Spending a few moments focusing on present thoughts, emotions, and sensations doesn’t only calm the mind and soothe the spirit, it can actually short-circuit racial bias and fight drug dependency.
In a new study on mindfulness, a practice that became popular in the late 1970s, subjects who spent 10 minutes listening to a mindful meditation before looking at pictures of black and white faces exhibited far fewer automatic negative associations, i.e. much less prejudice, than a group who hadn’t meditated.
In a second study in the US, drug addicts who learned a ‘mindful savouring’ practice—concentrating on a pleasant experience, like being in nature or with a loved one, and the textures, smells, and colours associated to it—showed more excitement in the pleasure centres of their brains, which lowered their craving for drugs.
Of course, you don’t have to be a racist or opiate fiend to experience the benefits of mindfulness. Instead of going through your day on autopilot, take a couple of minutes to calmly zero in on the details of your surroundings, or channel a happy memory.