As an academic I colluded with the production line of fads that remains an insatiable hunger in the business world. We continue to chase the elusive Holy Grail that will provide us with the success we seek individually or collectively.
Many of the fads that have come and gone over the years are based on credible principles. However, it is diluted to make it more palatable to an audience who do not have the patience or the perseverance required to master its principles.
A classical example is the current practice of mindfulness that has crept into most aspects of social and business life. The interest in mindfulness has also gained increased interest within the scientific community. I was stunned to notice a number of mindfulness magazines on the magazine shelves of the famous high street newsagents this week. Flicking through some of them, my point of dilution was reinforced,
Having said that, there has been numerous studies in recent years that have gone a long way to support the assertion that meditation counteracts some aspects of cognitive and physical decline associated with ageing. It is possible to measure this with the advent of neuroscience and the ability to scan brain activity made possible through technology.
In addition, research has proved beyond doubt that meditation helps to reduce stress and anxiety, lowers blood pressure and increases a sense of happiness and well-being. Some studies also suggest that meditation has the ability to slow the structural degeneration of the brain. In fact, research conducting in partnership with Harvard Medical School concluded that continuing or beginning the practice of meditation later on in life support preservation of the brain structure over time.
A recent study looked at the white matter volume, the axons responsible for carrying electrical signals, and although the older the participants the less volume of white matter they had, the neural degeneration was significantly less prominent among those who meditate. Further research is being carried out to determine the potential benefit of meditation in relation to degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
Although there is a decline in cognitive function and control as we age, emotional control and overall emotional satisfaction is in fact maintained and in many instances enhanced, as we get older. My personal opinion and based on experience, is that I believe the absence of the stresses of daily working life contributes to a greater sense of wellbeing.
Furthermore, the long-term practice of mindfulness enhances our capacity to maintain a constant state of alertness. This results in an increased moment-to-moment awareness and thereby increasing our capacity for sustained attention. With practice it also reduces the tendency to behave reflexively.
It is an immutable fact that we will age and eventually die. However, there is enough evidence to suggest that by practicing meditation we are able to protect not only our physical bodies, but also our brain structures, which has to bode well for our health and wellbeing in later years.