I recently completed the 8-week Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program, which brings the principles of mindfulness meditation into everyday life. In the program we were introduced to practices that can be incorporated into daily life to help break cycles of anxiety, stress, unhappiness and exhaustion.
Many people get confused between the two practices, but practicing mindfulness is effectively a form of meditation. Mindfulness is developed by purposefully paying attention in an open-hearted way to what is going on in the present moment – in your body, your mind and in the world around you.
But is there any science behind the practice and reported benefits?
In the article The Benefits of Meditation in Business, the author talks about the benefits of meditation in her own professional and personal life. To dispel the “new age hoo-ha” reputation of meditation, she quotes successful and well-known business people who adopt the practice.
She speaks with Elizabeth and Sukey Novogratz who wrote the book Just Sit: A Meditation Guidebook for People Who Know They Should But Don’t (HarperCollins, 2017) and asks them to explain what scientific evidence exists to support the benefits of meditation. You may find their answers surprising…
Meditation increases the cortical thickness in the hippocampus, which runs the memory as well as the ability to learn new things. It helps with long term memory, which aids you with everything from giving a presentation to closing a sale to remembering your boss’ husband’s birthday. This part of the brain is also where Alzheimer’s wreaks havoc, so a daily practice will do much more than assist you at the office.
The amygdala is the part of the brain that houses fear and tells us how to respond to anything we might think of as scary: our boss, asking for a raise, giving a talk, firing someone, or leading a group. The amygdala is also the fight or flight part of the brain. It has less grey matter in meditators than in non-meditators. When the grey matter shrinks in the amygdala, it thickens in the prefrontal cortex – which controls awareness and decision making. Long term meditators are not only more courageous but also have much slower reaction time to emotional situations because they have time to respond to the situation and not react. They are better and more efficient decision makers.
Who doesn’t want a better long-term memory and a boost of courage! Mindfulness involves changing habits, which is hard. Reading this article has given me the momentum I needed to continue the practice of mindfulness now my course has finished!