Meditation is better than sitting around and doing nothing.
Meditation, according to an oft-cited definition, refers to “a family of self-regulation practices that focus on training attention and awareness in order to bring mental processes under greater voluntary control and thereby foster general mental well-being and development and/or specific capacities such as calm, clarity, and concentration.”
With roots in Hinduism and Buddhism, meditation requires one to sit still, often just focusing on one’s breathing.
In meditation, one pays attention to the present moment. One becomes mindful of “an emotion that surfaces and passes, a mental image, or a sensation in the body.”
Without passing any judgment on these random occurrences, one acknowledges that the past is already behind him and the future is yet to come. There is only the present. The rest are just distractions.
As a $1.1-billion industry, meditation/mindfulness training has been adopted by major companies such as Google, Apple, General Milling for their employees. Confirmation studies have exhibited that aside from calmness and clarity, participants were later found to experience less stress, to have more focus, higher cognitive flexibility, and lower emotional reactivity.
In practice, researcher Andrew Hafenbrack suggests that meditation be used as “on-the-spot workplace intervention.”
In “Mindfulness Meditation as an On-The-Spot Workplace Intervention,” Hafenbrack writes about how mindfulness meditation helps lessen escalation of commitment in organizations.
Because mindfulness focuses on the now and the present, participants are less prone to brood about sunk costs. They can easily move on and could offer a more productive course of action.
By not dwelling on past issues and not overthinking about the future, they are less likely to be impulsive or engage in retaliatory behavior that might be harmful to colleagues, co-workers, or the organization. They tend to “self-regulate to fit the needs of the situation at hand,” and “are
less likely to react automatically to stimuli.”
One caveat, though. Participants who underwent mindfulness sessions may be “more accepting of the status quo, think less about outcomes they desire in the future, and thus be less motivated to achieve goals.”
Alcohol has been given a bad name. This is primarily because alcohol consumption “frequently co-occurs” with cognitive or mental impairment. Through five studies, a research shows that “people who simply hold an alcoholic drink in their hand’ are perceived to be less intelligent than those without one.” It is widely known that the use of alcohol can have harmful effects on individuals.
In the workplace, the use of alcohol, even in small amounts, can impair
“performance, judgment, coordination, concentration, and alertness.” These effects often result in mistakes and accidents that can affect the health, safety, and morale of co-workers and customers.
In his research, Professor Andrew Jarosz of Mississippi State University intentionally served “vodka-cranberry” cocktails to one group of his research subjects until their blood levels neared legal intoxication.
Then together with a separate group of subjects who are sober, the intoxicated subjects are subjected to a series of word association problems.
The result? The intoxicated subjects gave more correct answers and arrived at solutions more quickly. While their sober counterparts were analytical in solving the problems, the intoxicated participants were more intuitive.
According to “Uncorking the Muse: Alcohol Intoxication Facilitates Creative Problem Solving,” one explanation to these bursts of “creativity” is the alcohol’s effect on one’s working memory.
A working memory is the brain’s filtering system. It screens out peripheral information that the mind deems unimportant. This is useful for solving analytical problems. The more working memory one has at his disposal, the higher is the expertise, and the better is one’s performance.
However, experts are often caged by their scope of knowledge. They are stumped when the problem needs to be examined from the perspective of a different discipline. To put it simply, one’s ability to think in new and unusual ways can be hampered when he has too much working memory. By relaxing the filters of the working memory, alcohol allows one to include and consider possibilities that were sidelined by the sober self.
Despite its popularity, the effects of mindfulness meditation to the human brain remain unclear.
Perhaps, participants felt better after each session because most of them practically slept through it. I would have chosen to do the same. Alcohol, on the other hand, is a better intervention. The fact that you’re reading this means that it is definitely worth a shot.
Real Carpio So lectures at the Ramon V. del Rosario College of Business of De La Salle University. He is an entrepreneur and a management consultant. Comments are welcomed at [email protected] Archives can be accessed at realwalksonwater.wordpress.com. The views expressed above are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official position of DLSU, its faculty, and its administrators.