7 Proven Ways Meditating Prepares You for Success
What do mega-successful business leaders and entrepreneurs like Ray Dali o, founder of Bridge water Associates, Jeff Werner, CEO of LinkedIn, and Ariana Huffing ton, founder of the Huffing ton Post, all have in common?
They carve out time in their busy schedules to meditate.
Meditation was once seen as an unconventional pursuit of hippies or the avant-garde, but more Americans are turning to the practice to bring balance and peace of mind to their stressed-out lives. According to one national survey, nearly 18 million adults practice meditation regularly, thanks to a growing body of research showing that mind and body practices like mediation can help people manage pain and reduce feelings of stress.
The beauty of meditation is that its benefits can be far reaching, helping to enhance learning, quell anxiety and tame negative emotions. Not completely convinced? Here are seven proven ways meditation can prepare you for success.
1. Enhanced learning and memory.
Successful business leaders can quickly process and learn new information, and recall that knowledge when needed — an important skill for anyone with goals beyond an office cubicle. It turns out meditation is a good way to give yourself a boost in this area. Researchers have found that meditation stimulates areas of the brain associated with memory, concentration and learning.
One study of college students who took a mindfulness class four times a week for two weeks showed that their working-memory capacity improved during that time. Other studies showed that mindfulness meditation helps increase gray matter volume, including bolstering areas of the brain that assist with learning, memory, cognition or emotional regulation.
Researchers note that meditation may change the brain’s structure and increase mental activity and agility. This means that meditation may literally make your brain more robust. People who practiced mindfulness meditation for eight weeks showed an increase in gray matter in areas associated with learning and memory processes.
2. Put a halt to pessimistic thought loops.
We all fall into negative thought patterns or pessimistic ruminations from time to time. But obsessively dwelling on negative thoughts such as past failures, frustrations and regrets can eat away at your confidence and cloud your mind when you need to think clearly. Left unchecked, these feelings contribute to chronic anxiety, which can weigh down your mind, keep you from taking action and thwart your motivation. Meditation is a powerful aid in breaking these negative thought loops.
One way to eliminate negative thoughts is to repeat a mantra to yourself, such as “Let it go.” Saying a simple, positive phrase to yourself is one of the oldest and most straightforward ways of meditating, and it has been shown to have profound effects if done consistently.
Start by repeating the phrase to yourself, and when you feel your mind wandering, return your attention to the mantra. With time and practice, negative thought loops dissipate and leave your mind free to focus on other things.
3. Build mental capacity and improve accuracy.
As we age, our mental capacity peaks before slowly deteriorating. However, meditation is like a workout for your brain. Over time it can improve your overall brain health and build your mental capacity. This makes sense because when you meditate you’re essentially practicing concentration and laser-like focus. So it should come as no surprise that studies show that meditation can help people sustain their focus, even during boring tasks.
For decades, researchers have found that Buddhist monks who regularly meditate perform far better on concentration tests than the average person. Those who meditate regularly not only increase their ability to concentrate, but also boost their attention to detail and level of accuracy.
4. Tame negative emotions.
Who hasn’t let their emotions get the best of them? It happens. But negative emotions can have a myriad of detrimental impacts on our personal and professional lives, especially if we aim an impulsive outburst at friends, colleagues, employees or customers.
The aftermath can lead to hurt feelings, low morale and perhaps a visit to human resources. Not to mention the many other more subtle ways in which negative emotions can make it harder to succeed.
Meditation allows us to recognize and control negative emotions by helping us process and accept what we are feeling and then assisting us in releasing those feelings. Mindfulness meditation in particular focuses on “maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations and surrounding environment,” with the goal of accepting the feelings that arise in each moment. This allows you to shed your emotions quickly so you maintain a kind of mental equilibrium.
5. Create better relationships.
Those who practice mindfulness meditation report higher levels of satisfaction in their relationships with others, and they better able to handle conflict when it comes up. Meditation helps you build emotional resilience, which means you are able to bounce back from bad moods more quickly and are less likely to become upset.
Through regular meditation, we can observe and accept our own emotions, and are better able to recognize how those around us are feeling. Meditation helps you become a more attuned communicator.
This is because mindfulness meditation helps you create emotional space to have a more mindful, conscious response to those around you, rather than the knee-jerk reaction so many of us are prone to. Instead of allowing a situation or comment to set us off, we recognize what we are feeling and have more emotional flexibility in how we respond.
6. Reduce stress and anxiety.
When we find ourselves in a stressful situation, which our body interprets to be threatening, it causes a fight-or-flight response, including a flood of hormones that quicken our heartbeat, elevate our blood pressure and speed up our breathing. When you’re dealing with chronic stress, tension or anxiety, this response can have lasting impacts on your health. Meditation can help clear away the daily information overload that contributes to chronic feelings of stress.
Meditation relaxes you by allowing you to focus on one thing, such as your breathing, thus helping eliminate the stream of jumbled thoughts causing stress. If practiced on a regular basis, meditation can give you a sense of peace, calm and balance, and help you gain new perspectives when facing a stressful situations. This can also help you feel more tranquil and ready for sleep when bedtime rolls around — an added benefit!
