Meditation Could Better Business Decisions

Buy or sell? Merge or split? Increase client quotas in the first quarter? These are some of the tough decisions business men and women make on a daily basis. Besides staying focused, it can be difficult to keep a level head amid business world's rapid pace. It's important to avoid knee-jerk reactions and instead sift through problems to reach the appropriate, shrewd solution.

New evidence from INSEAD and The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania suggests that meditation could help business people make better, more rational decisions

The findings, published in the journal Psychological Science in a paper titled "Debiasing the Mind Through Meditation: Mindfulness and the Sunk Cost Bias," found that 15 minutes of mindful meditation can help us think more rationally and make more profitable choices. 

One of the authors of the study, INSEAD PhD student Andrew Hafenbrack, specifically focused on how finding that inner calm helps negate the "sunk cost bias," which in economics refers to past costs that have been to incurred in a project and cannot be recovered. Previous research shows that this can inhibit the decision-making process. However, economists point out that sunk costs should not affect the rational decision-maker's best option.

INSEAD assistant professor Zoe Kinias shared how business CEOs and the bosses calling the shots can fight off this effect. 

"First, meditation reduced how much people focused on the past and future, and this psychological shift led to less negative emotion," Kinias told Psychological Science. "The reduced negative emotion then facilitated their ability to let go of sunk costs."

For the study, the researchers split participants into two groups. The first group listened to a 15-minute recording by a mindfulness coach who guided them through a focused breathing meditation. The other group listed to a recording that asked them to think of whatever comes to mind – which is not mindfulness meditation. Then the groups were given a variety of sunk-cost scenario questions, answering to questions about whether they focused on past, present or future and the corresponding emotions. 

People in the first group had improved decision-making abilities, highlighting one of the many benefits of meditations. 

Ilchi Lee, a master of meditation, underscores that mindfulness allows us to wash over impulsive decisions and reconnect with values that we deem important. In business, this can result in sink-or-swim differences.

"This tool is very practical," Sigal Barsade, management professor at The Wharton School, told Psychological Science. "Our findings hold great promise for research on how mindfulness can influence emotions and behavior, and how employees can use it to feel and perform better."

Medication Versus Meditation to Treat ADD and ADHD

Attention deficit disorders seem to be an epidemic in the U.S. The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that 3 to 5 percent of children have Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and roughly 60 percent of the time the symptoms carries over into adulthood. 

Characterized by the inability to concentrate, difficulty organizing tasks and repeatedly acting on impulse rather than thinking through problems, ADD limits people's abilities to succeed, whether in school or work. But to sidestep the flood of pills and medications running through the market, research has suggested that meditation may be the remedy to strengthen the mental muscle. 

Working Out the Mind to Treat ADD and ADHD
In 2007, researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles, highlighted that the rate of ADHD among teenagers in Finland was nearly identical to the incidence among teenagers in the U.S. The main difference was the while Americans were immediately turning to medication, most Finns were not. 

"It raises questions about using medication as a first line of treatment," Dr. Susan Smalley, a behavior geneticist at UCLA and the lead author, said in the report.

Last year, a large study published in The Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry found that although most young people with ADHD benefit from medications during the first year, the effects typically decline by the third year. 

"There are no long-term, lasting benefits from taking ADHD medications," Dr. James Swanson, a psychologist at the University of California, Irvine, and an author of the study, told The New York Times. "But mindfulness seems to be training the same areas of the brain that have reduced activity in ADHD."

Swanson went on to point out that this is why mindfulness, which revolves around controlled breathing, a peaceful environment and inner harmony, is so important. It appears to get to the root of the problem instead of hacking at the rotten fruit. 

Indeed, there are dozens of different styles of meditation that allow individuals to attain cognitive control. The New York Times defines cognitive control as impulse management, emotional self-regulation, the suppression of irrelevant thoughts and learning how to pay attention.

Lee: From Tangential to Tangible 
This precisely falls in line with the brain advancement efforts of Ilchi Lee, who is a master of meditation and president of the International Brain Association. As a child, Lee suffered from ADD, yet he overcame his condition naturally. How did he do this? By realizing the profound interconnectedness in the brain of the determinants of our physical, mental and spiritual health. Or in short, by training his brain through meditation, yoga and other focusing methods. 

Like exercising your muscles, meditating works out the area of the brain responsible for focus. The more one practices it, the stronger those cerebral reactions become.

