Anyone who knows me knows that I don’t have too much time for woo woo hippy nonsense in business. Anything which has dubious evidence to support it gets booted out of the park.
Meanwhile, mindfulness in business is getting dead trendy. Is it the next thing or just the latest fad? Did the 15-year-old Robert Craven discover something brilliant when he started Transcendental Meditation all that time ago? (I was just trying to emulate my rock star heroes.)
Does mindfulness stand up to any kind of scrutiny whatsoever?
The good news: there are several thousand articles claiming to be scientific research.
The not so good news: only about 1% fit the gold standards for medical research*.
Most of the studies are, shall we say, less rigorous than one would hope. They may be peer reviewed but they would have poor controls.
The good news: the solid studies reveal that there are four clear benefits from practising mindfulness.
- Stronger Focus
I struggle to see the connection between what might be called a bit of relaxation and actually improving your concentration. But the science has it: “less mind-wandering and distractibility among those who practise regular mindfulness routines.” In other words, better concentration. I’ll have some of that!
- Staying Calmer under stress
Those who practise meditation have a less trigger-happy amygdala (which controls the fight-flight-freeze response) as well as improving concentration (see above).
- Better Memory
With mindful practice, graduate school entrance exam results increased by 16%. Not life-changing but enough to make it interesting.
- Good corporate citizenship
Meditation can help you to cultivate an attitude of kindness.
So, total rubbish or is there something there?
If Daniel Goleman (of Emotional Intelligence fame) and Harvard Business Review*) is to be believed (and why wouldn’t you?), you shouldn’t believe everything you hear about mindfulness. In fact, 99% of the so-called research is pants!
However, he argues that the more hours of meditation you put in then the more you benefit in the four areas described. As I suspected, it is like going to the gym but for your brain. Couple that with a good night’s sleep and you will see your performance improving significantly. Makes sense.
* Here’s What Mindfulness Is (and Isn’t) Good For, Daniel Goleman, HBR, Sept 2017