How to Stop Your Mind Wandering

Post image for How to Stop Your Mind Wandering

“The faculty of voluntarily bringing back a wandering attention, over and over again, is the very root of judgment, character, and will.” — William James

A lack of concentration can be combated using a short form of mindfulness training, a study of undergraduates finds.

Mind wandering in general is often associated with increased stress and a lack of academic success.

The college experience, however, offers many distractions much more absorbing than academic work.

The recent study, published in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, split students into two groups: one which received the mental training, the other which received no training (Morrison et al., 2014).

All the students were tested for how much their minds wandered and how they did on a test of sustained attention.

Students in the mindfulness group were taught to observe and be aware of the activity in their own minds, as well as keeping their focus in the present moment.

One of the benefits of mindfulness is that while being mindful it is harder to ruminate: to worry about things that have already happened or which are going to happen in the future.

The training took 1 hour a week for 7 weeks.

The results showed that the groups did not differ at the start of the experiment, but by the end those that had received the training scored better on the test of sustained attention.

Not only that but the mindfulness group reported that their minds wandered less than those who had received no training.

Amishi Jha, who co-authored the study, said:

“This work was the first to integrate mindfulness training into the academic semester by embedding training in students’ course schedules, hosting training in the academic building to best accommodate their schedules, and providing a supervised space for mindfulness exercises.”

Read on: the benefits of mindfulness meditation (includes beginner’s guide to meditation) and how to get rid of unwanted thoughts.

Image credit: CollegeDegrees360

Want to understand your mind?
Get FREE email updates from PsyBlog.

About the author


Dr Jeremy Dean is a psychologist and the author of PsyBlog. His latest book is "Making Habits, Breaking Habits: How to Make Changes That Stick". You can follow PsyBlog by email, by RSS feed, on Twitter and Google+.

Published: 30 August 2014

Text: © All rights reserved.

Images: Creative Commons License