We’ve all been there. At a training, I mean, and a good one. When it comes time later on to remember what you learned though, good luck. To remedy the situation, there are powerful note-taking methods to employ and effective information retention processes to follow. And now recent psychology research gives us another intriguing tool to ramp up what you remember.
In the November 2019 journal Memory & Cognition, psychology researchers from Ball State University published a study that showed the power of practicing just 10 minutes of mindfulness meditation before engaging in a verbally based learning session.
In the study, the researchers took 142 participants and divided them into two groups. The first group listened to audio of a 10-minute mindfulness exercise while the other group listened to a 10-minute tape of someone describing the English countryside. Both groups then took a series of tests designed to orally teach them new words. Interestingly, the group that engaged in the mindfulness exercise remembered significantly more of what they learned.
The researchers explained that mindfulness meditation, even just 10-minutes of it, quiets down thoughts and makes it easier to absorb new information.
While the researchers are unclear as to how long the memory benefit lasts or if it enhances visual memory, they said the application of the findings are broad, well beyond just wanting to retain information from a seminar, for example. As they told PsyPost:
The fact that mindfulness can help with this after only 10 minutes is an important finding that people can use in their everyday lives when they know they’ll need to rely on these abilities. Big test coming up? Got a presentation for work? Know you’ll be meeting new people and want to remember things about them in order to make a connection? Then perhaps spending a little time to meditate beforehand can help you accomplish your goals.
Here’s a ten-minute (or less), step by step routine to practice mindfulness.
I practice mindfulness meditation from time to time and can tell you first-hand how powerful it is for clearing the mind, quieting thoughts, and enabling focus and perspective. It’s also just pretty darn relaxing. And it doesn’t have to be as intimidating as it sounds, nor is it hokey in its application.
In fact, I enrolled the help of mindfulness coach Mark Power (and fellow faculty member at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business for Executive Education) to share a powerful, and powerfully simple, step by step guide to practicing mindfulness meditation, just ten-minutes at a time (or less). Anyone can do this, anywhere, at any time. Do this before any key learning opportunity and you’ll remember more (and be mentally refreshed, too).
As you get started, remember that distraction is like the opposite of a quiet mind, it negatively affects short-term memory. Mindfulness meditation can help if you’re willing to exhibit three qualities in particular: willingness, curiosity, and being unattached to the outcome. Here’s the step by step.
1. Be willing to interrupt your impulsiveness.
Pause and connect with your body and senses. Unlike your thoughts, your body moves at the speed of the present moment. Paying attention to your body and sensations can anchor you, which brings us to the next step.
2. For a minute or two, guide your attention, slowly moving it from the top of your head down to the soles of your feet.
Do so like a leisurely walk, relaxed, unhurried, and curious. Pay attention to how each part of your body feels as you conduct your top to bottom “scan.”
3. Take a series of full breaths (three or more), relaxed and unforced.
Let your lungs fill, expand, and then release. In addition to strengthening your attention, deeper breathing increases production of serotonin and dopamine –neurotransmitters in the brain associated with positive emotion and working memory.
4. Let your breathing return to its natural rhythm.
As you exhale, practice releasing the attachment to a specific outcome (such as, “I really need to be calm right now!”) Breathe, release, and be curious about what’s happening now in your body. Ask yourself, “What else do I notice?”
5. Don’t try to stop your thoughts, it won’t work.
Instead reframe how you regard your thoughts. For instance, thoughts as children on a playground — some are loud and insistent, some are bullies, and others shy and timid. If we don’t play favorites there’s no problem. Just let them be and continue to bring relaxed attention to your body and breathing.
All in all, be willing to pause, get curious about what’s happening right now, and, relax your attachment to a specific outcome. And, if you don’t have ten minutes, take two minutes –consistent practice is what brings the most benefit.
So remember to practice what’s outlined here and you’ll remember more.