SILVER

Does meditation help people focus better?

My experiment asks and answers the question: can meditation help people focus better?
Serina Polczer-Lum
Grade 8

Hypothesis

If people meditate in between completing two concentration grids, then their time will improve because meditation also helps you focus better by bringing up different brain waves, mainly bringing up alpha state and theta state brain waves. Theta state brain waves are how meditation happens. When these are high they will bring us from thinking and speaking into a more visual area of our mind. Alpha state brain waves slow down our minds and makes us feel more calm and stable. They are high after meditation, a yoga class, a walk, or anything we consider calming. With these brain waves up, the brain is much more balanced and having a balanced mind  helps people focus better.   

 

Research

 

What is meditation? 

Meditation is exploring our mind and clearing it. It is focusing on one thing. That one thing could be your breath, a thought, a visual, a sound, or even an object. 

 

What are some benefits of meditation? 

Well, there are quite a few. Some of the more popular ones are: helps with anxiety, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and depression. But what some people do not know is that meditation can also: make people feel kinder and want to help people more, allows people to connect with friends and family better, lower blood pressure, help combat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) symptoms, help people who were addicts quit, improve memory and help slow age affected memory loss, and help people with cancer fight it off.  

 

What are some factors that can contibute to better focus?

Your environment  has a pretty big effect on your focus. If you are in a really clean area, you are going to focus better than if you were in a messy environment. How you sit and your posture can also affect how well you focus. If you are slumped down or laying down your focus won’t be very good. If you are sitting up really straight at a desk or a table chances are your focus is going to be pretty good. How much screen time you have will also affect your attention span. If you have little to no ‘fun’ screen time, you should have a pretty good attention span. If you spend hours on end staring at something like social media, you will not have a great attention span because your brain will train itself to only focus on what you like and not on important things or things you consider boring, like a long lecture. How sleepy you are will also affect your focus. If you are so sleepy you are falling asleep on the spot, your focus will be poor. If you are well rested, you should have a pretty good attention span.  The amount of water  you drink can also affect your focus. If you are dehydrated, focus will not be a strong spot. If you are not dehydrated and you have drank enough water, focus should be pretty good. Noise will also affect your focus. In a crazy loud environment your focus will most likely be bad. In a pretty quiet environment, your focus should be pretty good. (Keeping in mind that some people will focus better in a loud environment.) The last thing that could potentially affect your focus is if you have ADHD. Some people who have ADHD struggle with focus and struggle to sit still. 

 

How do you meditate?

There are lots of different types of medication. Here are some of the most common ones.

  • Slow down and focus on little things, sounds, and your breath.
  • Lie down with your palms facing the ceiling. Focus all your attention on your body from head to toe. Try and find sensations, feelings, thoughts, emotions, or energy and just be aware of it for a bit. 
  • Sit down with your feet planted on the floor and your hands on your lap. Breathe deeply and focus on your breath. If a thought comes to you, ponder it briefly, note it, and continue focusing on breathing.
  • Focus all your attention on an object, sound, or visual. Breath deeply. 
  • Guided meditation, there is a voice whether it comes from a YouTube video or a podcast, you listen to what the voice tells you. 

 

What are some things that people often do wrong while meditating?

 When you meditate you can not judge yourself. When you judge yourself when meditating, it builds walls in your brain and will not let the good things of meditation in. Another mistake people make is meditating when you are sleepy. When you do this it makes more sleepy brain waves which can over power the good theta and alpha state brain waves. Some people who meditate also do not do it consistently. It is like if you are trying to be really flexible. If you do not stretch consistently you will not get more flexible you actually get less flexible. The same goes for meditation. Another common mistake is not doing it with others. When you learn and are learning how to meditate, sitting all alone is alright, but as your mind begins to harness the benefits you do want to start doing it with others. Doing it alone gives the opposite effect. A misconception of meditation is that you will ‘escape’ this world and connect with ‘spirits’ this is not true but a lot of people think this. What meditation really is doing is making you feel more aware, feel less stressed, and more (see above for more). Another mission of meditation is people think it is easy. Yes, for some people meditation is easy, but for a lot of people it is not easy to silence the voices in their head, let all that stress and all their thoughts evaporate, and establish a clear mind. Going into meditation thinking it is easy will just make you frustrated if you can not do it, just like everything else it needs practice. 

 

What brain waves are high when/after you meditate? 