7. Tap into your creative side.
Innovation is the key to success in nearly every field. How awesome would it be if you could clear away the cobwebs from your mind and fire up your creative juices at will? Meditation can help you nurture that idea-making part of your brain.
One study found that open-monitoring meditation, a type of mindfulness meditation that involves observing and noting how one is feeling in the present, can help increase “divergent thinking.” This kind of thinking is when your mind is allowed to jump from one thought to another, without judgment or exerting top-down control from within.
Open-monitoring meditation focuses on keeping attention flexible and unrestricted — you simply accept what you are feeling. Research has found that this kind of meditation improves working memory, increases cognitive flexibility and reduces cognitive rigidity.
Daily Meditation for Success: Do This First Thing Every Morning
First Thing Every Morning
Here’s the thing: Meditation is for everyone, and it’s different for everyone. There is no right or wrong way of doing it, and meditation can help you increase your focus, reduce stress, and prevent common health ailments.By Natalie McNeil, Contributor Emmy Award-winning media entrepreneur & creator of SheTakesOnTheWorld.com11/11/2013 09:58am EST | Updated January 23, 2014This post was published on the now-closed Huff Post Contributor platform. Contributors control their own work and posted freely to our site. If you need to flag this entry as abusive, send us an email.
There are so many myths about how to meditate, what a daily meditation practice means, and what the overall experience of meditation should be. I was happy to see Bhanu Narasimhan from the Art of Living Foundation debunk common meditation myths.
Here’s the thing: Meditation is for everyone, and it’s different for everyone. There is no right or wrong way of doing it, and meditation can help you increase your focus, reduce stress, and prevent common health ailments. While some people have a meditation practice that is part of a larger religious or spiritual path, it certainly doesn’t have to be.
If you’re a little skeptical about the benefits of meditation, I love this Life hacker post, “What Happens to the Brain When You Meditate (And How it Benefits You),” written by a former skeptic of meditation.
In this episode of She Takes on the World TV I want to make meditation super simple for you, with this daily meditation technique I learned in China.
Be sure to downloaded my free daily morning meditation MP3 if you haven’t already. It has been a popular download and it’s a great companion for this one-minute meditation exercise. Namaste
Meditation as Mindfulness
The studies on meditation generally focus on a broad type of meditation that could be called mindfulness. Mindfulness simply means keeping one’s thoughts focused on a single thing. It could be your breath (a typical point of focus in meditation) or it could be a single image or word or emotion.
It sounds simple but when you try it, you realize how much your mind wants to jump around. But that’s okay: “When a “stray” thought arises, the practitioner must be quick to recognize it, and then turn back to the focus of their attention,” says George Dvorsky, writing about meditation. “And it doesn’t just have to be the breath; any single thought, like a mantra, will do.”
Here are 15 ways meditation can improve your life, whether or not you ever reach those big goals.
1. Meditation helps you handle stress better.
According to the Mayo Clinic, “When you meditate, you clear away the information overload that builds up every day and contributes to your stress.”
Much of our stress comes from too much input and a lack of time or tools in handling the input. We get information, emotions, and we get overloaded. Our brains don’t know what to handle first, so they just keep cycling through all the information. Talk about crazy-making.
Meditation helps your brain to let things slide away by simply giving it time to rest and meander through the information, bit by bit, letting go of what is unimportant.
2. Meditation can improve how your brain functions.
A 2012 study showed a brain process called glorification happening more in people who meditate. Gentrification is “the “folding” of the cerebral cortex as a result of growth, which in turn may allow the brain to process information faster. Though the research did not prove this directly, scientists suspect that glorification is responsible for making the brain better at processing information, making decisions, forming memories, and improving attention.”
If that’s not enough, there is also evidence from MRI scans that meditation can reinforce connections between brain cells. Another study showed that meditation “may be associated with structural changes in areas of the brain that are important for sensory, cognitive and emotional processing. The data further suggest that meditation may impact age related declines in cortical structure.”
In other words, meditation may not only make your brain work better, it might also slow down the aging process within the brain.
3. Meditation can help you get in touch with yourself.
The busyness of modern life, along with the perpetual onslaught of media that tells us how we ought to look, feel, and behave, can leave us feeling detached form ourselves. It can be difficult to connect with our own values and emotions. We see standards put into place, and we want to meet those standards, so we pretend to be a certain way even when, perhaps, we are not.
Meditation can help us with that. According to researcher Erika Carlson,
“Mindfulness helps us to see our authentic selves in two ways: nonjudgmental observation, and attention. Nonjudgmental observation enables people to really get to know themselves without feeling any negative feelings.”
4. Meditation can improve your grades.
Whether you’re a part-time student, a full-time student, or someone who just likes to take tests for fun, meditation can help you learn and retain what you learn.
One study showed that mindfulness training resulted in “improved accuracy on the GRE and higher working memory capacity.” The researchers concluded that “the improvement could be explained, at least in part, by reduced mind wandering during the task.”
Busy Work Is Killing Your Productivity!
