Practicing Open-Monitoring Meditation to Make Fewer Mistakes

Do you often find that you forget things or make silly mistakes? A recent study from Michigan State University found that meditation can alter brain activity in ways that make you less error-prone. 

The Woman Post | Catalina Mejía Pizano

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What type of meditation can increase error recognition? The research is the largest of its kind so far, and it tested open-monitoring meditation. This kind of meditation is one of the most popular types, and it centers on clearing the mind and becoming aware of sensations, feelings, and thoughts, while in a relaxed state. They found that meditation altered brain activity and increased the recognition of errors for individuals. The research included over 200 participants to monitor the effects of meditation on brain activity by using electroencephalography, or EEG to measure the electrical impulses that take place in the brain once a mistake occurs.

Jeff Lin, who was one of the co-authors of the study, mentioned: "A certain neural signal occurs about half a second after an error called the error positivity, which is linked to conscious error recognition. We found that the strength of this signal is increased in the meditators relative to controls." The findings revealed that diverse forms of meditation can produce different neurocognitive effects. For instance,  some types of meditation can make you center your attention on a single object, but open-monitoring meditation is different because it makes people focus on everything that goes on in their minds and body.


The authors of the study recruited more than 200 participants, and those who had never experienced meditation before were taken through a 20-minute open-monitoring meditation exercise, while their brain activity was measured. The guided meditation had been recorded by Dr. Steven Hickman, who is a licensed clinical psychologist and the founding director of the University of California San Diego Center for Mindfulness. The meditation asked the participants to be aware of the physical sensations, thoughts, and feelings that arose, without judging them. Then they were asked to complete a computerized distraction test, to evaluate their concentration. Only 20 minutes were enough to boost the brain’s ability to detect and pay attention to mistakes.

What were researchers looking for with the test? They were searching for a neural signal that fires a half-second after you make a mistake, called error positivity. The study found that the strength of the mistake signal was higher in the individuals that had meditated. This means that they were more likely to recognize their mistakes. As we all know, the popularity of meditation has increased in the past years, and more research will likely take place to study its effects on the human brain. Researcher Lin, mentioned in a recent interview, that he would like to perform additional research with a larger group of participants and with the inclusion of more types of meditation. So if you feel like you are easily distracted or prone to making mistakes, open-monitoring meditation is a good idea to start your day!

Click here to listen to a 20-Minute Seated Meditation by Steven Hickman.