In his article, “Why Leaders Need Meditation Now More Than Ever,” in the March 22, 2020, edition of the Harvard Business Review, Dr. Matthias Birk talks about the value of meditation for increasing empathy, analytical decision making, and creative thinking. These are traits needed by business leaders, and, I would argue, everyone else, during this time of change and uncertainty.
We know that meditation impacts the brain. Meditation can help with symptoms of stress, depression and anxiety (including social anxiety), can help with addiction, and help treat pain. Studies show that meditation can shrink the size of your amygdala (your brain’s “fight or flight” controller) and increase the size of your prefrontal cortex, helping with concentration and decision-making. So, if you don’t already have a meditation practice, now might be a good time to start!
Starting a meditation practice is easier than you might think. Forget about having the “right” chair, cushion, lighting, candle, incense, and so on. It doesn’t have to take hours every day. You can start a mindfulness meditation practice simply by taking a comfortable position and paying attention to your breath for 5 to 10 minutes. Notice as your thoughts start to wander (as they inevitably will), and bring your attention back to your breath. As Dan Harris − author of “10% Happier” and “Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics” − notes, the practice is not in keeping your brain quiet, it’s in bringing your attention back to your breath again, again, and again. As he says, “it’s like bicep curls for your brain!”
Dr. Birk suggests adding just three things to your day each day to start gaining the benefits of meditation. One, meditate first thing in the morning. This helps set the tone for the day and helps you be more proactive than reactive. Second, start meetings with a “breathing exercise” to help participants become present and focused. And finally, step back and observe your thoughts when you get caught up in anxious or unproductive thoughts during the day, to give yourself a chance to change course.
Try it for a week or two. Make a commitment to just 10 minutes a day. It won’t be long before you notice the change!
- Meditation 101: A Beginner’s Guide, from Happify is a simple video narrated by Dan Harris that can help to get your meditation practice started.
- There are many different beginning meditation techniques. Here is a list of 7 Meditation Techniques For Lawyers to Increase Productivity & Reduce Stress from FamilyLawyerMagazine.com.
- And here are more tips on How To Meditate from the New York Times, as well as links to recorded meditations from psychologist and meditation teacher Tara Brach.
- There are several apps that can help guide your meditation practice. Insight Timer and Headspace are two of the most commonly used. I like Insight Timer. It’s free and easy to use.