While you meditate, theta state brain waves are nice and high. These brain waves take us from the area of our brain that thinks and speaks into an area that creates visuals. After you meditate, alpha state brain waves are high. These are high after you meditate, take a walk, colour, or anything you find relaxing. When these are high they slow you down and relieve stress. Both of these help us balance our mind which is important if you are going to focus better.  

What is a concentration grid?

A concentration grid is a grid 10x10 with all the numbers 0-99 all mixed up. The goal of the person completing it is to find and click/press all the numbers in order. They are a true test of focus and concentration. 

Some interesting facts I found while doing research.

  • Meditation is an ancient practice that originated in ancient India
  • Buddists also did the meditation practice
  • 8% of Americans meditate regularly
  • In 2015, 16.1 million Americans said they had a bad depression and were struggling to not show it and be OK
  • Meditation could grow into a billion dollar business/industry
  • There are lots of meditation aps
  •  Meditation can help people learn and understand their mind as meditation is exploring the mind
  • There are meditation classes you can take but professionals believes they should not be something you go to the recreation center to learn
  • Meditation is thousands of years old but research has only been done within the past few decades 
  • Meditation can help mental health, but there are better ways to help

Variables

Controlled Variable

  • Every participant used the same concentration grids.

Manipulated Variable

  • One third of my participants did the concentration grid twice with no meditation in between. 
  • The location of the participants changed each time
  • The age of the participants changed each time
  • How much/the quality of participants sleep changed
  • How long the participants took changed every time

Responding Variable

  • Participants’ scores on the concentration grid after doing the five minute meditation session

 

Procedure

For both

  • Step one: create a google form that asks their age, how much screen time they had, their location, and anything they might affect focus.
  • Find a good concentration grid link that times automatically

Manipulated element

  • Step one: Plan a video meeting with participants
  • Step two: Once the video is in action, send participants the Google Form survey.
  • Step three: Then share the link to the concentration grid and ask them to complete it. Record the first time in your notes.
  • Step four: Play a five minute guided meditation session and have them do it.
  • Step five: Ask them to complete another timed concentration grid to see if there are any improvements.

 

Controlled element

  • Step 1: Ask participants to fill out Google Form. then give participants the link to the concentration grid and ask them to complete it twice send you the results

 

 

Observations

  • People who were older, wanted to quit about halfway through
  • A lot of people furrowed their eyebrows while doing the concentration grid
  • A lot of people said it was easier around 70
  • A few people lost track of what number they were on while doing the concentration grid
  • A lot of people said what number they were on while doing the concentration grid
  • A couple of people laughed while doing the meditation
  • People in the younger age group had longer times, people in the middle age groups did pretty well, and the people in the older age group took a long time
  • Almost all the participants said a lot of negative things while doing the concentration grid 
  • One of the participants said afterwards the concentration grid was easier the first time to get a lower time because the second time they wanted to do better
  • While I was doing the experiment on younger kids a lot of parents walked in, especially dads
  • One participant said they felt really focused after 
  • A few participants said they felt more focused on their schoolwork/ work after doing my experiment

Analysis

In trial one where the participants did meditation in between, I had a total of twenty participants. The average for duration one is twelve minutes and seventeen seconds. The median is ten minutes and fifty-nine seconds. The average for duration two is eleven minutes and twenty nine seconds. The median for duration two is eight minutes twenty four seconds. In this trial, I have nine people in age group one (9-19), two people in age group two (20-30), I have nobody in age group three (31-40), I have four participants in age group four (41-51), and in age group five (52+) I have three participants.  In my final graph for this trial is entitled ‘duration one and two’. In this graph you can see both durations one and two next to each other. Duration one is in pink and duration two is in green. In the graph you can note that participant number five took the longest and participant number sixteen took the shortest amount of time. 

(With meditation

In trial two my control trial, I had a total of ten participants. The average for duration one is eight minutes and fifty eight seconds, and the average time for trial to is nine minutes and thirty two seconds. The difference is negative thirty seven seconds meaning they took thirty seven more seconds on the concentration grid the second time. In this trial, I have two people in age group one, no people in age groups two and three, six people in age group four, and two people in age group five. Looking at my graph entitled ‘durations one and two control’, you can see participant twenty five took the most time and participant twenty six took the most time. In the final graph titled ‘differences in control group’, you can see a similar thing. 

