Some people say that they are just not ‘mindful’ people, and nothing can be done about it.
New research, though, suggests that even those who are not mindful can benefit from meditation to help control their emotions.
Mr Yanli Lin, the study’s first author, said:
“Our findings not only demonstrate that meditation improves emotional health, but that people can acquire these benefits regardless of their ‘natural’ ability to be mindful.
It just takes some practice.”
For the research people were asked to look at a series of upsetting images right after meditating for the first time.
Those meditating for the first time were able to control their emotions just as well as those who were naturally mindful.
They were able to rein in their emotions just as successfully after meditating as those with better inbuilt skills.
Measurements of the electrical activity in the brain also confirmed the improved emotional control after meditation.
Dr Jason Moser, a study co-author, said:
“If you’re a naturally mindful person, and you’re walking around very aware of things, you’re good to go.
You shed your emotions quickly.
If you’re not naturally mindful, then meditating can make you look like a person who walks around with a lot of mindfulness.
But for people who are not naturally mindful and have never meditated, forcing oneself to be mindful ‘in the moment’ doesn’t work.
You’d be better off meditating for 20 minutes.”
Mindfulness is the process of paying attention to thoughts, feelings and sensation in the moment.
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2013) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
The study was published in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience (Lin et al., 2016).