Tuesday, November 30, 2021
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Carleton master students find that mindfulness can improve goal motivation

Carleton master students find that mindfulness can improve goal motivation

Aidan Smyth studied the relationship between mindfulness and motivation. [Photo provided by Aidan Smyth]

As the new school year approaches, exam stress and the threatening presence of assignment deadlines can be daunting. Taking 10 minutes to practice mindfulness meditation can improve motivation to achieve personal goals, according to a recent study by Carleton University Psychology graduate student Aidan Smyth.

Smyth worked with Carleton psychology professor Marina Milyavskaya to publish research on April 19th. The article disproves a similar one survey conducted in 2018 that found attention can actually impair motivation. However, the previous study did not include personal goals, only generic tasks.

That research is what piqued Smyth’s interest, he said. Smyth added psychology research usually points to the benefits of mindfulness and meditation.

“I was curious to know if we would see the same potentially demotivating effects [of meditation] when it comes to people’s personal goals, ”Smyth said.

One problem with studying mindfulness is that the term can refer to a wide range of practices and states of consciousness, according to Smyth. His study focused on the impact of mindful meditation.

“We use a fairly common definition of mindfulness, which involves being aware of the present moment in an open, accepting, and non-judgmental way,” Smyth said.

Smyth conducted his study in two phases, once with 200 participants and then again with 120.

Half of the participants practiced mindfulness by listening to 10 minutes of guided meditation, while others listened to 10 minutes of an unrelated podcast. Afterwards, participants reported how motivated they were to complete specific personal goals as well as generic tasks such as copying a block of text or anagram puzzle.

The study found that participants who practiced mindfulness reported greater motivation to complete their personal goals. However, mindfulness did not appear to improve motivation to complete generic tasks.

Smyth’s research is not alone in the fact that personal relevance is important for motivation. Carole Blackburn is an Ottawa-based life coach who helps clients identify and pursue goals that are meaningful to them. She said that meaning is an integral part of achieving goals.

“Motivation is really driven by purpose and meaning,” Blackburn said. “If something does not matter to you, and if you are not interested in something, you will not be particularly motivated to pursue it.”

Blackburn added that being intentional and finding personal interest is an important factor to consider when setting goals and planning for the future.

Alvaro Valencia is a fifth-year aviation engineering student at Carleton who said remembering his personal interests and long-term goals keeps him motivated when his studies get difficult.

“I have always loved airplanes, and since I was a child, I wanted to be a pilot. Then [my interest] moved into the design side, ”Valencia said. “It was my dream to get into this program, so that’s how I try to keep the dream alive to continue.”

Valencia said he has been using a smartphone app to practice guided meditation for three years. Although he did not know if it affected his motivation, Valencia said the mindfulness exercise helped him deal with anxiety and improve his mental health.

Valencia added physical activity like basketball, took proper breaks and being able to discuss his goals and working with friends helped him stay motivated.

Smyth said that mindfulness only increases goal motivation when it works with personal meaning.

“Mindfulness meditation can potentially increase people’s motivation for personal goals that are perceived as meaningful and engaging,” Smyth said. “You are not going to see these effects if you ask [people] about their motivation for some random tasks that have no personal relevance. ”


Featured image provided by Aidan Smyth.

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