One of my cousins was preparing for his GRE, and was looking for tips on how to improve his scores. I pointed him towards Mindfulness Meditation, which has a ton of research backing it up as a powerful tool to improve mental capabilities. Research from the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at the University of California, Santa Barbara has linked the practice of mindfulness meditation to greater mental focus and better memory capacity. They found that undergraduate students who took part in a two-week mindfulness training program reported a reduction in wandering thoughts and better mental recall. They also showed improved performance in a reading comprehension test, which is a section in the Graduate Record Examination (G.R.E).
Meditation originated in India and has been a path to enlightenment for millennia. However, medical research over the last few years has found that meditation has more immediate physical and psychological benefits too. Mindfulness meditation is a specific form of meditation that helps create an awareness of one’s present moment and reality. Psychologists have used this method to help patients suffering from various psychological issues such obsessive-compulsive disorder, anxiety, depression and addiction.
The study included 48 University of California undergraduates, who were split into two groups of 24 each. Each individual was tested for memory capacity, mind-wandering, and G.R.E. reading comprehension performance. One set of students, representing the control group, were then assigned randomly to participate in a nutrition program. They were taught about the importance of healthy eating and were asked to keep a food diary. The rest of the students were enrolled in a stress-reduction program based on mindfulness meditation. The program was held over two weeks in eight sessions.
At the end of the stress-reduction program, each student in both groups were re-evaluated for memory capacity, mind-wandering, and took another G.R.E. reading comprehension test. The group of students who followed the healthy eating guidelines showed no statistically improvement in performance. However, students who had practiced mindfulness meditation showed much better performance on all three counts. They reported fewer distracting thoughts, and scored better in memory capacity tests. Their average G.R.E. verbal score also increased from 460 to 520 after the training.