In this article ex-Barrister, Trainer and Executive Coach, Neil Seligman digests the latest scientific discoveries on the benefits of presence, mindfulness and meditation that all professionals should know about.
1 . MEDITATION REDUCES THE RISK OF HEART ATTACK AND STROKE
The latest study into the long assumed physical benefits of meditation has shown the strongest link yet between a regular practice of meditation and better physical health.
“The main finding [of our research] is that, added on top of usual medical care, intervention with a mind-body technique (here transcendental meditation) can have a major effect on cardiovascular events,” says Robert Schneider, lead author on the study published in Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes.
2 . LONG TERM MEDITATORS ARE ABLE TO PROCESS INFORMATION FASTER
Researchers at UCLA studied the brains of people who had meditated for years comparing them with those who never meditated or who only did it for a short period of time. They took MRI scans of 100 people, half meditators and half non-meditators. They were fascinated to find that long-time meditators showed higher levels of gyrification (a folding of the cerebral cortex that may be associated with faster information processing). In a study published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience in February 2012, they shared that, the more years a person had been meditating, the more gyrification their MRIs revealed.
3. PEOPLE WHO PRACTICE CERTAIN FORMS OF MEDITATION ARE MORE CREATIVE
Researchers at Leiden University in the Netherlands looked at the way two types of meditation, focused-attention (for example, focusing on your breath) and open-monitoring (where participants focus on both the internal and external) affected two types of creative thinking: the ability to generate new ideas and solutions to problems. In a study published in April 2012 in Frontiers in Cognition, they revealed that those who practiced open-monitoring meditation performed better than non-meditators at tasks related to coming up with new ideas.
4. MEDITATORS ARE LESS STRESSED AND LESS DISTRACTED DURING MULTI-TASKING
A computer scientist at the University of Washington teamed up with a neuroscientist at the University of Arizona to test whether meditation can help professionals stay focused and calm. The pair recruited 45 human resources managers and gave a third of them eight weeks of mindfulness-based meditation training, a third of them eight weeks of body relaxation training and a third of them no training at all. All the groups were given a stressful multi-tasking test before and after the eight weeks. In a study published in the Proceedings of Graphics Interface in May 2012, they showed that the meditation group reported less stress as they performed the multi-tasking test than both of the other groups. This study has further obvious implications on burnout and breakdown, which cost global business a fortune in lost productivity every year.
5 . RECRUITMENT ADVANTAGE: GENERATION Z EXPECT A CONSCIOUS PERSPECTIVE
Generation Z represent our most conscious generation to date. They will be expecting a values-driven approach to doing business, where focus on profit is balanced with focus on planet and people. Whilst they will expect to work hard they will also expect their employers to train and develop them as a human being as well as a professional. The conscious generation will already be familiar with meditation and open to its benefits as these become more widely accepted by science and the media. Impressive employee wellbeing programs will differentiate the best firms from the rest.
6 . CORPORATE CULTURES ARE ALREADY BEING IMPROVED BY MEDITATION
It is already happening:
At General Mills in Minneapolis, Janice Marturano, deputy general counsel at the multinational has founded a program of meditation, yoga and mindfulness, “It’s about training our minds to be more focused, to see with clarity, to have spaciousness for creativity and to feel connected. That compassion to ourselves, to everyone around us, our colleagues, customers, that’s what the training of mindfulness is really about.”
William George, a current Goldman Sachs board member agrees, “The main business case for meditation is that if you’re fully present on the job, you will be more effective as a leader, you will make better decisions and you will work better with other people, I tend to live a very busy life. This keeps me focused on what’s important.”
7 . MEDITATION: AN ANTIDOTE TO ADDICTION?
The body of evidence for the power of meditation in addiction treatment and prevention is growing. One 2007 study showed that individuals who participated in meditative practices during recovery gained higher levels of coping skills, as well as a heightened awareness of substance-abuse triggers. Addiction still costs global business billions each year. Meditation offers the prospect of addressing some of the root cause. Prevention is indeed better than cure.
Neil Seligman is Director at The Conscious Professsional, a new coaching and training consultancy delivering bespoke training, mindfulness and wellbeing solutions to corporate clients.
Acknowledgements & Further Reading:
The Conscious Guide to Meditation
FT Online: The Mind Business
Neurosoup.com: Meditation’s Role in Drug Addiction Recovery