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15 minutes of mindfulness a day ‘slows down memory decline’ that accompanies


Spending just 15 minutes a day practising mindfulness makes it that little bit easier to remember where you left your keys or phone, a study suggests.

Researchers say daily meditation, mindful movement, ‘body scans’ and other mindfulness exercises give a ‘modest’ but worthwhile boost to our memory, concentration and problem solving abilities – helping to stave off the natural effects of ageing on these processes, especially in the over 60s.

“We saw a benefit of mindfulness in people from 18 to 80 but the benefit was larger for those aged 60 and over,” said Tim Whitfield, of University College London.

“The effect we observed is equivalent to an older adult remembering an extra word from a fifteen-item list read to them half an hour ago,” he added.

The research looked at a specific training course – called a mindfulness-based programme. These courses last between six and 12 weeks, and are delivered to groups of people by trained teachers.

Those attending the course are encouraged to do some home practice each day, usually for 15 or 20 minutes.

The main techniques taught are sitting meditation, moving meditation and the body scan – where participants concentrate on their bodies; one part at a time.

“There are other ways of learning mindfulness, for example through introductory books or smartphone apps, but more research needs to be done to establish whether these formats benefit mental abilities as much as mindfulness-based programmes,” Dr Whitfield said.

“‘Executive function’ is the ability to plan and switch between tasks to achieve our goals. It is known to decline with age among older adults but the improvement in people over 60 suggests that mindfulness may help guard against cognitive decline, by helping to maintain or restore executive function in late adulthood,” Dr Whitfield said.

While there has been considerable research into the effects of mindfulness on a person’s wellbeing this is the first significant study to look at the benefits for ‘cognitive function’ – memory, concentration and problem solving.

Natalie Marchant, also of UCL, said: “We know mindfulness-based programmes benefit mental health, and our paper now suggests that mindfulness may also help to maintain cognitive faculties as people age.”

The study is published in the journal Neuropsychology Review and also involved researchers from the University of Surrey and Vanderbilt University Medical Centre and Connecticut University in the US.



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