Wellbeing and Mental Health

Many business leaders meditate. It might be because it can help you make fewer mistakes

Person in grey shirt and black trousers sitting on a wooden floor: Meditation can help people feel calm, relaxed and mentally balanced.

Meditation can help people feel calm, relaxed and mentally balanced. Image: Unsplash/Katerina Jerabkova

Victoria Masterson
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  • Business leaders who meditate include Arianna Huffington, Bill Gates, and Marc Benioff of the software company Salesforce.
  • The benefits of meditation include reductions in blood pressure and anxiety.
  • It also helps people make fewer mistakes, a study by Michigan State University suggests.

Meditation helps me lead, says Marc Benioff, the founder and CEO of American software company Salesforce.

Benioff also says learning to meditate more than 30 years ago has helped him “stop the inner critic”.

Other business leaders who meditate include founder and CEO of Thrive, and Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington, television producer and host Oprah Winfrey and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, according to corporate meditation and mindfulness specialist Peak Wellness.

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What are the benefits of meditation?

Meditation dates back thousands of years, to at least ancient India and China, according to psychology insights website Positive Psychology. It is essentially a mind-training technique that is shown to benefit psychological wellbeing.

Meditation can help people feel calm, relaxed and mentally balanced, according to the National Center for Complementary And Integrative Health (NIH), a US government agency.

It can also help people cope with illness and boost their general health. Some studies suggest that meditation may lower blood pressure and reduce the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, NIH says. It may also help with insomnia and ease anxiety and depression.

How do you meditate?

A quiet setting away from distractions such as televisions, radio and mobile phones is a key element of meditation, says US medical centre the Mayo Clinic.

Sit comfortably and focus your attention. You might focus on your breathing, or on an object or image, or a mantra – a repeated word or sound. It’s this focusing of attention that helps free your mind from the things that cause stress and worry, the Mayo Clinic says.

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Slow and deepen your breathing. Relax your neck, shoulders and chest. “Let thoughts pass through your mind without judgement,” Mayo Clinic says.

What else does meditation research say?

A 2019 study from Michigan State University suggests that meditation can help people make fewer errors.

The study, published in the journal Brain Sciences, took 200 people who had never meditated and made them try it for 20 minutes. The results suggest meditation can “enhance the brain's ability to detect and pay attention to mistakes", the authors say.

Four scalp voltage maps.
Meditation can help people make fewer mistakes, research suggests. Image: Brain Sciences

Another study – published in the journal Psychological Reports in 2021 by Florida International University – links reduced mindfulness with emotional instability and “cognitive failures” such as memory lapses, difficulty concentrating and making mistakes in routine activities.

Mindfulness is all about being aware of the present moment, including our thoughts and feelings, in a non-judgemental way.

Meditation can also help us stop problematic habits, a 2021 study in the journal Mindfulness suggests. The things we do automatically can hold us back if our environment changes because habits are hard to break, neuroscience website PsyPost explains in its review of the study. This can lead to us making more mistakes.

A study of 73 adults, led by the University of Innsbruck in Austria, found those who meditate are more able to overcome automatic responses to certain trigger events, such as checking their phone as soon as it receives a notification.

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