Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Mindfulness Enhancing the Executive Work Environment

We have long envied the meditation and lack of anxiety that monks have practiced for thousands of years. This has pushed people for the longest time to try and practice meditating in hopes of relieving our stress. Scientists, with the help of medical imaging and technology, have also pursued the effects of meditation and mindfulness in hopes of applying what seemed to be a psychological phenomena in a an actual neurological manner for treating drug addictions, cancer, anxiety, and depression, just to name a few. While these are outstanding physical and psychological benefits, meditation and mindfulness can even be taken into the context of trying to enhance creativity and productivity in executive work environments.

Dr. Lyons’ research at Chicago State University is based off this exact science. He introduced mindfulness as a practice that can be brought about through yoga, meditation, or just simple reflection for five minutes. In addition, he grounds the idea of mindfulness and meditation to a physiological and neurological basis that many people are unaware exists. Dr. Lyons research cites the brain structures affected by meditation as the prefrontal cortex, hippocampus, amygdala, and many functional networks. For those out there that don’t really know what those do, in laymen terms, they are essentially the parts of your brain in control of emotion, learning, memory, and decision-making. His study focused on the practice of mindfulness to drug addictions in prisoners of the state. Five times more incarcerations are due to drugs, and his research in mindfulness has helped in the rehabilitation process, in addition to promoting engagement in the community post-incarceration since many drug inmates are repeat offenders.

Realizing that mindfulness and meditation have been found to be linked to underlying neurological factors creates an advantage for employees under stress in executive positions. It goes without being said that working in a position with many deadlines and goals is stressful, which many individuals would perceive as effective or productive. On the contrary, stress cognitively limits an individual and then can lead to “bad decision making.” Ongoing research to try to increase productivity in a work environment has lead to studies to look at ways to help employees maximize their potential and promote a healthy work setting. A current study at Harvard Medical School by Srini Pillay, an assistant clinical professor at Harvard Medical School and founder of NeuroBusiness Group, “suggests that companies help employees reduce stress and access the creative parts of the brain even when they're under pressure” This can be achieved through meditation and mindfulness as mentioned at Dr. Lyon’s lecture. Dr. Lyons mentioned how mindfulness affects parts of the brain; in this circumstance, focusing on the prefrontal cortex is important because it is responsible for creativity, abstract ability, and social skills , and so “in that mental state, the creative part of the brain tends to be active” (Blackman).

As demonstrated through Dr. Lyon’s lecture, meditation and mindfulness can be utilized for treating serious psychological disorders such as depression and stress disorders. It can be used to help with cancer and treating drug addictions, impacting physiological as well as even societal influences. Who knew meditation could be used to enhance office environments? It is quite apparent that meditation can be applied to broader contexts. This ultimately shows that neuroscience research looking at meditation and mindfulness is greatly expanding and aiding very diverse areas in society.

Blackman, Andrew. "The Inner Workings of the Executive Brain." The Wall Street Journal. Dow Jones & Company, 27 Apr. 2014. Web. 30 Apr. 2014. <http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702303725404579461722158151180?KEYWORDS=meditation+and+neuroscience&mg=reno64-wsj&url=http%3A%2F%2Fonline.wsj.com%2Farticle%2FSB10001424052702303725404579461722158151180.html%3FKEYWORDS%3Dmeditation%2Band%2Bneuroscience>.

Lyons, Thomas . "Mindfulness, Meditation, and Drug and Alcohol Use." Loyola Neuroscience

Seminar. Loyola University Chicago. , . 18 Mar. 2014. Lecture.

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