Much of the focus on mindfulness and meditation has been on stress management. Few things help one deal better with the stressors of everyday life. Meditation each day may reduce blood pressure, improve sleep, and mitigate the severity of episodes and symptoms of mental illnesses.
But there is more. Meditation quiets the mind, and a quieter mind is more likely to have room for new and better ideas about the challenges one faces in life, business, and art.
Researchers at the Institute for Psychological Research and Leiden Institute for Brain and Cognition of Leiden University in the Netherlands found a tremendous impact of focused-attention (mindfulness) and open-monitoring meditation (observing without judging) on creativity.
“First, Open-Minded meditation induces a control state that promotes divergent thinking, a style of thinking that allows many new ideas of being generated. Second, Focused Attention meditation does not sustain convergent thinking, the process of generating one possible solution to a particular problem.” Meditation may equal more ideas.
Another study published by Greenberg, Reiner, and Meiran in PLoS One determined that mindfulness practice reduces cognitive rigidity. In the experiment, subjects were given six tasks. The first three required complex solutions, and the last three progressively easier ones.
Non-meditators continued to apply the difficult solution methods to the easy problems, and were more likely to become frustrated. Meditators were more likely to quickly figure out that the later problems could be solved using fewer and easier steps.
The authors conclude that mindfulness meditation reduces cognitive rigidity via the tendency to be “blinded” by experience. Results are discussed in light of the benefits of mindfulness practice regarding a reduced tendency to overlook novel and adaptive ways of responding due to past experience. The meditators were less rigid in their thinking, and they ruminated less.