Attention span is different to different people and there are ways to improve it, under normal circumstances. However, if a person is worried or scared, it is more difficult to focus and direct your attention in the right way. In some people, this can affect everyday activities like sleeping or working, while in others it can have a more serious effect and result in some kind of mental disorder. People suffering from anxiety often have fears related to the future or irrational thoughts about their everyday life. Most of the time they can't control these thoughts and they're unable to cope with stress.

According to two new studies, it is possible to reduce stress levels in people suffering from anxiety and increase their productivity by doing mindful meditation exercises.

Defining mindful meditation

Meditation can generally be defined as giving your attention to only one thing in order to become calm and relaxed. This is a chea[ way to find your peace at least for a short time. In mindful meditation, you focus on the present and prevent your mind from thinking about the future or the past. just focus on your breathing and what you sense around you at that particular moment. If your thoughts start going back to the past or into the future, you try to redirect your mind back to the present moment.

You also allow yourself to experience all feelings and thoughts without feeling bad about it. Bearing in mind the busy world we live in, it is no wonder there are more and more people suffering from stress and anxiety. According to the World Health Organization, the number of people suffering from stress and anxiety nearly doubled between 1990 and 2013, rising from 416 million to 615 million people.

Apart from being a health problem, it's an economic one as well. Workers suffering from depression and anxiety disorders can't focus and their productivity is low. According to WHO experts, this costs the world economy $1 trillion per year.

Study results

Researchers at the Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington, DC looked at 89 patients with an anxiety disorder and divided them into two groups.

The first group underwent a mindfulness meditation training program for eight weeks while the second group got educated on stress management for the same period of time. Their task was to give a short speech in front of a crowd - one before and one after their training. During subjects' speeches, researchers looked at levels of hormones and proteins that are released when one is stressed. The group that used mindful meditation performed better in the second speech and showed lower levels of stress hormones and proteins. Subjects from the first group showed increases in stress during the second speech.

University of Waterloo study

Another study comes from the University Of Waterloo in Ontario where researchers wanted to study productivity in anxious and stressed people.

They concluded that a 10-minute meditation a day can help you stay focused and prevent your mind from wandering. Practising mindfulness helped anxious people to stop worrying and stay on task instead. 82 people suffering from anxiety were involved in the study. They were supposed to perform a computer task that required high levels of focus. In order to study their ability to stay focused, researchers interrupted them while they were on task. The 82 participants were then divided into two groups.One group did mindful meditation for about 10 minutes while the other one listened to an audiobook. All the subjects were then asked to go back to their computers.Those who meditated did much better with the task while the performance of the group that listened to audiobooks worsened over time.

It’s a fact more and more people these days are concerned about the future or analyze something from the past, we rarely just focus on what’s happening at the moment. The conclusion is that mindful meditation can reduce stress hormone levels so taking at least 10 minutes every day to focus on the here and now could improve our peace of mind at least for the time being.