Have you ever found yourself unable to tackle an important item on your to-do list because you can't silence all the nagging, anxious thoughts running through your mind? Those annoying and uncontrollable mental interruptions can be frustrating, but the good news is there just might be a simple fix you can do on your own: According to new research published in Consciousness and Cognition, meditating for just 10 minutes could help get your mind back on track.
In the April 2017 study, University of Waterloo researchers asked 82 participants, all of whom had problems with anxiety, to complete a task on a computer while regularly experiencing interruptions. They used the results of this portion of the experiment to gauge participants' ability to stay focused on the task at hand.
The researchers then split the participants into two groups — one that listened to a short audio story and one that engaged in a 10-minute meditation session — before being asked to complete a task on a computer for a second time.
The results? Participants who engaged in a simple 10-minute meditation session were significantly better at focusing on the task the second time around. This, the researchers said, was a sign that practicing mindfulness (aka bringing our attention to the present moment) could help us banish repetitive, off-task thoughts — which, of course, are a common symptom of anxiety disorders.
"Our results indicate that mindfulness training may have protective effects on mind-wandering for anxious individuals," said Mengran Xu, one of the study's authors and a PhD candidate in the department of psychology at Waterloo, in a press release. "We also found that meditation practice appears to help anxious people to shift their attention from their own internal worries to the present-moment external world, which enables better focus on a task at hand."
It's important to note that this was a small study and more research needs to be done to confirm the link between short 'n' sweet meditation sessions and improved focus for people with anxiety — not to mention that you should absolutely consult a doctor if you think you might have an anxiety disorder or if your anxiety symptoms worsen.
But if there's a possibility that 10 minutes of meditation could improve your focus and send your inner worrywart packing, why not give it a shot? The New York Times' guide to meditation is a great place to start if you're new to mindfulness practices.