Can Meditation make you more creative?
Meditation has been used for thousands of years by various cultures around the World. There are different methods of meditation, but in brief it is a practice of concentrating, or focusing the mind and allowing it to become still. The popularity of practicing meditation has grown in the Western world in the last 50 years, and with it a number of claims that it is linked to health benefits for the body and mind.
It is therefore not surprising that scientific interest in meditation is growing. Here we are going to explore two studies that aimed to discover whether there was a connection between meditation and problem solving. There have been studies on this subject in the past producing varying results, but it must be noted that there were vast differences in the methodology used, and also in the typed of meditation that they studied. Meditate to create Colzato, Ozturk and Hommel published a study in April 2012, assessing the impact of meditation on creative thought required for problem solving. They analysed the impact of two forms of meditation. The first was focused attention (FA), which is where participants were required to focus on a particular object, using the breath to maintain intensity an concentration. The other form of meditation that was assessed was open monitoring (OM). This involves being mindful, and ‘freeing’ the mind, allowing it to open while remaining receptive to the present moment, and any thought or sensation that arises without judgement. These states of mind were induced before asking the participants to perform two different kinds of task, in order to assess if either form of meditation could promote creative thinking. The kinds of ‘thinking’ that were measured were convergent and divergent. Divergent thinking allows lots of new ideas to come to mind, such as is used in brainstorming. This works in a context where more than one solution is correct, and the aim is to generate as many ideas as possible. Convergent thinking requires speed and accuracy to find one good solution to an individual problem. The study was performed on 19 healthy adults who were asked to meditate using the methods discussed, before they performed their thinking tasks. The results showed that OM meditation significantly facilitated divergent thinking but not convergent thinking, and FA meditation showed some correlation that it aided in convergent thinking. Both forms of meditation elevated the mood of the participants, and this positive frame of mind could have been also benefitted the participants. It is interesting that not all types of meditation seem to have the same effect on problem solving and cognitive rigidity. The findings suggest that meditation has more of an impact than simply relaxing the individuals, and also that the effects may be long lasting.
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