This is Your Brain on Meditation. Any Questions?

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The human brain is an incredible thing. It has tons of memory capacity, can multitask with the best of ‘em, and has the power to transform the way people see the world.

Smartphones are great and all, but technology ain’t got nothin’ on your brain!

However, just because your head is packed with a well-oiled cerebral machine, doesn’t mean it won’t need a little jumpstart every now and then. That’s where meditation comes in. During and after meditation you probably notice a difference in how you feel. But do you know what’s happening in your head to make you feel that strong and clear?

Allow us (and science) to explain.

Reduced stress and anxiety.

Researchers affiliated with Harvard University found that people who meditated for just eight weeks were able to quiet the amygdala, the part of the brain that triggers fear. A study led by the smart cookies at Harvard also found that meditation led to decreased gray matter density in the amygdala, and that participants reported reductions in stress. Proof that meditation will help you stay sane next time your mother-in-law shows up for an unannounced visit.

Increased concentration and focus.

In a recent study, Harvard researchers found that meditation can literally change your brain, including the part associated with attention. A study team at Texas Tech University also found that after just 11 hours of meditation, participants had structural changes in the part of the brain tied to focus. See, shutting off your brain for a little bit actually makes it run better. If only you could go back and use that line with your 6th grade teacher!

Increased compassion and empathy.

More Harvard researchers again, this time they found that MRI scans of meditators showed a major increase in gray matter density in the hippocampus, the part of the brain associated with self-awareness, compassion, and empathy. Further to that point, some brainiacs in Sweden discovered that meditation is accompanied by activation in brain areas involved with empathy as well as with happy and pleasant feelings. So, meditation thus far makes you calmer, more efficient, and happier. Meditators: 3. Everyone else: 0.

Improved performance and productivity.

Switchin’ it up here with a UCLA study that found meditators showed significantly larger volumes of the right hippocampus, which accounts for a meditator’s ability to cultivate positive emotions and retain emotional stability. Get this: Brain scans of meditators show a shift in activation and gray matter density from the areas of the brain associated with negative emotions like stress, anxiety, and dissatisfaction to the areas associated with positive emotions like happiness and contentment.

Well, according to this research from some of the top medical schools around the world, meditation makes people less stressed, more focused, happy, and productive. Can your phone do that for you?

6 Life Lessons to Rock Your World

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Life comes with lessons. Some we learn the hard way (Miami in July, a newfound appreciation for SPF) and some we just try hard to remember (seriously, does anyone actually cut the tags off their pillows?). Every situation provides it’s own kind of lesson, and at Journey, we’ve got a few words of wisdom to help you better navigate the wild and crazy ride that is life.

Life is about the journey, not just the destination.

C’mon, you know we had to lead with this. Our name is Journey Meditation, after all. But this is about more than us, it’s about your life experience. It’s easy to get caught up in the get-’er-done/hustle so hard mindset, but when all you do is focus on the end result, you miss out on the good stuff: life.

Make yourself a priority.

Between your best friend’s existential crisis  and your dog’s need to keep peeing on your living room floor, it can feel like there’s little time for li’l ol’ you. You already know all the reasons why it’s important to make yourself a priority (your own physical health, mental well-being, and emotional balance), and the better you take care of yourself the better you’ll be able to serve others.

Appreciate the little things in life.

It’s easy to cram a lot into a day and lose sight of the moments that make it up. Like the big smile you always get from the guy who sells coffee to the compliment on your new haircut from Jessica in accounting. It’s the small stuff that makes the big stuff so meaningful, and the only way to truly appreciate major life events---like getting married, becoming partner, or traveling on your dream vacation---is to appreciate life’s little things.

Find your purpose and take action.

Everyone’s life has meaning, and it’s up to each of us to find it. Your purpose may be to make America laugh, throw the fastest curveball or find a cure for malaria. Or it may be to become a father or neighborhood leader. Our lives are part of an interdependent ecosystem where each of us has a role. You know what they say, no small parts, only small actors, and it’s true. Look within and consider what your purpose is, then go after it with all you’ve got.

