June 24, 2020
In this episode, Wendy speaks with cognitive and contemplative neuroscientist Amishi Jha about using mindfulness to help improve our attention, and its usefulness particularly in high-stress situations. Amishi takes a broad and nuanced perspective on attention—arguing that it’s much more than just our ability to focus on the task at hand. Rather, attention is foundational for capacities like decision making, emotion regulation, and even empathy and compassion. Their conversation covers many topics, including:
- her own experience of high stress and how that brought her to contemplative practice;
- her research on how mindfulness can train attention and working memory;
- the relationship between attention and stress;
- bringing mindfulness to military populations;
- the pros and cons of a wandering mind;
- mindfulness during COVID;
- the state of contemplative science, and current issues around gender and racial diversity.
Amishi Jha is an Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Miami, and Director of Contemplative Neuroscience for the Mindfulness Research and Practice Initiative. She is also founder of the UMindfulness Center at the University of Miami. Amishi studies the neural bases of attention and the effects of mindfulness-based training programs on cognition, emotion and resilience. With grants from the Department of Defense and several private foundations, she has been systematically investigating the applications of mindfulness training in education, corporate, elite sports, first responder, and military contexts. In addition to her own published body of research, her work has been featured in many outlets including TED.com, NPR, and Mindful Magazine. She has also presented her work at NATO, the UK Parliament, the Pentagon, and the World Economic Forum. Amishi is the midst of writing her first book on the science of attention, which will be forthcoming in 2021.
TEDx Talk: How To Tame Your Wandering Mind
Article: Training the Brains of Warriors (Mindful Magazine, 2019)
TED Radio Hour: How Can We Pay Better Attention To Our Attention?
Studies referenced in the episode:
- Minds “At Attention”: Mindfulness Training Curbs Attentional Lapses in Military Cohorts (PLoS One, 2015)
- Mind wandering and attention during focused meditation: A fine-grained temporal analysis of fluctuating cognitive states (NeuroImage, 2012)