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One-Session Mindfulness Meditation: A Randomized Controlled Study of Effects on Cognition and Mood


Participants in previous studies of brief mindfulness meditation (MM) are often tested immediately following a meditation session, making it difficult to separate several days of training from one-session effects. The current study examined the effects of a single session of 25 min of MM compared with a sham meditation (sham M) and a book-listening control. One session of both MM and sham M had a significant effect on state mindfulness compared with the control. Several mood subscales as well as total distress score on the Profile of Mood States (POMS) were also significantly different from control. However, neither meditation condition had significant effects on any of the attention and working memory tasks. These results indicate that one session of meditation was not sufficient to affect the cognitive tasks used in this study. Both MM and sham M positively affected mood states and heightened state mindfulness.

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Correspondence to Susan Johnson.

Appendix A

Appendix A

MM script

03:24 min Welcome to MM (MM) training. First, I am going to describe a little background on what MM is and is not. I am Dr. FZ, a postdoctoral fellow at Wake Forest School of Medicine and I have been teaching this technique for over 13 years. Most of my work has been with people who have no meditation experience, teaching them how to meditate. Thus, by the end of this, you can say “I know how to meditate.” MM is rooted thousands of years ago in Tibetan Buddhist practice, this practice is employed to teach you how to cultivate awareness of yourself as well as your environment. Most importantly, it teaches you how to regulate your emotional responses to everyday stressful events. What we want to do is cultivate a balance between a relaxed state of mind and a highly attentive one. Thus, we are going to be training you, just like you would train your biceps in a gym, to train your mind to attend, to control the way it responds to stressors as well as different emotions. Therefore, MM is a practice that will teach you moment to moment awareness of all the things inside your mind. It is also about balancing a relaxed state of mind with a highly attentive one, so if you find yourself falling asleep, you are more than likely not meditating. Having said that, let us begin.

What I want you to do is keep both feet flat on the ground when you are sitting on your chair. Keep your back straight but not too rigid. You want to keep your hands together on your lap in a comfortable position and when you are comfortable with it, I want you to gently close your eyes, take a really deep breath, hold it in for a few seconds and let it out slowly. Let us do this for the next two minutes or so until you start feeling a bit more relaxed. That is, breathe in through your nose slowly, hold it in for a couple of seconds and blow out slowly, just relax. You have dedicated the next 20 min of your life to learning MM so everything else can wait.

3:253:50 Silence

3:51–3:53 Just relax, reduce all expectations

3:534:03 Silence

4:034:50 When you become comfortable with it what I would like you to do is bring your full attention to the changing sensations of your breathing sensations at the tip of your nose. I want you to mentally note that when you breathe in there is a tingling sensation occurring at the tip of your nose. Maybe it is a little cold and when you breathe out it is smooth and warm. See if you can bring your full awareness to mentally noting each moment of your breath occurring at the tip of your nose, and we will spend the next couple of minutes in silence seeing if we can cultivate this practice.

4:506:00 Silence

6:008:44 As you may have noticed your mind is very busy and it will wander off away from your intended focus. At this point your intended focus is the changing sensations at the tip of your nose. Mentally noting or becoming aware of how busy your mind is, is one of the most important aspects of this practice. Thus, it is OK, you are raising awareness of yourself and your environment. There is a way we deal with this and its one of the most important aspects of meditation. When your mind has drifted away from the breath, you acknowledge the distractor for what it is. For instance, you may be thinking of a conversation you had earlier or an exam coming up, or internal feelings, feelings like hunger, boredom, or even happiness, all of these things are distractions. What you do is acknowledge it, let it go and gently bring your attention back to the breath. You simply start over. Most importantly you do not judge yourself, you do not get frustrated, you take it easy on yourself. So, for the next few minutes see if you can focus on each in breath, each out breath without distraction. When you do become distracted acknowledge it, let it go and start over. You can start over hundreds to thousands of times. It is part of the training. You are training your mind. Hence, let us start over together, take a deep breath and bring your full attention to your breath occurring at the tip of your nose as we sit here in MM.

