If you’re looking for ways to enhance your memory, moment to moment non-judgmental awareness, a term coined by world-renowned mindfulness expert Jon Kabat-Zinn, could be a great tool. Moment to moment non-judgmental awareness is a mindfulness practice that guides us to be “grounded in the present” and experience thoughts “without clinging to them,” Jonathan Schooler, Ph.D., a professor of psychological and brain sciences at the University of California, Santa Barbara, tells Thrive. We become an active listener to our thoughts, allowing us to avoid anxiety-inducing rumination and focus on the present.
In a recent study published in the journal Brain Imaging Behavior, half of the 79 participants were taught moment to moment non-judgmental awareness in a month-long web-based program, whereas the other half took a creative writing program. Those who were taught non-judgmental awareness fared better on a memory test than the latter group. They also performed more quickly and with more accuracy than when they took the test prior to any mindfulness training.
Moment to moment non-judgmental awareness can be cultivated through regular meditation — or simply by “routinely attending to the present” while going about daily activities, Schooler tells Thrive. For instance, stopping for a minute or two per day to notice the sensation of whatever you’re doing — eating an apple, sitting in a chair, or walking through a park.
How does moment to moment non-judgmental awareness help boost memory? It primes our minds to be more present to what is happening around us, says Schooler. Because our mind is not wandering or distracted, our memories become longer-lasting. It can also help us in retrieving memories — when we try to remember something, such as a word or name, hyper-focusing on it can only lead to further elusion. However, Schooler says that acknowledging the experience we are having, then letting go of the thought can often lead to the information we were trying to find suddenly resurfacing.
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