This mental ability of concentration, researchers have found, predicts success both in school and in work life.

According to Betty Casey, director of the Sackler Institute for Developmental Psychobiology at Weill Cornell Medical College, cognitive control increases steadily from about 4 to 12 years old, then plateaus. Once individuals reach the teenage years, impulses become harder to suppress, as all parents are aware.

Acting on impulse peaks around age 16, but most people in their 20s begin to achieve adult levels of cognitive control. 

Kids, teenagers and adults dealing with ADD or ADHD may want to try out sitting down in a serene room and going zen for 15 minutes or so. The meditation benefits for the brain are within reach. With guidance, people can learn how to self-regulate their internal distractions, as research from Emory University and the Frontiers in Human Neuroscience have shown.

"I was a skeptic until I saw the data, and the findings are promising," Swanson said.

Laughter Produces Brain Waves Like Those in Meditation

Laughter is one of the great joys in life. It boosts our moods and leaves smiles on our faces. So, what does laughing have in common with meditation? In a new study from Loma Linda University Health, mirthful laughter was shown to produce brain waves similar to those associated with meditation.

While enjoying a good laugh, one's brain reacts in the same way as in "true state of meditation" – the desired mental state that experts and Buddhists reach.

For the study, 31 participants watched humorous, spiritual or distressing video clips while researchers monitored their brain waves. In particular, activity was gauged from nine cerebral cortex scalp areas using using an electroencephalograph (EEG).

During the funny videos, the volunteer's brains showed high levels of gamma waves, the same ones produced during meditation. While viewing the spiritual videos, participants' brains had higher levels of alpha brain waves, similar to when a person is at rest. The distressing video triggered flat brain waves band, found when a person feels detached and unresponsive.

"What we have found in our study is that humor associated with mirthful laughter sustains high-amplitude gamma-band oscillations," said Lee Berk, associate professor in the School of Allied Health Professions and associate research professor of pathology and human anatomy in the School of Medicine, according to PRWeb. "Gamma is the only frequency found in every part of the brain."

Mental Exercise
It's as if the brain is getting a workout, Berk went on, because the gamma wave band synchs with multiple other brain regions at the same 30 to 40 hertz frequency. As a result, people are able to think more clearly and have more integrative thoughts. These findings were presented at the Experimental Biology 2014 conference meetings in San Diego.

We've heard that laughter makes you live longer, and the new research bolsters the open-mouth joy with an exceeding therapeutic benefit. It may help alleviate symptoms from a variety of chronic medical conditions. Laughter may not only be a good antidote for the health of your body, but also for your brain.

Ilchi Lee, an expert of meditation benefits and the president of the International Brain Education Association, said that laughter and meditation are two powerhouses for body-mind health – and neither are too difficult. Reaching the desired state of meditation indeed takes practice, but if you attain it once, you can grasp it time and again. As for laughter, everyone from babies to seniors can enjoy it. However, putting yourself in the right situation where you know you have an opportunity for happiness can foster an environment rich in laughter.

Gamma Waves Throughout the Brain
The EEG monitor, called the B-Alert 10X System, measures and records the power spectral density of all brain wave frequencies from 1 to 40 Hz. When participants were hooked up to the EEG, their brain waves varied drastically while watching the video clips – just as different stimuli in the outside world affects us widely and sends us in various moods. A friend smiling to us may make us feel light hearted, a mother yelling at her son can trigger a sad empathy or comedian during a performance could throw us into a bout of laughter. The more we laugh, the more our gamma waves are activated, and the more we can simulate meditation wherever we go.

By this point, we all know that meditation works wonders for the brain. Not only does it ease brain activity to lower stress, meditation thickens gray mater commonly associated with memory, muscle control and sensory perception. So, on top of meditating throughout the week, you can also partake in some good belly-laughter.

"What this means is that humor actually engages the entire brain – it is a whole brain experience with the gamma wave band frequency and humor, similar to meditation, holds it there; we call this being 'in the zone,'" Berk concluded.

ADHD Linked to Anxiety – Does Meditation Help?

About 30 to 40 percent of children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder experience anxiety,according to the Attnetion Deficiet Disorder Association.

When someone has ADHD, his or her mind wanders without him even realizing it, and makes him struggle to complete tasks. The symptoms can be intrusive in one's schedule, throwing off daily rhythms and can be extremely frustrating for those with the condition. For kids, it might mean not being able to concentrate and failing an exam, and for adults, it could translate into missing a critical deadline at work. This lack of focus brought on by ADD often leads to anxiety.