   (Without meditation)

In total, I have eleven age group one, one person in age group two, no people in age group three, thirteen people in age group four, and five people in age group five. Location was not something I graphed but, there are twenty people who completed my experiment in location one (a shared family space like a living room or kitchen), five people completed my experiment in both locations two (an office or a desk) or location three (sitting on a bed). Something I wonder is if meditation was actually the reason for the better results on the concentration grid or it was repetition. This was why my control group had no meditation. This did not really work out though because I only have ten people in my control group. The average did end up being a negative number, but I still wonder if the people who did meditation in between the concentration grids got better from meditation, or repetition.  

 

Conclusion

Does meditation help people focus better? My hypothesis was that meditation does help people focus better, and my experiment showed it could. Although I had a pretty small sample size, what I can conclude is that the average improvement rate for participants who completed the meditation in between the concentration grid is 49 seconds.The average of how many more seconds participants  took in the control group  is 37 seconds. With both of these averages, I can conclude that yes, meditation can certainly help improve concentration and focus. The purpose of my experiment was to test a common theory that not a lot of people have studied. It was not easy as the COVID-19 pandemic presented a lot of challenges like not being able to see people, or the struggle for technology that a lot of families had. If I were to repeat this experiment, I would have wanted to do it face to face with my participants, gotten a lot more participants, try to get more people who are senior citizens, and used a machine that can measure brain waves. If I were to continue this study I would get a bigger data set to get more accurate results, use the results I already have and expand on the topic of meditation and maybe try to answer a similar question like; why did the different age groups have different results, does gender make a difference, what was going on in their brain as they completed the concentration grid and/or meditation? This experiment also taught me a few things. It taught me that there are some things that you can not teach through a screen, like meditation. Trying to teach the people who did not already know how to meditate was hard. I also learned that there are easier ways to focus on your work. Some teachers often say a dead silent room is what is going to help you stay focused with your school work, but maybe meditation can. I learned this because often, when I played the meditation for participants I did it as well and afterwards I felt like I could sit in the kitchen or the living room and still be able to focus on my work. I am proud of the work I did to answer the question, does meditation help people focus better, because yes it does. 

 

Application

My results can be used to help students, people who are in the workforce, people who are looking for work, athletes, and anyone who needs help focusing. Students, they are the future. But focus can be a constant problem. How can we fix this? Meditation. Students often get distracted while writing exams, including the Provincial Achievement Test which I know to be very important. If students meditated before taking exams, they will be less stressed, and focus better. Students may also show more focus and productivity if they meditated before classes. If students meditated before they went into a lesson or a lecure, they may also focus better and have better notes to prepare for exams. If students meditate before school, they may feel more calm and they are less likely to drop out of school due to stress or frustration in their studies. During the COVID-19 pandemic, students were asked to begin online learning. But when you are at home, staying focused on your school work is not always an easy thing. To help this I meditated while doing online learning and other students doing online school should consider this to help them out. Students in general will perform better if they meditated before class. People in the workforce could always use a way to relieve stress, avoid burnout, and bring their focus back to their work when they get distracted. Working in the real world can be stressful and finding just five minutes to catch your breath can not be easy. If people who worked found five minutes to meditate this could allow them to catch their breath, relieve stress, and recenter their attention back to their work. Burnout is when people feel like no one cares about the work they do, there are lots of bad days, and the overwhelming feeling of sadness and stress. It is quite common to happen to people who have no work life balance, people who write things for people to speak, people with bosses who can be a bit much, perfectionists, and people like that. Meditation can help them start to relive this feeling, clear their plate, and begin to end their burnout so they can resume their work. Working from home for a lot of people is difficult as I mentioned some struggles for students before. For an adult or a parent you have kids who are home from school and need help, the stress of the rising COVID-19 cases, and home is now where you spend twenty four hours all day working. It can be easy to lose focus when those kids need help with school or you need to make dinner. A few minutes of meditation can help you get hold of what you need to do and motivates you to get it done. People looking for work may struggle with job interviews. If they meditated before a job interview, they will not be as stressed or nervous and they can focus on what they need to say to get the job. If people focused during job interviews, they would get jobs, if people receive more jobs, the number of people living below the poverty line could shrink. With less poverty, the world could truly be a better and brighter place to live. In some sports people need all the focus they can get and that can be hard for some people. In a sport like wrestling just one second of not focusing could allow your opponent to win. If athletes did a few minutes of meditation before they competed, they would be less nervous to compete and they can keep that focus and take home the gold! Meditation can help us move toward a better brighter future, so let’s take this opportunity and give it a try! 

