There has been an incredible amount of research on the power of habits and what keeps habits glued in place. Science has proven that neural pathways in the brain are formed and strengthened when we practice something over and over again, becoming habits. These ‘habit pathways’ have powerful control on our daily interactions, activities, behaviors and reactions. Whether it’s angry reactions, impatience, jealousy, a negative mind, eating – or not eating – certain foods at certain times, emotional eating, not exercising, smoking – okay, you get it – whatever the emotional, physical, or cognitive habits that we have developed are wired in our brain to become a packaged response.
Science has also demonstrated that it is possible to change packaged responses. It is not easy, requiring intention and practice – especially since some of the packaged responses have been established since childhood. These are often automatic, unconscious behaviors, patterns, or reactions that are wired in our brain. The habits are learned and some are helpful in conserving energy and time to perform mundane tasks such as brushing our teeth, tying our shoes, driving a car, frequent tasks at work, riding a bike, or playing an instrument. The thing is, some learned responses are NOT helpful and need to be changed in order to be a better person, a better leader, and to enhance well-being.
It takes time, intention, patience, and practice, but neuropathways are not permanent or hardwired. The pathways have plasticity – the term is neuroplasticity – so can be changed or rewired, regardless of the habit or packaged response. The response can be ‘unpackaged’ for a new, more positive behavior or response. This requires mindful meditation.
This type of mindfulness practice has been defined as paying attention on purpose,
with self compassion and curiosity, to the present in both body and mind. This type of practice and self-awareness is needed to interrupt automatic behaviors. It takes effort, intention, and practice, but the results are often – if not always – transformative.
Some of the benefits of mindful meditation – working on our inner compass – are,
- Experience less anxiety
- Ability to handle and respond to stressful situations – not just react
- Control emotions such as anger, impatience, jealousy…
- Enhance positive thinking instead of negativity
- Recognize and stop distorted thinking (don’t believe everything you think!)
- Increase compassion and empathy
- Reduce pain
- Boost immune function
- Improve memory, focus, and decision-making
- Change desired behaviors to quit smoking, eat more healthily, etc.
- Experience more positive relationships
- Decrease our inner critic
- Enrich overall well-being
So, is learning and practicing meditation worth the effort? Many believe so and experience demonstrates it. Meditation initiatives are a positive addition for wellness programs and leadership development. We’d like to hear about your experience, please let us know. Or let us know if you are interested in learning more.