Substance abuse

Meditation in Business: Mindfulness training can help meditator cut losses

by Andrew Hafenbrack and Zoe Kinias

Practice more than just a passing management fad as it can play role in decision-making and bring changes to emotions and behaviour

Mindfulness meditation is a practice that cultivates awareness of the present moment and clears the mind of other thoughts, often accomplished by non-judgmentally focusing attention on the physical sensations of breathing or other experience as it occurs.

Top-level managers appear to be highly interested in mindfulness at the moment, as evidenced by recent sessions on meditation at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, and a cover story about mindfulness in Time magazine.

Chief executives of major companies such as Ford Motor, Salesforce.com and Tupperware have publicly touted the benefits of meditation. Organisations as varied as Google and the United States military have instituted internal mindfulness-based training programmes for their employees.

Meditation … reduced negative emotion [and] facilitated [the] ability to let go of sunk costs

At Insead – in Singapore and abroad – professors incorporate meditation into executive and MBA courses.

Although there is a risk that some may write off mindfulness as pop psychology or a management fad, it is more than that.

The practice dates back more than 2,000 years to the Pali canon of Theravada Buddhism, and Western clinical psychologists have used secular mindfulness meditation training to effectively combat anxiety and depression for several decades.

There are many articles in academic journals, particularly in the fields of cognitive psychology and neuroscience, that document the benefits of meditation.

Meditating regularly increases how much people habitually focus on the present moment relative to the past and future at times when they are not meditating, a tendency psychologists call trait mindfulness.

Research has linked increased trait mindfulness to increased positive emotions and decreases in several forms of negative emotion, such as rumination, depression, anxiety and anger.

Previous research has also found evidence of other benefits, linking greater trait mindfulness to decreased substance abuse, improved psychological functioning, increased self-control, decreased overconfident gambling, decreased distraction from the task at hand and improved test performance.

Recent research has also found that even a single eight to 15-minute session of focused-breathing mindfulness meditation can cue a brief state of mindfulness, which leads to changes in emotions and behaviour immediately afterwards.

For example, a state of mindfulness has been found to reduce short-term negative emotions, distraction from the task at hand and the impact of negative information on attitudes and persistence.

Illustration: Henry WongOur research team examined the idea that a short state of mindfulness could improve decision-making by helping people cut losses sooner.

In other words, we were interested in whether mindfulness meditation could reduce what economists call the sunk-cost fallacy or the sunk-cost bias, which is the tendency to continue an endeavour after having already invested time, effort or money.

We collaborated with Professor Sigal Barsade from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania on a research article that appeared in the February issue of Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

Our key finding is that mindfulness meditation increased resistance to the sunk-cost bias, and this occurred in a two-step process.

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

Our findings can help managers and businesspeople, because there are so many cases in which the sunk-cost bias can destroy value.

For example, people often hold on to losing investments for too long. Businesses often continue with projects even when the costs increase dramatically or their product is less unique or marketable than it initially appeared.

Governments often continue fighting wars they know they cannot win. Managers can be reluctant to fire massively underperforming employees who they hired with great expectations.

In all of these cases, resources are wasted that could have been used more productively in another endeavour, whether that is a more promising investment or project, peacekeeping efforts, or a new hire who is a better fit for the organisation.

Our advice is that when people need to make decisions about whether to change course, that is a great moment to step back, clear one’s mind by meditating, and approach the decision again.

A potentially helpful question to ask oneself is: “Would I continue this endeavour because I truly think it is the best decision in light of all available evidence or because I am reluctant to let go after having invested so much?” As to how to briefly meditate, there are many excellent free recorded meditations available online, such as those from freemindfulness.org

There are also meditation classes and trainers in all major cities and excellent books on the subject by Thich Nhat Hanh and Jon Kabat-Zinn.

More broadly, our findings suggest that even people with little experience meditating can use mindfulness meditation in small doses at times when they need it, such as when experiencing excessive negative emotions or stress, or when thinking too much about the past or future.

