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Concentration at Work versus Mind Wandering

I heard an interesting discussion on CBC radio last Saturday. Dr. Judson Brewer was being interviewed about his study which showed that experienced meditators have a much more developed ability to concentrate and to resist mind wandering than people who are not experienced meditators. The challenge with mind wandering is that most people who are doing it are unhappy, worrying about past or future problems rather than being focused on the present, on what they are doing right now. From the work of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and others, I know that when we are engaged in the present moment, working towards a clear goal, facing challenges that match our skills, getting feedback from how we are doing, feeling a sense of control, and ignoring distractions, we are at our happiest.

People experienced in mindful meditation are able to deactivate a part of the brain called the ‘default mode network’, which normally causes our minds to wander. Dr. Brewer mentioned another study at Harvard that concluded that a wandering mind is an unhappy mind. The whole discussion is about ten minutes long and you can hear it at http://www.cbc.ca/quirks/. It is the January 28 show, the section called “Your Brain on Meditation”. Scroll down to Listen to the whole show, and then move the cursor to about minute 48. If you want to read more about it, then visit http://abcnews.go.com/Health/meditation-brain-rewire-study/ and read the article by Melissa Healy.

I am passionate about anything which has the potential to improve people’s happiness, both at work and outside of work. Being able to concentrate, stay in the present moment, and get fully involved in the task at hand seems to be rewarding for our brains.

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