Be kind to yourself and others.

Do we really need to explain this one? Yeah, didn’t think so.

Make the world a better place.

That’s all it takes to make the world a better place -- doing something positive for another person. You don’t need Bill Gates money or Nobel Peace Prize power to affect change in the world, all you need is the willingness to give and the commitment to do good. Hug your grandma, pick up trash, help a kid learn how to read. You’ll be amazed at how much better the world will start to look.

How to Meditate Your Way to a Better Night’s Sleep

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Why is it that when you’re extra tired after a long, hard day at the office, lying in bed ready to drift off to *ahhh* dreamland, you can’t fall asleep? Instead, you’re stuck with random thoughts on repeat.

Blame it on the monkey mind.

Now that you know what causes this endless internal dialogue, how do you fix it? That’s where we come in.

Here’s some handy advice on meditating your way to a better night’s sleep (no extra sheep needed).

  • 20 minutes before you’re ready to hit the sack, turn off your devices and get ready to unwind. Read a few lines out of a book, listen to a soothing song, or just sit and enjoy a warm cup of tea

  • Once you’re in your bed, ready to catch a few winks, focus on something calming: an ‘om’ sound, your breath, or a mantra (“I will bring bellbottoms back, I will bring bellbottoms back”)

  • Let your body sink into your bed. Keep your focus on your calming sound or thought while your body disconnects from your mind

  • As sleep overtakes you, don’t fight. Allow yourself to naturally release that calming thought or sound so the power of slumber can envelope you

Repeat this practice however many times you need until you drift off. This quick process can also help you when you shoot out of bed at 2AM because of a wild dream or buzzing cell phone. The more you practice, the easier you’ll find it is to fall and stay asleep. *Ahhh*

A World Distracted: How to Find Focus Today

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There’s no denying it: Technology has transformed our lives in incredible ways. It’s made information accessible, remote communication possible, and business more seamless than ever before. It has also created some challenges.

Research has shown that our attention spans have gotten shorter and our ability to store information in long-term memory has been reduced. In fact, a Microsoft study states that North American attention spans fell from 12 seconds in 2000 to 8 seconds in 2015. Constant streams of text messages, emails, Tweets, Snaps, and news feeds have taken their toll on us.

Because meditation focuses the mind away from these distractions, it helps to strengthen people’s ability to pay attention. Meditation can help improve focus and memory, which allows people to be more productive at work. It also helps people stay present and in the moment, which leads to a greater sense of fulfillment.

Employers are discovering the profound connection between individual happiness and corporate success. The Journey practice is designed to give everyone the tools they need to manage stress and become more productive.

Stress Less with This Simple, Easy Meditation

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Before you begin, find a comfortable position---seated in a chair, cross-legged, lying on your back---and a quiet-ish space (yes, your office bathroom stall counts).

Start by focusing on your breath.

We use the breath because it’s always with us, so we can do this anytime and anywhere. Focusing on your breath makes focusing your attention easier. Try it now.

Don’t worry if your mind wanders.

If you find yourself thinking about tonight’s cycling class or tomorrow’s deadline, don’t beat yourself up about it. Let the thoughts enter your mind then quietly leave. Don’t focus on them, but don’t try to force them away.

Gently return your focus to your breath.

Keep it going: Breathe and stay focused on that breath. Allow your mind and body to center, and then calmly, silently do it all again.

You can keep this practice going for one to 30 minutes, depending on your level of stress or need for balance. Next time you find yourself overwhelmed with all that life throws your way, return to this simple, daily meditation and find peace within.

The True Cost of Stress

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Why do people become stressed? For so many, feeling “stressed out” is a sign of caring, working hard, and being a good employee.

But did you know that employee stress is one of the single greatest sources of lost revenue for businesses?

