(dailyRx News) In today's fast-paced world of email, social networking, instant messages and cell phones, it's no surprise multitasking can increase stress. One solution may be mindfulness meditation.
A recent study has found that office workers accomplished a complex office-related multitasking test with less stress after receiving extensive training in mindfulness meditation.
David Levy, a computer scientist, and Jacob Wobbrock, a researcher in human-computer interaction, are both Information School professors at the University of Washington who conducted a small study looking at one possible benefit of meditation in the workplace.
The study involved three groups of 12 to 15 human resource managers. One group spent eight weeks learning mindfulness-based meditation training while another group received training in body relaxation for eight weeks.
The third group did not initially have any training, but they were given the same mindfulness training as the first group after eight weeks.
Each group took a stressful multitasking test at the beginning of the study and after their eight weeks of training. They had to use email, calendars, instant-messaging, telephone and a word processing program to do common office tasks.
The participants' speed and accuracy was assessed as well as how much they actually switched tasks, and the participants self-reported their levels of stress and memory.
The group who received mindfulness training reported lower levels of stress during the stress than the other two groups, though the third control group also reported lower stress levels after receiving the same mindfulness training and taking the test again.
Those who received mindfulness training completed the job just as quickly as the other groups - but possibly more efficiently. They were able to concentrate longer, switched tasks less frequently and spent more time on one task at a time.
The group that received body relaxation training and the untrained group did not show a similar change when they took the test the second time, but the untrained group showed similar changes in doing the task - without needing more time - as the original mindfulness group after having received the mindfulness training.
"Many research efforts at the human-technology boundary have attempted to create technologies that augment human abilities," Wobbrock said.
"This meditation work is unusual in that it attempts to augment human abilities not through technology but because of technology — because of the demands technology places on us and our need to cope with those demands," he added.
Levy said these results are encouraging with regards to practical applications of meditation training.
"While there is increasing scientific evidence that certain forms of meditation increase concentration and reduce emotional volatility and stress, until now there has been little direct evidence that meditation may impart such benefits for those in stressful, information-intensive environments," Levy said.
The study was published in the May issue of the journal Proceedings of Graphics Interface. Information regarding funding and conflicts of interest was unavailable.