Whether we meditate interoceptively (by observing one’s internal environment) or exteroceptively (by observing one’s external environment), meditation facilitates the secretion of striatal dopamine, a neurotransmitter that regulates cognitive functions, particularly memory and the consolidation of newly acquired skills.1Maarten A. Immink. Post-training Meditation Promotes Motor Memory Consolidation. Front. Psychol., Volume 1, Issue 7, November 2016
The peculiarity of meditation is that it plunges us into a state of both rest and alertness. This state is sometimes called NSDR; non-sleep deep rest.2Andrew Huberman. Using Science to Optimize Sleep, Learning & Metabolism. Huberman Lab Podcast, January 2021
When we meditate after training, or after studying – in short, after having learned something – we consolidate more quickly the information that we have assimilated, which then allows us to speed up our learning process and, therefore, to progress faster*.
Meditation does not necessarily have to take place right after the learning session, but at least within the hours following it.
As for how long one should meditate to consolidate their memory (motor, cognitive, etc.), the recommendation is at least 20 minutes for a 90-minute training or learning session – and less for shorter sessions.
Meditating can be hard at the beginning, and if you’re like me, you often want to go on with your day at the end of a training session. Sounds about right? If that’s the case, here’s a challenge for you: for the next month, take at least 5 minutes to meditate once you’re done exercising, and note any difference you can observe regarding your progression.
*For more info on the subject, see my previous article, " Offline gains: take a break to progress".
1) Maarten A. Immink. Post-training Meditation Promotes Motor Memory Consolidation. Front. Psychol., Volume 1, Issue 7, November 2016
2) Andrew Huberman. Using Science to Optimize Sleep, Learning & Metabolism. Huberman Lab Podcast, January 2021