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How To Train Your Mind Not To Wander While Reading

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Paying attention to what you are reading can be hard — especially in this age of endless distraction.

Practising meditation can help improve your focus while reading, a new study finds.

Maintaining attention when reading can be difficult, as the study’s authors write:

“It is challenging for individuals to maintain their attention on ongoing cognitive tasks without being distracted by task-unrelated thought.

The wandering mind is thus a considerable obstacle when attention must be maintained over time.

Mental training through meditation has been proposed as an effective method of attenuating the ebb and flow of attention to thoughts and feelings that distract from one’s foremost present goals.”

For the research, some people were sent on a one-month intensive vipassanā meditation training program.

They then took a reading test which had nonsensical sentences deliberately placed within it.

Compared with a control group, those who had been practising meditation were better able to detect the gibberish, suggesting they were paying more attention.

The study’s authors write:

“Meditation practitioners across both studies demonstrated greater levels of error monitoring following training, as measured by their ability to detect gross semantic violations in the text.

This suggests that training group participants were more attentive to the story content and ongoing text, allowing them to better detect these salient text discrepancies.”

The study was published in the journal Psychology of Consciousness: Theory, Research, and Practice (Zanesco et al., 2016).

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