How Mindfulness Can Impair Your Mind

One learns habits — good or bad — implicitly, without thinking about them. 

We spend a lot of time in this space talking about mindfulness and its benefits. When you are mindful, you are paying active and open attention to the present. This allows you to see your thoughts, as well as your behaviors, from a distance. This can help you break bad habits and improve your behavior and hence improve your wellbeing.


But according to a new study, mindfulness can also inhibit implicit learning. "Our theory is that one learns habits — good or bad — implicitly, without thinking about them," says the study's lead author, Chelsea Stillman. In other words, you learn better when you are less aware of what you are doing, which seems counterintuitive. 

In the study, two samples of adult participants took a test which "gauged their mindfulness character trait." The participants were then tested on their ability to learn "complex, probabilistic patterns, although test takers would not be aware of that." It turns out that the people who scored low on the mindfulness scale had higher reaction times and learned more. 

Stillman says that suggests "mindfulness may help prevent formation of automatic habits — which is done through implicit learning — because a mindful person is aware of what they are doing."

Their findings are being presented at Neuroscience 2013, the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience.

Read more here

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

Related Articles

The "catch" to being on the keto diet

While short-term results are positive, there is mounting evidence against staying in ketosis for too long.

Brendan Hoffman / Getty
Surprising Science
  • Recent studies showed volunteers lost equal or more weight on high-carb, calorie-restricted diets than low-carb, calorie restricted diets.
  • There might be positive benefits to short-term usage of a ketogenic diet.
  • One dietician warns that the ketogenic diet could put diabetics at risk for diabetic ketoacidosis.
Keep reading Show less

Why are Americans so bad at math?

Research shows that the way math is taught in schools and how its conceptualized as a subject is severely impairing American student's ability to learn and understand the material.

One derivative coming right up... (Photo: Getty Images)
Technology & Innovation
  • Americans continually score either in the mid- or bottom-tier when it comes to math and science compared to their international peers.
  • Students have a fundamental misunderstanding of what math is and what it can do. By viewing it as a language, students and teachers can begin to conceptualize it in easier and more practical ways.
  • A lot of mistakes come from worrying too much about rote memorization and speedy problem-solving and from students missing large gaps in a subject that is reliant on learning concepts sequentially.
Keep reading Show less

How swimming in cold water could treat depression

The surprisingly simple treatment could prove promising for doctors and patients seeking to treat depression without medication.

Photo by Luis Marina/Flickr
Mind & Brain
  • A new report shows how cold-water swimming was an effective treatment for a 24-year-old mother.
  • The treatment is based on cross-adaptation, a phenomenon where individuals become less sensitive to a stimulus after being exposed to another.
  • Getting used to the shock of cold-water swimming could blunt your body's sensitivity to other stressors.
Keep reading Show less