 

Sources Of Error

If I got the opportunity to complete this experiment better, I would have formated the questions on my survey differently. With my survey I used a lot of ranges, but Excel Spreadsheets does not recognise ranges so a lot of difficulties were found there. I would have also formatted my form so it was easier for participants and for myself when I was analyzing the data.I also would have tried to get a lot more participants. This year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I was not able to see and ask a lot of people. Due to COVID, a lot of people were also really busy and were not able to participate in my experiment. I would have also tried doing this on senior citizens because I think it would be interesting to see if there was a difference in how they perform versus kids. Because I do not know a lot of senior citizens, and the senior citizens I do know do not know how to use technology they would not be able to do it remotely and due to COVID I would not have been able to do it face to face. I also might have chosen a different meditation session. The meditation session I chose focused a lot about thanking yourself and relieving stress. If I got the opportunity to change it I would have liked one that focused on clearing the mind and balancing the mind rather than relieving stress. Keeping in mind that there were a few unseeable events that happened this science fair season, these were some of the main things I could have done better.

Citations

APA citations 

10 Things We Know About the Science of Meditation. (2021, February 18). Mindful. https://www.mindful.org/10-things-we-know-about-the-science-of-meditation/

 

ADHD & You. (n.d.). ADHD and You. Retrieved February 14, 2021, from https://www.adhdandyou.ca/Teen/TeenMyths.aspx

 

Center of Disease Control. (2020, September 21). Symptoms and Diagnosis of ADHD | CDC. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/adhd/diagnosis.html

 

Concentration Grids For Mental Performance | Online & Download Concentration Grids | ConcentrationGrids.com. (n.d.). Concentration Grids. Retrieved February 14, 2021, from http://concentrationgrids.com

 

Getting Started with ness. (n.d.). Mindful. Retrieved February 14, 2021, from https://www.mindful.org/meditation/mindfulness-getting-started/

 

Goodful. (2019, September 4). 5-Minute Meditation You Can Do Anywhere. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=inpok4MKVLM

 

Kulze, L. (2013, June 28). How Meditation Works. The Atlantic. https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2013/06/how-meditation-works/277275/

 

Lieberman, B. (2018, March 24). Mindfulness meditation is huge, but science isn’t sure how, or whether, it works. Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/mindfulness-meditation-is-huge-but-science-isnt-sure-how-or-whether-it-works/2018/03/23/2fa510a6-1e4e-11e8-9de1-147dd2df3829_story.html

 

M. (n.d.). Burnout Prevention and Treatment - HelpGuide.org. Help Guide. Retrieved March 13, 2021, from https://www.helpguide.org/articles/stress/burnout-prevention-and-recovery.htm#:%7E:text=Burnout%20is%20a%20state%20of,unable%20to%20meet%20constant%20demands.

 

Powell, A. (2018, April 9). Harvard researchers study how mindfulness may change the brain in depressed patients. Harvard Gazette. https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2018/04/harvard-researchers-study-how-mindfulness-may-change-the-brain-in-depressed-patients/

 

Segal, R. (n.d.). Tips for Managing Adult ADHD - HelpGuide.org. Help Guide. Retrieved February 14, 2021, from https://www.helpguide.org/articles/add-adhd/managing-adult-adhd-attention-deficit-disorder.htm

 

Thorpe, M., & Link, R. (2020, October 27). 12 Science-Based Benefits of Meditation. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/12-benefits-of-meditation#5.-Lengthens-attention-span

 

Turner, A. (2017, April 3). Meditation 101: The Neuroscience of Why Meditation Works. HuffPost. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/how-meditation-works_b_4702629#:%7E:text=Meditation%20is%20perhaps%20the%20most,more%20peace%2C%20clarity%20and%20happiness.&text=to%20different%20activities.-,Meditation%20enables%20us%20to%20move%20from%20higher%20frequency%20brain%20waves,different%20centers%20in%20the%20brain.

 

Vozza, S. (2019, September 10). This Is Why Meditation Isn’t Working For You. Fast Company. https://www.fastcompany.com/40547177/this-is-why-meditation-isnt-working-for-you

 

 

Acknowledgement

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Science Fair coordinator at my school Mrs.Osicki who answered all my questions about how the science fair would work this year and helped me navigate the CYSF platform. I would also like to thank my mom who helped me edit all my grammar, helped me learn Excel spreadsheets, and asked people she knows to participate in my project. I would like to thank my dad who helped with pictures. Lastly I would like to thank everyone who volunteered to be a subject in my study.