In David Gelles’ book, Mindful Work: How Meditation is Changing Business from the Inside Out, he describes how highly stressed workers are less productive and incur more health care costs than their less-stressed colleagues. According to the World Health Organization, stress costs American businesses as much as $300 billion per year.

What could your company do with all that extra money?

More importantly, how productive would your employees be without all that stress?

Meditation has been practiced for thousands of years by millions of people looking to relax, find balance, and feel calm. Stress has mental and physical manifestations -- it can lead to depression and anxiety that affects both the mind and body. Because meditation strengthens the connection between the head and the heart, the physical and the mental, it is a simple, accessible way to reduce stress.

Journey helps people focus their attention and clear their minds. Just a few minutes a day can make a big difference for body, mind, and business.

Training the Monkey Mind: Tips for Worrying Less and Doing More

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Think about all you think about in a day -- it’s a lot!

In fact, the renowned Cleveland Clinic says that the average person has over 60,000 thoughts in just one day.

That’s the Monkey Mind. Sound familiar?

We all go through it: thinking too much and feeling like we’re not doing enough. But the real question is, how do we change it?

The most important thing to remember is that mindfulness is a daily practice. It’s about more than flipping a switch and paying attention, it’s about being present, open, and aware.

Thankfully, we’ve got a few easy, everyday tips to help you clear your head and train that monkey mind.

1. Listen to What You’ve Got to Say

If a friend is asking for help, you’d probably ask what’s wrong. Well, you should do the same anytime you find yourself caught in a downward spiral of internal chatter. Listen to your thoughts and respond in practical ways. Jot down a few notes, check your schedule for upcoming to-dos, or create a plan of action for outstanding projects. The more you listen, the less you’ll have to scream.

2. Meditate

Now, that said, just because your mind talks doesn’t mean you always have to listen. Meditation is a simple, accessible way for you to become more familiar with you. Find a quiet place where you can sit still for five minutes. Plant your feet, close your eyes, and focus on your breath. As powerful thoughts come to your head -- like why was Smurfette the only female in the Smurf village or how many licks does to take to get to the center of a Tootsie Roll Pop?  -- allow them to announce themselves then move on, never staying long enough to be explored.

3. Do Something

The best way to do more is to, well, do more! Like idle hands, an idle mind can lead to mischief. Turn off autopilot and get out of your head all in one go. Physical exercise, creative projects, and a good book are just some of the ways you can tame your overthinking. Find out what activities excite you and make a point to include them regularly in your schedule. The sooner you start training your monkey mind, the better it will perform.

Better Business through Better Relationships: How Meditation Helps People Understand Themselves and Each Other

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FACT: Meditation improves relationships because it gives people a better ability to understand themselves and others.

We read people’s emotions everyday, often incorrectly: how many times have you mistaken a frown for a sign of disapproval rather than an indication of stress? All too often people project their own fears and insecurities onto others, and in the workplace, that can lead to strained relationships and an imbalanced culture. And nobody wants that -- not employees, not employers.

Seeing others clearly is a key component in positive relationships. A study at Emory University found that meditation makes subjects more equipped to read the emotions on other people’s faces (a handy little trick when navigating the very personal world of business). Furthermore, a study in the Journal of Psychological Science suggested that mindfulness helps us see ourselves more objectively, too.

Yeah, meditation is powerful.

And Journey Meditation is uniquely designed to help every individual see themselves more clearly so they can see the world as it truly is: awesome.

Is There Power in Your Purpose? How to Bring More Meaning to Your Everyday

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1. Find your tribe and love the heck outta them.

Life is grand when you’ve got friends to go through it with? Somehow, with just a couple of trusty mates to confide in, lean on, complain to, and depend on, a bad date turns into a hilarious story, a scary new thing becomes your new favorite thing, and life starts to feel like it really makes sense. When you have people to share experiences with you’re more open to everyday opportunities, and to understanding how impactful your own love, trust, and loyalty can really be. Good friends will help keep you grounded.

