shoots a neural signal called “error positivity”?  It does! And guess what: In people who meditate, that signal is much stronger, according to a new study by researchers at Michigan State University. In other words, meditators still make mistakes, but their brains inform them of those mistakes loudly.

The type of meditation is key: You need to do so-called “open-monitoring meditation,” where you focus on your feelings, thoughts, and body sensations in the body. “Tune inward and pay attention to everything going on in your mind and body. The goal is to sit quietly and pay close attention to where the mind travels without getting too caught up in the scenery,” said psychology doctoral candidate Jeff Lin, the study’s coauthor, in a statement. Note that this is different than focusing on your breath or a mantra.

For the study, 200 mediation novices meditated for just 20 minutes(!) and then took a computerized distraction test while wearing an EEG monitor, which measured neural activity following correct responses and mistakes. The meditators’ brains indicated a likely increase in error recognition.

“These findings are a strong demonstration of what just 20 minutes of meditation can do to enhance the brain’s ability to detect and pay attention to mistakes,” Moser said. “It makes us feel more confident in what mindfulness meditation might really be capable of for performance and daily functioning right there in the moment.”

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