Are you skeptical about the wonders of meditation? Does it seem like a mystery because of its religious origins and spiritual aura? Meditation may seem like just another self-help trend that is going viral.

But, if you think all meditation requires you is to sit cross-legged across a water body and align your chakras, be aware that taking a few deep breaths before a big meeting is also a form of meditation. Many top entrepreneurs have incorporated this practice into their daily lives and swear by its benefits for stress reduction to better concentration.

Meditation doesn’t require only spirituality to sell itself. There is countless scientific research that supports the fact that meditation has real and positive effects on the human brain. The benefits of meditation are so strong that they can actually be seen on brain scans. In fact, a blogger, Alice Walton, wrote a complete article on Forbes on how meditation physically alters your brain.

If you want to learn more about the measurable biological effects of mindfulness meditation, keep reading. Today, we are going to take a look at some of the ways in which meditation can alter your brain for the better:

1. Helps reverse the aging process

If you meditate regularly, research shows that there will be larger amounts of gray matter in your brain’s hippocampus and frontal areas.

You must be wondering what this gray matter is. Well, it is associated with positive emotions, emotional stability, and increased focus throughout the day. Gray matter is also responsible for better cognitive function and executive decision-making.

So, if you assume Alzheimer’s is genetic, and there is no way to way to save yourself from this mental disease as you age, think again. Meditation prevents our cortex from shrinking, thus, making it easier to remember and figure out things. In fact, according to research by a neuroscientist at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, 50- year olds who meditate had the same amount of gray matter in their brain as 25- year old.

2. Helps manage stress and depression

According to researchers at Johns Hopkins, anti-depressants are not the only solution for anxiety, pain, and depression. Mindfulness meditation can be as effective as medication.

Meditation is an active brain training exercise that lets you connect with your inner self and helps manage symptoms of depression in a more proactive way. Another research involved three groups of HR managers. One team was given meditation training, another was taking body relaxation sessions and the third was given no training at all. In the final test, the first group which received mindful meditation training excelled at keeping stress levels under control, as compared to the other two groups.

But, it is important to understand that meditation is not a magic bullet that will instantly make you a cheerful person. It requires a lot of patience and consistency to use meditation as a tool that can help you cope with stressful situations in a better way.

3. Increases focus

Concentration problems are prevalent among the young and old alike. Interestingly, meditation helps in improving one’s attention and concentration span. According to research, just a few weeks of meditation training helped in redirecting the lost focus of students who were preparing for the GRE exams. In fact, it helped them achieve better scores.

Since meditation is all about taking control of your focus and directing it towards a certain aim, it is not surprising to see meditators excel in other fields of life too.

4. Helps in overcoming addiction

As discussed in the point above, meditation requires you to be in control of various regions of the brain. This is why it can be very effective for people who are battling addiction problems. In fact, research proves meditation to be helpful for people who are trying to quit smoking. Another study by the American Lung Association found out that people who learned to control their cravings through meditation were more likely to quit smoking as compared to their counterparts.

Mindful meditation makes it easy for people to manage their cravings and enables them to ride out the immense desire until it passes away successfully.

Conclusion

If you think that meditation cannot be incorporated into your busy schedule, you need to rethink. According to research, simple meditation can have visible effects on your brain within a short time span of only eight weeks.

Meditation is just like exercise for the brain. Much like daily physical exercise, it promotes mental health, helps in handling stress, and promotes longevity. But, it is not a standalone tool to cure everything. If you are consistent in your efforts and take care of your body, mind, and soul simultaneously, you will notice a profound change in yourself.

How has mindfulness and meditation helped you become a better version of yourself? Leave your comments below and enlighten us.

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6 Most Useful Skills Every Entrepreneur Needs

Starting a business – and being successful at it – requires the right amount of talent, knowledge and skills. You must have the knowledge about your industry, about general business principles, as well as about the laws and regulations that affect your operation.

Additionally, you must have nerves of steel and a heavy dose of patience to take chances and navigate the ups and downs that come with any new venture.

Although success often requires you to have ambition and clear goals, it also requires a certain set of personal skills. Here you will read about six useful skills that entrepreneurs need on their way to success.

1. Ability to listen

Great communicators make great businesspeople. In the business world, you must establish rapport with partners and suppliers. You also need to be there for your employees.

Of course, in order to succeed, you need to commit to customer service excellence, which involves hearing what your customers have to say. All these types of interaction involve one common skill – the ability to listen.

