Unexpected Benefits of Meditation

When you think of meditation, you conjure an image of a zen monk sitting peacefully with crossed legs. Or perhaps you think of a new age counterculture type that constantly talks about their “energy.” What you may not think of is a CEO or senior executive.

Over the last few years, the practice of meditation has become increasingly popular in the business world, and for good reason. Numerous studies have been conducted to test the health benefits associated with meditation and mindfulness, many of which are valid. Fortunately, with the proliferation of meditation-based apps for the iPhone, it’s easier than ever to benefit from adding meditation to your daily routine.

Reduces Stress and Anxiety

Meditation is sometimes associated with a calm state of mind, but sitting down to explore the inner workings of your psyche has a more profound impact on your stress than relaxing by taking a nap or binge watching your favorite show.

A study by Stanford university found that a meditation technique called Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction has a significant positive effect on people that struggle with social anxiety disorder. Another study by Johns Hopkins University found that meditation was successful enough at combating stress and depression that clinicians should recommend it to their patients. So, while you may have considered meditation a way to relax, its health benefits do a lot more for your emotional well-being than serving as a mental vacation.

Cultivates Focus

Aside from lifting your spirits, mindfulness meditation is akin to putting your brain through an exercise routine. A study by Yale university found that meditation reduces activity in the default mode network, which is the part of the brain that’s responsible for wandering thoughts and self-consciousness. This means that by spending a little time each day to tune your mind into a more focused state, you can improve your overall concentration and productivity as you move through your busy schedule.

To calculate how much time this saves you, keep a notepad and pencil on your desk and be rigorous about writing down any blocks of your day when you were distracted from working on important tasks. Those little blocks of 10 to 15 minutes throughout the day can add up quickly and account for a significant amount of your life when you consider how much time you spend chasing wandering thoughts each year.

A Healthier Brain

Aside from the psychological benefits of meditation, there’s evidence that regular meditation improves the overall health and physical condition of your brain. A 2014 Harvard study found that people who meditated for at least 30 minutes a day for eight weeks began to rebuild the gray matter in their brain. Gray matter is the part of the brain that’s largely responsible for the movement of muscles and the reception of sensory information. A more recent study from UCLA compared people who had been meditating for decades to those who didn’t and found that those who meditated had much healthier brains than the people who didn’t meditate at all.

By habitually using meditation to activate parts of the brain that wouldn’t normally be used during daily life, you can encourage them to be more vigorous and dynamic as you move into old age.

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