How Meditation, Mindfulness, Yoga and Yogic Breathing exercises improve productivity, performance and wellbeing
The Evidence – Meditation & Mindfulness
Health & Wellbeing
The dramatic effects of meditation on health
A National Institute of Health study (28/12/2004) that showed a 23% decrease in mortality, a 30 % decrease in death due to cardiovascular problems and a big decrease in cancer mortality due to Meditation practice. “This effect is equivalent to discovering an entirely new class of drugs (but without the inevitable side effects),” they write.
See Schneider, R. H. Et al. (2005), ‘Long-Term Effects of Stress Reduction on Mortality in Persons >55 Years of Age with Systemic Hypertension’, American Journal of Cardiology, 95 (9), pp. 1060-64.
Study showing that meditation bolsters the immune system and thus helps to fight off colds, flu and other diseases
Davidson, R. J., Kabat-Zinn, J., Schumacher, J., Rosenkranz, M., Muller, D., Santorelli, S. F., Urbanowski, F., Harrington, A., Bonus, K & Sheridan, J. F. (2003) ‘Alterations in brain and immune function produced by mindfulness meditation’, Psychosomatic Medicine, 65, pp. 567-70.
Studies worldwide have found that meditation reduces the key indicators of chronic stress, including hypertension (high blood pressure):
See Low, C. A., Stanton, A. L. & Bower, J. E. (2008) ‘Effects of acceptance-oriented versus evaluative emotional processing on heart rate recovery and habituation’, Emotion, 8, pp. 419-24.
Enhanced performance & productivity
Two studies demonstrating mindfulness meditation improving memory, reaction times and mental and physical stamina:
Tang Y.Y., Ma, Y., Wang, J., Fan, Y., Feng, S., Lu, Q., et al. (2007), ‘Short term meditation training improves attention and self regulation’, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (US), 104 (43), pp. 17152-6.
Ortner C. N. M., Kilner, S. J. & Zelazo, P D. (2007), ‘Mindfulness meditation and reduced emotional interference on a cognitive task’, Motivation & Emotion, 31, pp.271-83.
An elevated capacity to concentrate and to manage emotions – through Meditation
Bob Shapiro (former CEO of Monsanto) says that meditation has improved his ability to listen and to think creatively – and there’s an increasing amount of scientific evidence to back that up. Dr. Richard Davidson of the University of Wisconsin at Madison has, among other experiments, used cranial electrodes and MRI scans to study Tibetan monks on loan from the Dalai Lama. His basic finding: The brain functioning of serious meditators is “profoundly different” from that of nonmeditators – in ways that suggest an elevated capacity to concentrate and to manage emotions. He calls meditation a “kind of mental training.”
General Mills: focus, clarity, creativity and better decision-making – through Mindfulness
Janice Marturano founded the Institute for Mindful Leadership after she left General Mills, where she set up a popular mindfulness program — and a meditation room in every building of their campus. “It’s about training our minds to be more focused, to see with clarity, to have spaciousness for creativity and to feel connected,” she told the Financial Times‘ David Gelles. According to the company’s research, it worked:
80 % of participants said they felt it had improved their ability to make better decisions.
Early results from the General Mills meditation training course:
83 % of participants said they were “taking time each day to optimise my personal productivity” – up from 23 per cent before the course.
82% said they now make time to eliminate tasks with limited productivity value – up from 32 % before the course.
Among senior executives who took the course, 80 % reported a positive change in their ability to make better decisions, while 89 % said they became better listeners.
Aetna: An additional 69 minutes of productivity each day and a 7% drop in healthcare costs
At Aetna Health Insurance, CEO Mark Bertolini made yoga, meditation and wellness programmes available to his then 49,000 employees. Duke University conducted a study on the savings in 2012, and found a 7% drop in healthcare costs, and an additional 69 minutes of productivity each day. The company had 3,500 people sign up for their mindfulness and yoga programmes.