2. Lend a helping hand.

No matter where you live, you’re part of a community -- an apartment building, a neighborhood, a school, a company. The more involved you become in your communities, the more empowered you’ll feel about your direction in life. Get out and help your fellow man, woman, neighbor, or colleague. Not only will you be supporting another person---which will always leave you feeling warm and fuzzy---you’ll be putting your own skills to the test and seeing just how purposeful you really are.

3. Stop worrying about things.

Remember when you were nothing without LA Gear light-up sneakers, Carrie Bradshaw’s Fendi Baguette or iPhone whatever or… The point is, things come and go (and come and go again and again). If you attach your happiness to a ‘thing,’ whether that’s a piece of fashion or a piece of technology, you’ll never find real fulfillment in the real world. Focus on valuable relationships and rich experiences instead of material things.

4. Prioritize what’s important.

You don’t have to know who you want to be when you grow up---*gulp* we’re still figuring that one out---to know what’s important to you right now. For some people it’s traveling the world, for others it’s building a home. Whatever it is you love---from cooking to gardening to singing karaoke realllly out of tune---make it a priority in your life. This way you’ll not only enjoy yourself but work towards honing a craft (yes, destroying the chorus to “Don’t Stop Believing” is a craft -- you heard it here first).

5. Be you!

Cliches aside, this is the best advice we can give for helping you feel powerful, purposeful, and meaningful in your everyday life. Authenticity is super-important to us and it should be to you. Being true to yourself is the fastest, easiest way to feel like you’re bringing value to the world. After all, there’s nobody out there like you. There’s a lot of meaning in that distinction: the you-ness of you. Don’t ever lose sight of that, and don’t ever forget to celebrate it.

Creating Space and Possibility: Response v. Reaction

We all do it all the time: react without thinking. It’s instinctive, and it can be really harmful in a close-knit environment like an fast-paced office.

How many times have you reacted in a way you later regretted?

All too often we let our ego and bodily sensations take over. Meditation slows people down (in a good way!), creating space for each individual to choose a response instead of engaging in an instinctive reaction.

With these tools in place, your employees won’t feel bound to the typical rollercoaster of emotions next time there’s a creative disagreement or HR emergency. Instead, they’ll be able to assess the situation with a clear head, problem-solving for a positive result versus wading in waters of fear.

When people respond to events they stay in their power, when they react they give that power away.

Journey Meditation is here to make your team stronger, happier, and more powerful.

3 Ways Meditation Can Improve Your Life Right Now (Yes, Right Now!)

When you think about it, 15 minutes a day isn’t a lot of time (that’s what we recommend for your daily Journey practice). In fact, 15 minutes is only 1% of your day. So how can it make such a big difference? Remember, big waves are generated by small ripples.

If you’re wondering what meditation has done, or could do, for you lately, look no further than these five benefits.

1.  Better communication with your loved ones and colleagues.

Next time your boss asks for the presentation a day earlier, meditation will be there to keep you calm and centered in the face of an all-nighter. With a meditation practice you can problem-solve like a rock star without losing precious time to stress and confusion. A quick, simple breathing exercise will clear your mind and open up your communication pathways.

2. More go with the flow.

We’ve all been there: the hotel lost your reservation or bad weather rained out your show. Life doesn’t always go according to plan, but it’s how you deal with the ups and downs that define who you are. Meditation provides you with the tools you need to stay balanced and flexible in situations that would otherwise drive you crazy.

3. Reconnect you with you.

In high school it felt like the clock moved backwards, like the end of 5th period would never come and you’d be trapped in an Algebra 2 black hole forever. But now that you’re an adult it’s like there aren’t enough hours in the day. Weeks, months, years fly by, and in the midst of it all you’ve got conference calls, boozy brunches and your mother nagging you about when you’ll finally settle down. But where are you in all of that chaos? Meditation not only helps you find yourself but it guides you to reconnect with your inner wants, desires, and values, whether time is standing still or flying by.

