Just One Meditation Retreat Has Powerful Psychological Effects, New Study Suggests

A study out of the University of California, Davis, suggests that only one intensive meditation course can have profound psychological effects on a person’s life. In particular, researchers note that a few months of intense meditation can help naturally increase a practitioner’s attention span.

This latest study on the long-term benefits of meditation is officially a part of the International Shamatha Project. Created by Dr. B. Alan Wallace of the Santa Barbara Institute for Consciousness Studies, the Shamatha Project brings together some of the world’s top scientists and yogis as they attempt to better understand the effects of meditation on the human mind.

Researchers involved in this study followed a group of 60 advanced meditators who went on a three-month retreat at Colorado’s Shambhala Mountain Center in 2007. During this intensive meditation retreat, meditators were required to practice sitting and walking meditation with Dr. Alan Wallace at least eight hours per day.

When the three months were over, researchers discovered that the meditation practitioners had increased focus and had a better time dealing with anxiety. Scientists continued to track the meditators’ mental wellbeing over the past seven years.

The latest study out of UC Davis presents data seven years after the initial meditation retreat. Investigators say they were curious how long it took the psychological benefits of meditation to “wear off,” if they diminished at all.

Interestingly, study authors discovered that most meditators’ attention spans didn’t decline with age. They also found that most of the study participants showed no signs of common age-related neurodegenerative diseases.

While people who continued to practice least an hour of meditation per day had the greatest benefits, researchers say even study participants who didn’t practice meditation every day experienced benefits from the retreat.

Clifford Saron of UC Davis’s Center for Mind and Brain was the head author on this study. A few other psychologists involved in this research include Anthony P. Zanesco, Katherine A. MacLean, and Brandon G. King.

This study was published in the most recent edition of the Journal of Cognitive Enhancement under the title “Cognitive Aging and Long-Term Maintenance of Attentional Improvements Following Meditation Training.”

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