For these reasons, mindfulness should be more than a passing fad, and instead a tool people keep at their disposal for use when it can be helpful.

People and corporations should seriously consider the role mindfulness meditation can play in mental and emotional well-being, task performance and decision-making.

Andrew Hafenbrack is a doctoral candidate in organisational behaviour and Zoe Kinias an assistant professor of organisational behaviour at Insead.

Tommy Rosen: Recovery 2.0: Yoga and Meditation for People in Recovery From Addiction

Addiction is a disease of “lack.” At the core level, we feel something is missing and we set out to try to fill the void through a set of behaviors that leave us further depleted. We damage the systems of our body and sap ourselves of “life force.” Our endocrine system gets taxed. Our nervous system is overworked. We live in nearly constant fight or flight, bringing on the horrible consequences of stress.

In my opinion, the 12 steps provide a wonderful path to overcome acute addiction. They work almost always, I think, if you put your energy and focus into them. The great promise they delivered to me was that the desire to do drugs and alcohol was removed altogether. That’s a HUGE statement, a miracle really. Yet, there are three important things that the 12 steps do not address: body, breath and diet. Interestingly, these three things are the irreplaceable building blocks, the essential amino acids if you will, for a stronger recovery and a more successful, enjoyable life.

Think of recovery as a multi-tiered process in which different people need different things at different times. If a person is mired in acute addiction to any of the big five — drugs, alcohol, food, sex or money — then that must be dealt with first. That is where Recovery 1.0 or the 12 steps come in. A person has to detoxify first. One must have a community to support the epic and imminent transformation that takes place in early recovery. After some time, and this varies from person to person, one’s energy and “frequency” rises up and permits the practice of yoga, breath work and meditation. This is where Recovery 2.0 comes in. This is a great benchmark on the path of recovery, and if taken with intention, awareness and proper guidance from a mentor or teacher, one has the opportunity to make a lot of progress.

I do not feel that yoga and meditation are optional for people in recovery. Life will simply be better with practice than without it. Of course, one can stay sober without yoga and meditation. It’s just that if you want to lift yourself up out of the energy of addiction and break through to a new level of strength and awareness, one will have to adopt a practice that continues the detoxification process on a much deeper level.

I learned the hard way what it means to be sober while still stuck in the energy of addiction. I had put the drugs and alcohol down, but other addictions, stresses and dis-ease plagued me for many years into my recovery. It was not until I found Kundalini Yoga and gained a deeper understanding of Vinyasa that I began to re-claim my self and break through the force field of addiction perhaps for the first time in my life.

Here I am now 11 years later. I teach people in recovery how to apply these tools to their lives so that they, too, can experience the freedom that was given to me by my teacher, Guru Prem, and these amazing practices he shared with me.

On Thursdays at 7:30 p.m. at Golden Bridge Yoga in Santa Monica, I teach Yoga and Recovery. We do one hour of yoga and then circle up to have a one-hour 12-step meeting where everyone is welcome. We will see more and more of this I feel, as people realize the tremendous benefit of yoga as a cornerstone of one’s recovery path.

if you or anyone you know has been touched by addiction and are interested in exploring what Recovery 2.0 has to offer, connect with me here.

Please leave comments here below so we can be more connected. I would love to have a better sense of who you are and what your recovery journey is like.

With Love and Gratitude,

Tommy Rosen

I just released the first two titles in the Recovery 2.0 DVD series to help people who struggle with addiction of all kinds. These first two Recovery 2.0 DVDs bring together some of my most cherished yoga sets and meditations. There is an amazing soundtrack featuring the uplifting music of Aykanna and Earthrise Soundsystem. These practices are accessible to most people who have detoxed off of drugs and alcohol. They have made a huge difference in my life and I hope they will for you, too.

Need help with substance abuse or mental health issues? In the U.S., call 800-662-HELP (4357) for the SAMHSA National Helpline.

via Tommy Rosen: Recovery 2.0: Yoga and Meditation for People in Recovery From Addiction.