"People with ADHD, especially when untreated, are more likely to feel overwhelmed and to have more things fall through the cracks which evokes more frequent negative situations – others are angry with them, they feel disappointed in themselves," said Dr. Ari Tuckman, a clinical psychologist and author of More Attention, Less Deficit: Successful Strategies for Adults with ADHD.

These anxiety disorders include obsessive-compulsive disorder, social anxiety, generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorder. What's more, people with ADHD tend to be hyper sensitive to certain stimuli, which can leave them more affected situations and emotions.

Genetics may also provide an answer why ADHD and anxiety co-occur. According to a study published in the National Center for Biotechnology Information, relatives affected with ADHD have a significantly higher risk for OCD compared with relatives unaffected by ADHD, suggesting a co-mingling of these disorders. 

Working the opposite direction, anxiety complicates ADHD. We don't think as clearly when we feel tense or preoccupied, which can add to the ADHD-based distractibility and forgetfulness.

Meditation for Anxiety and ADHD: Two Birds with One Stone?
But besides conventional medicine that has swept the solution aisle, meditation may also provide an outlet to soothe symptoms of both ADHD and anxiety. We know that guided meditation has de-activate the regions of the brain where stress tends to wreak havoc, easing the mind and reducing feeling of anxiousness.

As a master of meditation and an innovative leader in the human brain potential development, Ilchi Lee, suffered from ADHD when he was a child. To combat the disorder and its side effects, he harnessed mind-body meditation, training the brain to return to focus after wandering off. Much like working out, meditation helps strengthen parts of the brain tied to concentration.

Holistic Model for Early Education

There is a growing awareness that children's educations starts long before they enter the classroom. The brain is the most immature of all of the organs at birth, and continues to grow and develop as we age. Much of that brain development occurs before a child turns 5, and research shows that early education experiences can lay the foundation for future learning. Since the early years are so vital, many preschool programs are shifting toward a holistic model that helps children learn social and cognitive skills and form dispositions, such as confidence and a good base in literacy and numeracy.

In Singapore, the Ministry of Education (MOE) has backed a Nurturing Early Learners curriculum developed by educators with experience in early childhood education. The program works closely with preschool and primary school educators to establish a shared understanding about expectations in kindergarten. For kindergarten, kids at this stage need self-confidence, social skills and a foundation in literary. Constructing expectations is helpful so that preschools focus on nurturing children for the next level.

MOE is dedicated to helping children in their personal development, supporting pre-school centers with a suitable kindergarten curriculum. These proper resources can ease the transition to primary or elementary school.

Texas Shift
A comparable trend is happening in Dallas. Now, there are new programs that stress the importance of early education among those who live below the poverty line. As a community, they promote that outside, a child should be surround by similar holistic methods. The need for parent-child communication as a critical part of the education process, as parents are lifelong teachers. 

Effective parent engagement is not complicated. Often, the best way to teach a young child is through simple activities like playing with toys, reading, dancing, singing and talking. All kids learn by exploring their surroundings, as their brains form neuron connections based on their environment. Young children, for instance, learn primarily through play. Physical activity stimulates brain activity in all of us. 

A lot of kindergarten readiness is linked to vocabulary acquisition, meaning child must hear language from birth, and then learn and practice words in context. 

A forward-thinking development in Texas – which many other states can learn from – is the recently passed HB 376, a law requiring a portion of child care subsidy funding in Texas to be allocated toward improving quality of child care providers. Raising the bar among early childhood programs translate to better options for parents, and enhanced opportunities for youngsters.

Ilchi Lee, the president of the International Brain Education Association, agrees that programs should utilize holistic methods for developing children's learning, as the brain is ripe for forming new connections and absorbing information at this age. It is this plasticity of the brain that enable kids to gather ideas, hone skills and start down the path of learning who they will become.

Ilchi Lee's Brain Education System

Ilchi Lee, a New York Times best-selling author and the president of the International Brain Education Association, developed his own Brain Education System for the human mind. The brain, Lee points out, is something not only for scientists to discuss; rather, each individual should establish the authority to understand and manage his or her own brain. After all, to accomplish anything we set our minds to, we must first set our minds.