8:459:36 Silence

9:3610:39 Now I would like you to focus on the full breath, cultivate an awareness of the full breath. Focus on the changing sensations of the beginning of the beginning of the breath at the tip of your nose, follow the breath down the throat, mentally noting the rise and fall of your chest and abdomen as you breath in and out, simply follow the breath back up through the chest, throat and back out of your nose. You can focus on the full breath flow or the rising sensations of your chest and abdomen. Let us spend the next couple of minutes in silence as we sit in meditation.

10:3913:38 Silence

13:3913:46 Remember not to let your mind wander too far away… when you’ve drifted from the breath bring yourself back.

13:4614:19 silence

14:20–14:26 Reduce expectation of the future, reflections on the past, tune in to right here, right now.

14:2715:36 silence

15:37–15:56 Focus on one full in breath, one full out breath and repeat. Being aware of how busy your mind is part of the practice. Try to balance a relaxed state with a vigilant one. You have one intention, to fully experience each breath as each moment passes.

15:5719:02 Silence

19:0319:08 If you’ve drifted too far away, just bring yourself back and start over.

19:0919:39 silence

19:4021:11 The point of this meditation practice is to teach you that each of these sensory events are fleeting, here one moment and gone the next. … (pause)… Thus, there is no need to react to something that is already over. This practice can help you sustain attention, focusing on the breath can teach us this, to be right here, right now, as we sit here in meditation.

21:1225:15 Silence

25:16 Gong sounds

25:1725:52 This will conclude today’s mindfulness training session. Thank you so much for participating in the MM study, and keep practicing. Thank you.

Sham M Script

0:002:26 Welcome to mindfulness meditation training. I am Dr. FZ, a postdoctoral fellow at Wake Forest School of Medicine and I have been teaching this technique for over 13 years and I will be giving a very basic instruction in mindfulness mediation. MM is rooted in ancient Tibetan practice where you can cultivate awareness of yourself and your sensory environment. Meditation is a balance between vigilance and relaxation and is essentially associated with breathing. When you are comfortable, what I would like you to do is keep your feet flat on the ground and keep your back straight. We call this a noble posture, so you can use the back cushion of your chair. When you are comfortable, gently close your eyes, keep your hands together on your lap and let us start our meditation practice. Just relax, reduce any expectations of the future and lets go ahead and take a couple of deep breathes, in through the nose out through the nose as we sit here in meditation.

2:272:50 Silence

2:512:59 Just relax and sit in stillness, that is essentially the practice. Just breathe normally as we sit here in meditation.

3:004:19 Silence

Try to control feelings of frustration or hunger. Just take some deep breaths, relax as we sit here in meditation.

4:406:36 Silence

6:377:24 A gentle reminder of the instructed you are to follow, just relax, feet flat on the group and just take a couple of deep breaths, and then breathe normally in stillness. Breathe in deep through your nose, and breathe out deep through your nose as we sit here in meditation.

7:239:15 Silence

9:169:29 The point of this meditation practice is to teach you to cultivate this practice by taking deep breaths every other minute or so.

9:3014:03 Silence

14:0414:08 Let us take a deep breath together, relax, as we sit here in meditation.

14:0918:37 Silence

18:3818:56 Remember you do not want to fall asleep or get too relaxed, you want to balance a state of attention and relaxation. Hence, let us start over together and take a deep breath as we sit here in MM.

18:5521:07 Silence

21:08 Just breathe and relax.

21:0925:20 Silence

25:21 Gong sound

25:3825:52 This will conclude today’s mindfulness training session. Thank you so much for participating in the MM study, and keep practicing. Thank you.

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Johnson, S., Gur, R.M., David, Z. et al. One-Session Mindfulness Meditation: A Randomized Controlled Study of Effects on Cognition and Mood. Mindfulness 6, 88–98 (2015).

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  • Mindfulness
  • Meditation
  • Decentering
  • Mood
  • Attention