Without the capacity to interact with other people, you will have difficulty getting your new business off the ground. If you have little practice with interpersonal relationships, don’t lose hope.

By learning how to listen, you take one of the best shortcuts available on the path to becoming a great communicator.

When people have something to say, never interrupt them. People often have feelings, opinions, and interests that differ from yours, but if you learn to hear them out, you can quickly win people over.

As you listen attentively, notice the non-verbal cues that contribute to the conversation. When you intentionally communicate with customers and other people through listening, you gain their trust, loyalty, and admiration.

2. Assertiveness and confidence

Though listening skills are undeniably important, that doesn’t mean you have to keep quiet. Quite the contrary, being a good businessperson implies believing in yourself and being able to speak your mind with confidence. After all, communication goes two ways.

As an aspiring entrepreneur, you will often find yourself in situations that require assertiveness. Whether you are dealing with a pushy business partner or a demanding employee, you should never let others dictate your actions.

So, when you need to express your opinion – even if it includes disagreeing with the other party – try to do it assertively and confidently.

Take a deep breath, and articulate your thoughts. Sometimes it might seem overwhelming, as if you are on the verge of a conflict, but eventually you will learn to relax and project self-assurance. You will also gain the trust and respect of those around you.

3. Willingness to Learn

Being a businessperson requires an ongoing willingness to learn. Even after building a successful business, you have not finished your job. In fact, when it comes to learning and improving, you are never quite finished.

Continuous learning will help you evolve both personally and professionally. An insatiable appetite for learning through the Internet, books, documentaries, and seminars will deepen your knowledge and help you maintain your creative edge.

You should also remember to stay up-to-date with all the relevant development in your industry. Pay attention to trends and issues that affect your line of business and learn from the people who have already succeeded in businesses similar to yours.

Talk to industry leaders to get their advice, and apply their insight to your own business. Whatever you do, make learning an ongoing process both in your personal and professional life.

4. Creativity 

When it comes to keeping your business fresh and competitive, creativity is an essential skill. To innovate, you need to be creative. Being creative means doing things differently and thinking not only outside the box but also without that box!

This goes for both your personal life and business. In fact, those two are interconnected – when you spark creativity in your personal life, it will inevitably reflect on your business. So, what can you do?

What you can do is shake up your routine by trying new ways of doing things. Even small changes such as rearranging your office, driving home via a new route, ordering an unusual meal and talking to strangers can help you develop habits that can lead to innovation.

You should also attempt to think about things from new perspectives and apply new ways of solving problems. A little bit of creativity can go a long way in terms of your business growth, so do everything you can not to stifle it with convention and routine.

5. Courage and risk taking 

Entrepreneurs take risks, and you will surely find yourself in situations that require quick and risky decision making. You should never act recklessly, but you should always have the courage to try new ideas and to take little risks. If you don’t try, you will not succeed – it is that simple.

People are often held back by the fear of failure. Rather than fearing failure, embrace it. Sometimes the best experiences in business come from ideas that didn’t work.

Follow your creativity by implementing new ideas and making bold decisions even when you lack clear direction. As an entrepreneur, you should have the guts to take chances and have faith. As John Burroughs once said, “Leap, and the net will appear.”

6. Perseverance 

Last but not least, entrepreneurs must never give up. Remember this – never give up! There will be numerous obstacles and challenges along your way, but if you persevere in spite of them, you will reap success.

Sometimes this means having to accept failure. Even when your failures are expensive and embarrassing, they can still lead to success. Forgive yourself when you make mistakes and look for lessons you can learn from every seemingly negative experience.

As a business owner, you must also develop patience. Success usually does not come overnight, and setbacks do not magically resolve themselves. In the face of adversity, maintain optimism. When you believe in yourself and persevere, you become a prime candidate for success.

Difficulties along the road to entrepreneurial success can seem discouraging. However, if you regard every situation as a learning experience, you can develop the much needed personal skills that will help you build a successful business when you combine them with your expert knowledge.

Begin with the six useful skills listed here, and look for other tips for personal and professional growth along your pathway to success. Most importantly, remember to always improve and challenge yourself – there is no success for those who stand still.

Author bio: Natalie Smith, a freelance writer from Seattle, follows topics related to entrepreneurship, leadership, marketing, social media, and business in general. You can reach her @Natalie Smith

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