So, Lee introduced Brain Education to provide individuals with tangible tools to navigate their way down the path of their personal development. Creating the life you want as your greatest masterpiece is the ultimate use of the human brain. It is the birthplace of our behavior, gatekeeper of our memories and training facility to our happiness. To work on the mind-body connection, Brain Education helps us make choices that improve our circumstances. Here's are the five steps of Brain EducationLee's practices:

Step One: Brain Sensitizing
In the first step, practitioners use stretching, breath-training exercises and energetic movement to awaken their primary senses and hone self-awareness of between the brain-to-body connection. The act of doing something and consciously recognizing you're doing it is the key to the basics. Focusing on breathing also improves cardiovascular circulation. 

Step Two: Brain Versatilizing
You may work on touching your toes to improve your body's flexibility. Now it's time to enhance the flexibility of both body and mind. Through careful observation and self-discipline, you can slowly alter behavior to produce healthier, more productive habits. What's crucial in this step is the plasticity, or rewiring the brain's activity. 

Step Three: Brain Refreshing
At this stage, practitioners become acutely aware of the influence of stored emotions and preconception of the quality of their lives. Start to release the memories and ideas that are no longer useful. On a neuroscientic level, this is akin to pruning neurons that your brain does not use. Once you do this, you can face any situation with a clear, fresh mind. Emotional awareness and control not only dispels unproductive thoughts, it enables you to see that creating emotions can be a matter of choice. 

Step Four: Brain Integrating
Incorporate various functional areas of the brain to unleash latent capabilities. This enhances communication between the left and right hemispheres, as well as between the cerebral cortex and subcortical structures. 

Step Five: Brain Mastering
Like everything in life, practice makes perfect. Apply and re-apply the first four steps of Brain Education toward specific, concrete goals. This results in well-grounded foundation for personal development. At the end of the day, the goal is to improve quality of life for you and those around you. In this way, practitioners become the conscious authors of their lives.

Mental Workouts Offer Big Benefits

Just as exercise builds and tones your body, meditation can sculpt the mind, studies suggest. Ilchi Lee, an expert on meditation and the president of the International Brain Education Association, points out that you may think of your brain as a muscle. In this way, getting in mental workouts could be just as important as finishing those dumbbell reps.

To assess specific meditation benefits, researchers at the University of Wisconsin scanned the brains of Tibetan monks, who are well-known champions of mental fitness. Richard Davidson, a neuroscientist at UW, zoomed in on the amygdala, the region associated with emotions and emotional memories. What he found here was a connection between meditation and resilience. His work indicated the more you meditate, the quicker your amygdala recovers from stress. 

A separate MRI study from Harvard University highlighted that meditation also thickens gray matter, which includes regions of the brain involved in memory, muscle control and sensory perception. Researchers found that meditation beginners who took an eight-week course literally had thicker gray matter associated with self-awareness, while the regions associated with stress shrank. 

There are many doors into mindfulness. You can practice mindfulness by concentrating on something, such as your own breath, and bringing your attention back to the point of focus when it begins to wander. Some people choose to hone in on a specific body part, channeling all of their energy into it. 

"When you see you are not your thoughts or your emotions, then you have a whole different palette of ways to be," Jon Kabat-Zinn​, a clinical mindfulness experct at the Unviersity of Massachusetts, told LiveScience.

Cultivating mindfulness can train the mind to work more efficiently, boost concentration and can break harmful cycles, such as those that accompany depression, in which the mind repeats the same negative thoughts. 

Overcoming ADD/ADHD Naturally

If you find yourself struggling to focus, difficulty organizing tasks and constantly acting on impulse instead of thinking through problems, you might be among the thousands of people living with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Certainly, diagnoses for these conditions are higher than ever, as experts learn more about them. The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that 3 to 5 percent of children have ADHD. Though many associate the condition with school-aged children, ADD/ADHD affects a fair share of adults too.

Ilchi Lee, an innovative leader in human brain potential development, overcame his ADD condition many years ago. He did this by realizing the profound interconnectedness in the brain of the determinants of our physical, mental and spiritual health. Learning how to identify the symptoms of ADD and the ways in which to steer your brain back on course is a crucial step to overcoming ADD naturally. 

There's no doubt that life can be a balancing act. But whether you work a 9-to-5 job or are still in school, Lee's effective methods help fight the nagging effects of the disorder. What may appear to some as a lack of will power is in fact a chemical imbalance in the brain.

