Spending just moments focusing on present thoughts, emotions, and sensations doesn’t only calm the brain and soothe the spirit, it can actually short-circuit racial bias and fight drug dependency.
In one new study on mindfulness, a practice that became popular in the late ’70s, subjects who spent 10 minutes listening to a “mindful” meditation before viewing pictures of black and white faces exhibited far fewer automatic negative associations—i.e., less prejudice—than a group who hadn’t meditated, Central Michigan U. reported.
In a second study, at the U. of Utah College of Social Work, drug addicts who learned a “mindful savoring” practice—focusing on a pleasant experience, like being in nature or with a loved one, and the textures, smells, and colors related to it—showed more excitement in the pleasure centers of their brains, which lowered their craving for drugs, says study author Eric Garland, Ph.D.
Of course, you don’t have to be a racist or opiate fiend to experience the benefits of mindfulness. Instead of going through your day on autopilot, take a few minutes to calmly zero in on the details of your surroundings, or channel a pleasant memory. For some terrific short guided meditations, visit UCLA’s Mindful Awareness Research Center's website.