Tag Archives: Meditate

An Alternative to Coffee During the Afternoon Lull — Meditation

No doubt you’ve come across articles that explain that we have a tendency to fall into an afternoon lull. There have also been a number of article that offer a solution to beating this afternoon lull. However, I’ve yet to see any of these articles offer what could be the best use of that time, yet — meditation.

The benefits of meditation are endless not the least of which is mitigating the effect of cognitive biases. So, instead of reaching for another cup of coffee, why not try doing a quick 2-, 3-, 5-, or 10-minute meditation when that afternoon lull comes along. In fact, to up the stakes, I’d be interested to see some research on this. My bet is that meditation would be more effective (and sustainable) than coffee in picking you up. Of course, researching this might prove a bit difficult, but I think it’s doable. Let’s break it down.

I’d want to see three groups: meditation, coffee, and control. Of course, we’d need to have a representative sample, controlling for people who already have a proclivity towards meditation and/or coffee. If at all possible, it’d be great to have two meditation groups, actually: one that already regularly meditates and one that doesn’t.

Initially, I hypothesized that meditation would be more effective. We’d need to determine how we were going to measure effectiveness. I suppose one could consider the remaining hours at work, as the pick-me-up during the afternoon lull is likely a way to get one to the end of the day. In that sense, we’d also want to control for the amount of hours that people continued to work after the meditation/coffee break. At a minimum, it’s something we’d need to measure to maintain internal validity.

I also hypothesized that meditation would be a more sustainable solution to the afternoon lull. Again, how are we going to measure this. My thinking would be including some sort of fatigue/health factor in the study. I suspect that those inclined to have a cup of coffee as an afternoon pick-me-up are probably already drinking coffee to start their day and as a result, might just be taxing their system by having that extra hit of caffeine in the afternoon. Conversely, plenty of research has been conducted on the health benefits of meditation. So, not only would some folks be eliminating the overtaxing nature of a second dose of caffeine, they’d also be reaping the benefits of meditation.

Meditation Mitigates Effects of Cognitive Biases

There have been thousands of scholarly articles written about the myriad benefits of meditation, but the one I came across recently was one of the first that confirmed one of my previously held beliefs: meditation helps you make better decisions.

The thing that struck me most about this study were the similarities to an experiment I conducted (on intuition and decision-making) as a research assistant. I had a condition where students would meditate for a short time and then use their intuition to make decisions. The results weren’t as I, (the research assistant I was working nor the professor), had hoped. I wrote it off as the the reluctance of undergraduates to meditate, but in this study, in particular, studies 2a and 2b, the researchers used undergraduates (approximately 200 combined) and they meditated!

In the second study, the researchers had the undergraduates listen to a 15-minute audio track, which was was specifically designed for this study. In one condition, students listened to a mindfulness meditation created by a professional mindfulness-meditation instructor and in the other, the students listened to a track, again, by a professional mindfulness-meditation instructor, that continuously instructed students to think about whatever came to mind. This second condition was called the “mind-wandering” condition and previous research used a similar method as a control for mindfulness experiments.

As I already mentioned in the opening paragraph, the researchers found that increasing mindfulness (i.e. meditation) reduced the effects of cognitive biases (i.e. the sunk cost fallacy). My favourite part of this study [Emphasis added]:

It is particularly notable in this set of studies that increased resistance to the sunk-cost bias occurred after only a brief recorded mindfulness-meditation induction. Many prior mindfulness-meditation interventions have involved 8 weeks of face-to-face training (Brown & Ryan, 2003); by comparison, our 15-min recorded manipulation is substantially more practical.

Many people have gotten it into their heads that the positive effects of meditation takes weeks to manifest. Here is tangible proof that — today — meditation can help you make better decisions. Also:

We also encourage research investigating how mindfulness practice might improve other decision-making processes and outcomes.

Absolutely! I would suspect that meditation would help guard against a whole host of other cognitive biases, but it would be fantastic if there were scientific evidence to back this up. For instance, years ago when I was the president of the student body, I once tried to begin a general assembly meeting with a quick 1-minute meditation, but the maturity level just wasn’t there. Even after 10 seconds, some of the representatives couldn’t handle the silence. I take the blame for that as I probably didn’t do the method justice by properly introducing it with the research. Can you imagine, if, before every semi-major decision, you took 10, 5, 2, or even 1 minute just to sit still and clear your mind of the previous discussion. I wonder how much lost revenue there is from not taking a moment to pause and reflect before a decision is made.

I should say, I’m sure that there is certainly time between major decisions (i.e. mergers & acquisitions, although, there is fascinating research on how big of a failure those can be), but I’m thinking about the mid-level manager who makes many decisions in a day that can affect the bottomline of a company. The managers that make quick decisions about whether to go with this contract or that contract, whether to make this purchase or that purchase. Maybe that’s a good place to start with more research.

ResearchBlogging.orgA. C. Hafenbrack, Z. Kinias, & S. G. Barsade (2013). Debiasing the Mind Through Meditation: Mindfulness and the Sunk-Cost Bias Psychological Science DOI: 10.1177/0956797613503853

21-Day Meditation Challenge: UPDATE and Research!

So — we’re into day 8 of Deepak Chopra‘s 21-day meditation challenge. How’s it going? Are you finding it easy to stick to meditating? Are you finding it hard? Are you noticing any benefits? Are you noticing any strange thoughts coming up? I’d love to hear about any/all of it! Let me know in the comments. If you’re finding it somewhat difficult to stick to the meditation, you might want to read about the importance of stillness and unplugging. This may (or may not) help to motivate you to stick with the meditations.

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I came across some research this past week that I thought you might find interesting, especially in the context of meditations. From the Daily Stat:

After just 5 weeks of daily 5-to-16-minute training sessions in focused-attention meditation (“Relax with your eyes closed, and focus on the flow of your breath…”), research subjects showed strong brain-wave changes associated with positive emotions, says a team led by Christopher A. Moyer of the University of Wisconsin. The findings suggest that the benefits of meditation may be more accessible than was previously believed, the researchers say.

Pretty cool, eh? Of course, the Daily Stat is a secondary source, so if you’re interested in reading the journal article, you can find it here: Frontal Electroencephalographic Asymmetry Associated With Positive Emotion Is Produced by Very Brief Meditation Training.

So, maybe this is more motivation for you to get back to (or start!) meditating.

 

21-Day Meditation Challenge: Join Me!

I just finished listening to Day 1 of Deepak Chopra‘s 21-day meditation challenge. Boy, did it feel good to meditate again! When was the last time you sat (and didn’t fiddle with technology or thoughts) for an extended period of time? I’ve written about the importance of stillness and unplugging before, but now I’m offering you an opportunity to follow-through on it.

Why don’t you join me and thousands (maybe hundreds of thousands?) of other people and follow along with Deepak’s meditations for the next 21 days.

I really like being part of something bigger than “me” and this is certainly an opportunity to feel connected to an infinite number of people. As I’m listening to the meditation, I can be sure that there will be countless people who will also be listening to the same track as me (at some point during the day).

So, whaddaya say — let’s meditate together over the next 21 days.

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I will say that the meditations are couched in abundance. That is, the theme of the meditations have to do with abundance. Most folks think of abundance as an abundance of cash, but there are many other kinds of abundance. One can have an abundance of peace, joy, comfort, love, and the list goes on.

So — head on over to the landing page and listen to the first meditation because it started today. You can do it!