Mind wandering can be costly, especially when we are engaged in attentionally demanding tasks. Preliminary studies suggest that mindfulness can be a promising antidote for mind wandering, albeit the evidence is mixed. To better understand the exact impact of mindfulness on mind wandering, we had a sample of highly anxious undergraduate students complete a sustained-attention task during which off-task thoughts including mind wandering were assessed. Participants were randomly assigned to a meditation or control condition, after which the sustained-attention task was repeated. In general, our results indicate that mindfulness training may only have protective effects on mind wandering for anxious individuals. Meditation prevented the increase of mind wandering over time and ameliorated performance disruption during off-task episodes. In addition, we found that the meditation intervention appeared to promote a switch of attentional focus from the internal to present-moment external world, suggesting important implications for treating worrying in anxious populations.
Keywords: Anxiety; Attentional focus; Mind wandering; Mindfulness; Mindfulness meditation; Present-moment awareness; Sustained attention.
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