Establishing brain-body connections helps a wide variety of people face problems one step at time. In a study from Johns Hopkins School of Education, one boy named Jeff showed telltale signs of ADD: inability to focus, hyperactivity and impulsivity. Jeff engaged in five to 10 minutes of brain gym activities every day. During each session, Jeff created his own goal and then did Brain Gym activities to help him achieve each goal. 

After the eight-week Brain Gym program was completed, Jeff had done a complete 180. 

"He is calmer and much more focused," Jeff's mother said in the John Hopkins report. "He does not get bored and frustrated like he used to. He's eager to participate in family activities, like hiking and bicycling. When we have workday, he does more than he needs to do."

Jeff is only one of the people who have benefited from brain-body activities. Learning to reach your full potential is possible without medication – and that goes for adults as well. If you were diagnosed with childhood ADD/ADHD, there's a good chance you've brought at least some of the symptoms into adulthood. On the flip side, even if you were never officially diagnosed with ADD/ADHD, that doesn't rule out the possibility of having it as an adult.

Lee has developed a Brain Education System Training, or BEST 5, that includes brain sensitizing, versatilizing, refreshing, integrating and mastering. In this brain-empowered growth approach, you can improve your brain functioning to help you stay on track. Ilchi Lee's methods help those with ADD/ADHD with their symptoms when combined with medical and lifestyle adjustments, such as spending more time in nature.

Google Science Fair 2014: One Judge Weighs in for Holistic Change

The Google Science Fair, a global online competition open to students from 13- to 18-years-old, is encouraging youth to change the world, one idea at a time. In its fourth year searching for the next generation of great scientists, Google continues to foster outside-the-box thinking to tackle real-life problems.

Thomas Culhane, a National Geographic explorer and one of the judges in the competition, recently weighed in on the forward-thinking contest. The urban planner-slash-teacher has worked with young students for the past four years of Google Science Fairs competitions. He points out that the project finalists are inspirational on several levels, developing fresh, innovate ideas from the ground up. Each student, Culhane notes, is dedicated to solving big-world problems and doesn't let education stop outside the classroom.

"I'm a big picture guy whose greatest joy as a member of the National Geographic Explorers Team has been taking the innovation challenge to work with explorers outside my field and see how we can put the puzzle together to make holistic improvements immeasurably better than what we can do alone," Culhane told National Geographic.

Certainly, reshaping how we view things is a team effort. Ilchi Lee, a dedicated advocate of a peaceful, sustainable world, wholeheartedly agrees with these sentiments. Lee reinforces the holistic education approach as a way to make connections not only to the community, but to the nation and across borders in the world as a whole. The author and mediation advocate adds that to reach our full potential, it all starts with one person, one idea, one thought. To harness that positive energy, Lee has written several books, many of which are on The New York Times Best Sellers list, that lay the framework for individual's potential and powerful identity. 

"We haven't yet offered young people such a challenge, we haven't endorsed the 'permaculture' or 'sustainability' model as a topic with the importance it deserves so as a society we are still getting isolated sparks of genius that don't always mesh with one another comfortably when real world application is attempted," Culhane went on to the source.

It's safe to say that both Culhane and Lee believe in the same goal: A sustainable world. The grand prize of the Google Science Fair includes a National Geographic Expedition to the Galapagos. In June, finalists will be narrowed down to 90 regional finalists. Come August, global finalists will convene at Google Headquarters in California to discover the No. 1 winner. 

Tips for personal success during the holidays

Trying to figure out how you'll make time to get everything done this holiday season? Worried that the pressure and stress might begin to weigh you down? Personal success during the holidays involves some time and effort, but you'll be ready to take on anything with these simple tips.

Limit your engagements
It can seem like everybody you know is having a holiday party during this time of year, which can make it difficult for you to balance these engagements with the rest of your life. While it might be fun to go to each and every event, limit yourself to a handful so you don't get too burnt out.

Keep exercising
It's easy to indulge in holiday desserts and dinners but hard to work off those extra calories. Instead of waiting until New Year's Eve to make a resolution to work out, set aside a half hour or hour every day to exercise. Yoga, running and cycling are all great for a healthy personal success plan.

Plan early
With all the shopping, decorating, traveling and cooking you'll likely be doing during the holidays, it helps to plan out most of it in advance. Try to get as much done early in the season as possible to eliminate last-minute stress.