Mental Health

This is how meditation could make you more successful, according to these 5 business leaders

A number of successful business leaders practice mindfulness meditation. Image: Stephen Lam/Reuters

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How much of your time do you dedicate to meditation? It's a rising practice in the United States: According to federal estimates, more than 18 million Americans practice meditation on a daily basis.

But if you think meditation is a purely spiritual or ritualistic practice, you should reconsider your position. Meditation (in many forms, including mindfulness meditation) is purported to come with a host of benefits to your wellness and productivity.

Evidence? The American Psychological Association (APA) has aggregated some of the most empirically proven positive benefits of mindfulness meditation here; they include findings of:

  • Less rumination. How much time do you spend dwelling on past failures and current challenges? Research shows that mindfulness meditation can reduce ruminating thoughts, which in turn can help you think more clearly and positively.
  • Reduced stress. It probably comes as no surprise that people who practice daily meditation also show fewer signs of stress. This makes meditation even more important for those in prominent and decision-making roles, such as entrepreneurs or CEOs.
  • Improved memory. Working memory also seems to increase with regular meditative practices, helping you retain more information.
  • Better focus. Meditating in short sessions can help you focus on your work better throughout the day, reducing your chances of getting distracted, and sharpening your cognitive potential.
  • Greater emotional control. People who practice mindfulness show less emotional reactivity; in other words, they have greater control over their emotions, and are less likely to react impulsively to frustrating or emotionally charged situations. This could aid in making more logical decisions and remaining calm.
  • Self-observation. In addition to higher emotional control, meditation practitioners tend to have more powers of self-observation and introspection. These abilities allow them to recover faster when negatively provoked, and disengages automatic pathways, making it easier for practitioners to break bad habits.
  • Higher relationship satisfaction. Those who practice mindfulness meditation also report higher levels of satisfaction in their personal relationships. This proactively protects practitioners against the negative effects of relationship conflict.

The scientific evidence is convincing, but could your business really benefit from a short daily practice like this? These entrepreneurs seem to think so:

1. Ray Dalio

This billionaire founder of Bridgewater Associates encouraged his 735 employees to practice transcendental meditation on a regular basis. In a Business Insider interview, Dalio said, "I did it because it's the greatest gift I could give anyone — it brings about equanimity, creativity and peace." Since then, meditation practices have spread throughout Wall Street.

2. Jeff Weiner

The CEO of LinkedIn since 2009, Weiner has taken the social app's membership from 33 million to more than 430 million. Part of his philosophy for success, he's said, involves his appreciation for health, love and time. In the realm of "health," Weiner has acknowledged using an app called Headspace to meditate daily. He frequently recommends the app to his employees and partners.

3. Bill Ford

The executive chairman of Ford Motor Company, Ford takes time to meditate each day, no matter what. During his close call with bankruptcy nearly a decade ago, Ford admitted in a Harvard Business Review piece, "The practice of mindfulness kept me going during the darkest days." Meditation helped him improve his productivity but also to make decisions with compassion and kindness.

4. Marc Benioff (with Steve Jobs)

Benioff, founder of SalesForce, recommends meditation to all aspiring entrepreneurs and meditates every morning himself before work. His practice started after he received a piece of advice from Steve Jobs to "be mindful and project the future," according to a piece in ZDNet. Benioff has said he also takes time to express gratitude, as another way to clear his mind at the start of the day.

5. Russell Simmons

Current chair and CEO of Rush Communications, Simmons is perhaps better known as the cofounder of Def Jam Recordings. A few years ago, he wrote a piece for Entrepreneur detailing his perspective on meditation and encouraging new and experienced entrepreneurs alike to build the habit. It's worth a read if you're interested in a first-person perspective on the matter.

Both anecdotal and empirical evidence seem to suggest that regular time devoted to mindfulness meditation can help you feel better, think better and work better. If you haven't yet given meditation a chance, try carving out a spot for it in your daily routine.

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