But what is worry and how can a simple 10-minute exercise help us alleviate such a seemingly inescapable part of being human?
To worry, according to one dictionary definition, is to allow one’s mind to dwell on difficulty or troubles.
When our mind is engaged in worrying, it is generally not focused on the present moment and what is occurring in it, but rather on troubling events from the past, or perceived threats that have yet to happen.
A recent study authored jointly by researchers at Waterloo and Harvard Universities demonstrates what many in the East – and more recently in the West – have long suspected: a regular meditation practice can reduce the worry habit and help calm an anxious mind.
For the 82 study participants, just 10 minutes of mindfulness meditation each day proved effective against repetitive anxious thoughts and helped stop mind wandering for improved focus on tasks.
Mr. Mengran Xu, the study’s first author, said:
“Our results indicate that mindfulness training may have protective effects on mind wandering for anxious individuals. We also found that meditation practice appears to help anxious people to shift their attention from their own internal worries to the present-moment external world, which enables better focus on a task at hand.”
Mindfulness meditation, at it’s simplest, is the practice of paying non-judgmental attention to the details of our present experience. Watching the breath, allowing thoughts to come and go without attachment, and noticing the sensations in the body are all simple techniques for practicing mindfulness.
In NLP, we know this as a simple means of deactivating and taming the brain’s Default Mode Network (DMN, responsible for mind wandering). Engaging in the consistent practice for just 10 minutes a day appears to train the mind to more readily and easily focus on what is actually happening, versus wandering between worrisome or anxious thoughts of the past or future.
As Mr. Xu went on to contemplate, “It would be interesting to see what the impacts would be if mindfulness meditation was practiced by anxious populations more widely.”
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Study published in the journal of Consciousness and Cognition (Xu et al., 2017)