And, many other companies…
Joining Google and General Mills are one-quarter of all U.S. companies — including e-Bay, Target, Apple, Nike, Procter & Gamble, Airbus, First Direct and AOL in launching stress-reduction initiatives (such as Meditation, Mindfulness & Yoga) – according to the HR and outsourcing consultancy Aon Hewitt
In The UK
BP in Canary Wharf has a meditation room. Goldman Sachs uses meditation pods. First Direct, Taj Hotels and West Ham United football club make Meditation and Yoga available to their employees. The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills holds free voluntary meditation classes each week at lunchtimes.
More rational thinking in making business decisions – through mindfulness-based meditation
Research from INSEAD Business School found that doing just 15 minutes of mindfulness-based meditation such as concentrating on breathing can lead to more rational thinking in making business decisions. It also shows a resistance to the “sunk cost bias” (attempts to recoup irrecoverable costs in past business endeavours), as mindfulness draws focus away from past and future events and focuses on the present.
Mindfulness and not getting distracted
Guy Blaskey, CEO of luxury dog food brand Pooch and Mutt, has found the process [of learning and practicing Mindfulness] “amazingly useful” with “the ability to concentrate on one thing, and not get distracted. There’s no point in getting stressed about things you can’t control, they key is learning to understand that.” In terms of his business, he attributes his company’s extended growth to his mindfulness approach to running his business.
“It’s focusing, and realising what’s important in your business, and not getting distracted by the things that aren’t important,” he said.
‘How Meditation Might Boost Your Test Scores’
3rd April 2013
In a study published in March 2013 in the journal Psychological Science, the researchers found that after a group of undergraduates went through a two-week intensive mindfulness training program, their mind-wandering decreased and their working memory capacity improved. They also performed better on a reading comprehension test
and http://pss.sagepub.com/content/early/2013/03/27/0956797612459659.abstract for the study itself.
Google, Meditation and resilience
One company that “gets it,” and has since its inception, is Google. One of the most popular classes it offers employees is known as S.I.Y., short for “Search Inside Yourself.” It was started by Chade-Meng Tan, an engineer, Google employee number 107, and the author of Search Inside Yourself: The Unexpected Path to Achieving Success, Happiness (and World Peace). The course has three parts: attention training, self-knowledge, and building useful mental habits.
Richard Fernandez, a director of executive development who took Tan’s course, told the New York Times he sees a significant difference in his work behavior since taking the class. “I’m definitely much more resilient as a leader,” he says. “I listen more carefully and with less reactivity in high-stakes meetings. I work with a lot of senior executives who can be very demanding, but that doesn’t faze me anymore. It’s almost an emotional and mental bank account. I’ve now got much more of a buffer there.”
Mindfulness preventing burnout
One occupation known for burnout is physicians. Studies show that anywhere from a third to half of them suffer from it. But a 2009 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that doctors taking part in mindfulness exercises were less burned out. Even more dramatic was the fact that many of the improvements continued even after the year-long study concluded.
Mindfulness research with School Teachers
Flook, L., Goldberg, S. B., Pinger, L., Bonus, K., & Davidson, R. J. (2013). ‘Mindfulness for Teachers: A Pilot Study to Assess Effects on Stress, Burnout, and Teaching Efficacy’ Mind, Brain and Education, 7, 182–195. doi: 10.1111/mbe.12026. PMCID: PMC3855679
This study reports results from a randomized controlled pilot trial of a modified Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction course (mMBSR) adapted specifically for teachers. Results suggest that the course may be a promising intervention, with participants showing significant reductions in psychological symptoms and burnout, improvements in observer-rated classroom organization and performance on a computer task of affective attentional bias, and increases in self-compassion.
In contrast, control group participants showed declines in cortisol functioning over time and marginally significant increases in burnout.
BBC News article & video
‘Scans show mindfulness meditation brain boost’
4th January 2012
Lazar, S. W., Kerr, C., Wasserman, R. H., Gray, J. R., Greve, D., Treadway, M. T., McGarvey, M., Quinn, B. T., Dusek, J. A., Benson, H., Rauch, S. L., Moore, C. I., & Fischl, B. (2005) ‘Meditation experience is associated with increased cortical thickness’ , Neuroreport, 16, pp. 1893-7.