Research at neuroscience laboratories suggests the practices of mindfulness and meditation physically alter how the brain operates. Contextualized into the business world, these discoveries raise questions about whether businesses are functioning optimally without applying aspects of mindfulness to their processes.
Recent research suggests that different regions of the brain are physically affected by meditation, which is the practice of deliberate, nonjudgmental awareness of the present moment. To enrich brain health, ward off unwanted stress, and improve self-regulation and effective decision making, the authors recommend meditation at appropriate moments.
How Is This Article Useful to Practitioners?
Quoting a meta-study of 20 research studies that finds that eight different areas of the brain are physically affected by meditation, the authors highlight the two areas of the brain most useful to practitioners.
First, the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) is found toward the forehead and is associated with purposeful self-regulation. People with damaged ACCs are prone to impulsive, aggressive behavior and knee-jerk reactions. Tests show that people with damaged ACCs demonstrate a lack of mental flexibility and a tendency to hold on to unsuccessful problem-solving strategies. In contrast, people who meditate are believed to have healthy ACCs. Their tests show more activity in that area of the brain, and they perform better in tests of self-regulation and resist distractions. Scientists deduce that in such a fast-changing and complex environment as a modern business, people with healthy ACCs are likely to perform better.
Second, the hippocampus is a region of the brain that shows increased gray matter for mindfulness participants in the authors’ 2011 research. This part of the brain is associated with emotion and memory and coated with receptors for the stress hormone cortisol. People who suffer from stress-related illness often have a smaller hippocampus, suggesting that improving the health of the hippocampus, through a program of mindfulness, is critical in developing resilience, a skill in high demand in business life.
Many skeptics and empiricists will wish to reserve judgment about studies that seem to promote mindfulness and meditation because they are traditionally associated with Eastern religions and widely known as practices imported to the West in the 1960s as part of a so-called hippie lifestyle. Although unlikely to be the only solution, studies do suggest mindfulness—and particularly meditation—is worth considering to foster such valuable personal characteristics as patience, flexibility, and resilience and to serve as an antidote to the dysfunctional aspects of modern business life. Meditation may help salve the mental wounds of modern workers.
Research might equally focus on such other causes of dysfunction as excessive background noise, byzantine organizational structures, suboptimal home and office layouts, and ineffectual technologies, as well as the sensory and information overloads they all engender.