Try Mindfulness Meditation to Improve Your Brain (and Life)
This month’s Gifted Leaders e-Newsletter features a LinkedIn Pulse article by Travis Bradberry. Mindfulness meditation is a research-proven technique that boosts your performance by physically altering your brain.
Highlights from the Article
Just as doing curls increases muscle density in your biceps, practicing mindfulness builds brain matter where it counts. Research has discovered that the simple act of practicing mindfulness increased both brain activity and the density of brain tissue in two important brain regions:
The anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), which is responsible for self-control. It enables you to resist distractions, to focus, and to avoid impulsivity in order to work efficiently and make great decisions. The ACC is also responsible for flexibility.
The hippocampus, which, among other things, is responsible for resilience in the face of setbacks and challenges.
People who practice mindfulness are more focused, even when they are not meditating. Mindfulness is an excellent technique to reduce stress because it allows you to stop feeling out of control, to stop jumping from one thought to the next, and to stop ruminating on negative thoughts.
Mindfulness is the simple act of focusing all of your attention on the present. This requires you to observe your thoughts and feelings objectively, without judgment, which helps you to awaken to your experience and live in the moment. This way, life doesn’t pass you by. Here are some simple ways to practice mindfulness:
Focus on your breathing. Focus all your attention on your breath. When thoughts surface that distract you from your breathing, just let them pass, and shift your attention back to your breathing.
Go for a walk. Focus solely on the act of walking and the sensations of your surroundings (the cool breeze, the hot sun, or the dog barking in the distance). Focusing on something that’s second nature is refreshing because it alters your frame of mind as you turn off the never-ending stream of thoughts that normally dominate your attention.
Feel your body. Focus all of your attention on what you’re doing without thinking about why you’re doing it, what you should do next, or what you should be doing. Direct your attention from your thoughts to your bodily sensations (e.g. your posture in your chair) in the moment.
Repeat one positive thing about yourself, over and over. A great phrase of choice is “I am capable.” The simplicity keeps you grounded in the exercise and keeps other thoughts from taking over.
Interrupt the stress cycle. Any moment when you feel stressed, overwhelmed, or stuck on something is the perfect moment to practice mindfulness. Just stop what you’re doing, let the thoughts go for a moment, and practice your favorite mindfulness techniques described above.
Mindfulness doesn’t have to take place in the mountains of Nepal or a weekend retreat under a vow of silence. The beauty of the technique is that it’s so simple you can do it anywhere and just about anytime.
Read the article here.
The Gifted Perspective
If you’ve spent any time learning about and attempting to develop greater capacity in the area of emotional intelligence (EI), you’ll be happy to know that cultivating EI begins with mindfulness. In our opinion, both mindfulness and EI are essential skills for everyone, not just leaders, in today’s workplace which is characterized by constant change and uncertainty.
Mindfulness improves our ability to tune into the physiological aspects of emotion as well as the nature of our overall emotional experience. This greater awareness equips us to avoid getting swept up in emotion during times of stress and challenge and to make more objective and wise decisions about how to respond. And then we live happily ever after!
We can assist you in becoming more mindful! Contact us today about individual leadership coaching or our Teams That Talk™ coaching approach! And download our Gifted Leaders Mindset Requirements to learn more about our thoughts on the leadership mindset required for 21st century leadership
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