The researchers estimated that mindfulness training resulted in the equivalent of a 16 percentile-point boost on the GRE, on average.”
5. Meditation can increase your productivity in high-performance situations.
A study done in 2012 set participants up in a real-world multitasking situation. They had to do several activities that required various forms of input in a typical office setting. And they had to complete them all within 20 minutes. Some of the participants received mindfulness training, and some didn’t… and then, they tested them all again. “The only participants to show improvement,” reported the researchers, “were those who had received the mindfulness training.”
Another study, done in 2011, showed that “daily meditation-like thought could shift frontal brain activity toward a pattern that is associated with what cognitive scientists call positive, approach-oriented emotional states — states that make us more likely to engage the world rather than to withdraw from it.”
Handling high-stress, high-performance situations like a pro could certainly be a handy skill to have, and it’s one that meditation can help you cultivate.
6. Meditation helps you to appreciate music more.
Love music but find yourself drifting off and missing out in the middle of a concert or show? Meditation can help you to stay tuned in and aware, one study shows. The majority of the people in the “mindfulness groups” in the study said that the mindfulness task had “modified their listening experience by increasing their ability to focus on the music without distraction.”
7. Meditation affects your brain positively even when you’re not meditating.
Some research shows that the way meditation helps your brain to work better is consistent, staying with you not just when you’re sitting on a cushion with your eyes closed, but all the time. According to the research, “the effects of meditation training on emotional processing might transfer to non-meditative states.”
The researchers point out that this may mean that the benefits of meditation are not specific to a task or certain stimulus (such as that cushion or a mantra) but are process-specific, meaning that they “may result in enduring changes in mental function.”
8. Meditation helps you feel reduce a sense of isolation and feel connected.
It’s funny (not funny) that in the age of constant connectivity, isolation and loneliness can feel even more poignant. But it happens, and when that sense of isolation descends, it can be overwhelming.
However, meditation has been shown to reduce feelings of loneliness in one study on older adults, and those who have been practicing Transcendental Meditation, even for a very short time, say that the practice of meditation provides a feeling of being connected and whole, a “fundamental level of unity.”
9. Meditation reduces your symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Sure, so meditation can help you feel connected, and handle some stress. But what about ongoing anxiety? What about overwhelming negative feelings or that debilitating sense of depression? A study done on high school students showed that a mindfulness program could help a lot with both: students who stuck with it “exhibited decreased symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression both immediately after and six months after the program.”
10. Meditation can help you fight disease and stay healthier.
According to the Mayo Clinic,
meditation “might be useful if you have a medical condition, especially one that may be worsened by stress.”
Being able to handle stress better can reduce its impact on your body, which can decrease symptoms and physical aggravation.
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How to Stop Feeling Overwhelmed ?
A researcher at one of Harvard Medical School’s teaching hospitals notes that “The kinds of things that happen when you meditate do have effects throughout the body, not just in the brain.”
11. Meditation can calm you for a better night’s sleep.
Let’s do a quick review: meditation can help you cope with stress better, help you know (and like) yourself more, help you lessen anxiety and depression.
With those benefits alone, it seems pretty likely that you’d be able to get a better night’s sleep. After all, if you can stop your brain from racing and your emotions from raging, you’ll be much more likely to drift off to sweet dreams. Research concurs: “mindfulness is correlated not only with less moodiness, but also with improved sleep quality.”
12. Meditation can increase your metabolism and help you lose weight.
When a group of psychologists were asked to recommend a few strategies for reaching weight-loss goals, 7 out of 10 said meditation, or mindfulness training, would be beneficial.
Another study showed that meditation resulted in an increase in mitochondria. The mitochondria are what fitness expert Lisa Johns calls “ the energy centers of our cells. In layman’s terms, metabolism increased for people who meditated regularly and it was more pronounced in the more experienced group.”
13. Meditation can make you a better friend.
It makes sense that being able to know and accept yourself better might help you to know and accept others, as well. Other studies have also shown that meditation increases the “mental expertise to cultivate positive emotion.”
In other words, people who meditate tend to respond with positive emotions more than negative ones. They have a stronger sense of empathy and compassion for others.
14. Meditation can increase your attention span.
Are you still reading?
Or did you get distracted up there at point #10?
Meditation can help you stay focused.
Studies show that mindfulness training helps the brain to connect better. What that means for you is that your brain, after meditating, finds it easier to access and process information. Along with that, mindfulness trains your brain to release the information that’s not important, and quickly. So meditating regularly helps you get better at collecting information, processing it quickly, and discarding the stuff you don’t need.
Doing that well is what allows you to keep your attention focused on the information that you do need.
15. Meditation can help you come up with ideas.
If you wish you could access the creative, crazy, idea-making part of your brain more easily, it’s time to quit stalling and start meditating. The “catch-and-release” nature of mindfulness, that ability to let a thought in and let it go, turns out to be really helpful for what one study calls “divergent thinking.”
The meditative practice helps your brain to be less judgmental and more accepting, while exercising less “top-down control and local competition.” Your brain opens up to new ideas and inputs, which, say the researchers, “facilitates jumping from one thought to another – as required in divergent thinking.”