Oprah Winfrey. Steve Jobs. Phil Jackson. Russell Simmons. Bill Clinton. Ray Dalio (founder of Bridgewater Associates, the world’s largest hedge fund firm). What do each of these individuals have in common aside from being insanely successful? They are (or have been) regular meditators who extol the benefits of this practice as contributing to their achievements. At this point in time, no one questions the need to exercise one’s body for greater effectiveness, both in and out of work. Similarly, engaging in a regular meditation is exercise for your mind that will make you more productive in a variety of spheres. Need some more convincing? Read below for my top five reasons that all leaders would benefit from a little time spent on a zafu (meditation pillow).
1. Meditation is a Stress Reducer
Numerous studies have shown that regular meditation is effective in reducing stress. Whether it is used to calm the mind of individuals with anxiety disorders, or to simply relax after a long day, its effectiveness has been proven time and time again. In fact, studies show that across time, meditation changes the brain’s structure so that not only are you better able to deal with stress, you become less prone to experience stress or fear in the first place.
2. Meditation Improves Your Emotional Intelligence
According to Daniel Goleman, the individual largely responsible for bringing the term “emotional intelligence” to the general lexicon, there are five aspects of E.Q.: self-awareness, self-regulation, internal motivation, empathy, and social skills. The different types of meditation can positively impact the majority of these variables. For example, mindfulness meditation, a form of meditation in which the individual learns to observe his or her thoughts nonjudgmentally, helps one to gain greater insight into oneself, and in turn can assist with regulating one’s behaviors. Lovingkindness meditation (LKM), a form of meditation aimed at developing greater acceptance of others, can assist with developing empathy, which in turn, can improve one’s relationships with others.
3. Meditation Enhances Your Resilience
The business world is fraught with unexpected developments, shifting priorities, and setbacks. Resilient individuals are able to bounce back quickly from these events, maintain a sense of perspective, and focus on the task at hand. In laboratory studies, mindfulness meditation has proven effective in helping individuals bounce back more quickly from unexpected stressors.
4. Meditation Improves Your Focus and Concentration
Various studies have shown that meditation improves one’s ability to concentrate for extended periods of time. For example, Buddhist monks who have maintained a regular meditation practice tend to perform better on concentration tasks than control groups. There is also good news for those of us who do not have the time or inclination to devote ourselves to a life of contemplation. In various experimental studies, participants who are taught to engage in a regular meditation practice exhibit better concentration than those in a waitlist group after just a few months.
5. Meditation Enhances Your Immune Function
Neuroscientist Richard Davidson and colleagues conducted an 8 week study in which participants were taught mindfulness meditation. In addition to having an increased activity in the left-sided anterior portions of the brain (a pattern associated with greater positive emotion), they also showed increased antibodies in response to an influenza vaccine compared to a control group. Interestingly, the increases in the antibodies were commensurate with the increase of activity in the left anterior portions of the brain. Want to be healthier? Add meditation to your daily routine.
As someone who has meditated regularly for the past several years, I can also personally attest to the value of making the time to clear one’s mind. I have seen the difference it makes in my effectiveness, sense of well-being, and ability to handle stress. I have also witnessed similar positive changes in my clients who have committed themselves to this endeavor. So, give it a try – as little as 10 minutes a day can be beneficial. “But I don’t have time to meditate,” you say. Then perhaps you should consider this old zen adage, “You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes every day – unless you’re too busy; then you should sit for an hour.”
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