Harvard University

Meditation may be the key to business leadership

The Harbus: What do Steve Jobs, Ray Dalio, Bill George, Marc Beinoff and Phil Jackson have in common? They are visionaries, have been known to lead and inspire teams, and have achieved significant success in their professional lives. They have one more thing in common – meditation. Could their focus on contemplative practices have something to do with their huge successes?

Suken Vakil & I (Nikita Singhal), both OG, are looking to answer that exact question, and we’ve designed an independent study under the guidance of Prof. Sandra Sucher, titled Meditation & Business Leadership.

How did we get interested? This past summer, I …

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Don’t worry, be happy: Understanding mindfulness meditation

In times of stress, we’re often encouraged to pause for a moment and simply be in the ‘now.’ This kind of mindfulness, an essential part of Buddhist and Indian Yoga traditions, has entered the mainstream as people try to find ways to combat stress and improve their quality of life. And research suggests that mindfulness meditation can have benefits for health and performance, including improved immune function, reduced blood pressure, and enhanced cognitive function.

But how is it that a single practice can have such wide-ranging effects on well-being? A new article published in the latest issue of Perspectives on Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, draws on the existing scientific literature to build a framework that can explain these positive effects.

The goal of this work, according to author Britta Hölzel, of Justus Liebig University and Harvard Medical School, is to “unveil the conceptual and mechanistic complexity of mindfulness, providing the ‘big picture’ by arranging many findings like the pieces of a mosaic.” By using a framework approach to understand the mechanisms of mindfulness, Hölzel and her co-authors point out that what we think of as mindfulness is not actually a single skill. Rather, it is a multi-faceted mental practice that encompasses several mechanisms.

The authors specifically identify four key components of mindfulness that may account for its effects: attention regulation, body awareness, emotion regulation, and sense of self. Together, these components help us attend to and deal with the mental and physiological effects of stress in ways that are non-judgmental.

Although these components are theoretically distinct, they are closely intertwined. Improvement in attention regulation, for example, may directly facilitate our awareness of our physiological state. Body awareness, in turn, helps us to recognize the emotions we are experiencing. Understanding the relationships between these components, and the brain mechanisms that underlie them, will allow clinicians to better tailor mindfulness interventions for their patients, says Hölzel.

On the most fundamental level, this framework underscores the point that mindfulness is not a vague cure-all. Effective mindfulness meditation requires training and practice and it has distinct measurable effects on our subjective experiences, our behavior, and our brain function. The authors hope that further research on this topic will “enable a much broader spectrum of individuals to utilize mindfulness meditation as a versatile tool to facilitate change – both in psychotherapy and in everyday life.”

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Noise canceling, without headphones.

Roni Caryn Rabin: Studies have found that meditation helps prevent the recurrence of depression, perhaps by producing changes in parts of the brain associated with learning and anxiety. A new study suggests that meditation may modulate brain waves called alpha rhythms, which help regulate the transmission of sensory input from the surrounding environment. Harvard researchers randomly assigned 12 healthy adults to an eight-week course of training in meditation-based stress reduction or to a control group whose participants did not meditate.

At regular intervals, researchers used an imaging technique called magnetoencephalography to measure electrical currents in an area of the brain that processes signals from the left hand. During the tests, each participant was asked to direct his attention to his or her left hand or left foot.

After eight weeks, the brain scans showed that alpha rhythms changed Read the rest of this article…

more quickly and in a more pronounced way in participants who had been meditating.

“If you’re reading something in a noisy environment and you want to be in a bubble, you might use your alpha rhythms like a volume knob, to turn down the volume on neurons that represent sound from the outside world,” said Catherine E. Kerr, a neuroscientist at Harvard Medical School and a co-author of the report, published April 21 in the journal Brain Research Bulletin. “We all do this to some extent, but it turns out that meditators become much more skilled at it.”

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