5 Ways Meditation Can Help Your Employees and Boost Your Bottom Line (Right Now!)

The benefits of meditation are incredible when it comes to physical, mental, and emotional health.

According to the US Chamber of Commerce, the top two chronic health conditions driving health-related costs for employers are depression and obesity. Add to that their finding that 60% of employers who offer workplace wellness said the programs reduced their corporate health care costs and the case for meditation in the office becomes even stronger.

Learn about five ways meditation can help your employees and boost your bottom line right now.

More clarity and focus.

In a study led by Harvard researchers, MRI scans showed that meditation decreased gray matter density in the amygdala, the part of the brain that deals with stress and anxiety, and participants reported significant reductions in stress. Another study from University of California Santa Barbara found that undergraduates who took a two-week meditation class revealed marked reductions in mind-wandering (ya know, where your head goes when the clock strikes 4:00 pm). Less stress equals more clarity, it’s as simple as that.

Increased employee loyalty.

Because meditation helps employees feel less stressed, it reduces working hours lost to anxiety, indecision, and self-doubt. Because of this, employees are likely to feel happier and more satisfied with their jobs and lives. If an employer is the one to put this positive cycle into place it won’t go unnoticed. Employees reinvest when they’ve been invested in, and the best way to show your support for your employees’ lives is by genuinely committing to their overall well-being.

Improved communication.

Leave it to Harvard to confirm that people who are stressed out have a harder time organizing their thoughts. In today’s hyper-collaborative professional world, poor communication can be more than an annoyance -- it can be a deal-breaker. Meditation helps employees sort through their heads to identify important ideas from nagging worries. It’s not just about ignoring certain thoughts, it’s about having the tools necessary to acknowledge them and quietly, purposefully move on.

Decreased absenteeism due to illness.

Research from the University of Paris Descartes states that the benefits of physical activity and exercise are enhanced with a meditation practice. There is a direct correlation between what’s happening in the mind and what’s going on in the body, and the sooner people can see and foster that connection, the happier and healthier (and more productive) they’ll be. What does this mean for you as an employer? Less money lost to sick days and spent on health care.

Increased productivity.

People who meditate are more open to handling difficult situations, whether that’s a hectic home life, a day of back-to-back meetings, or a brainstorming session to develop the next big thing. Productivity takes a hit when employees are stuck worrying. Stress creates patterns that lead to isolation and inefficiency, but meditation can help break through all of that. A quick, simple meditation helps employees find calm and balance even in the most chaotic circumstances.

Think about it: What can a little meditation do for your team, your company, and your annual goals?

5 Common Misconceptions About Meditation (What Do You Believe?)

When you hear the word ‘meditation,’ what do you think of?

A tunic-wearing dude with a man-bun sitting peacefully on a hill in some far-off land?

A tall and trim blonde in designer gear with a $13 green juice in-hand?

Things that are new and different often seem strange and unwelcoming. But what if you put your preconceived notions to the side and opened yourself up to opportunity? You do it every time you forgive a friend or try a new food (remember when you thought you hated Brussel sprouts?). So why not do it with a powerful practice that can transform your mind, body, and spirit? (Yeah, it’s that good!)

There are a lot of misconceptions about meditation. Here are five of the most common.

1. Meditation is hard to do.

Got yourself? Check. Got a couple minutes? Then you’re ready to meditate! That’s right, all you need is yourself and a little time. Forget exotic lands, beachside cliffs and veggie drinks that cost half your rent. Meditation is about you, not your outfit, location or social status. So long as you’ve got you, you’ve got the skills to meditate.

2. Meditation is a religious practice.

Sure, there are people who use meditation to deepen their religious or spiritual commitments, however, many techniques (including our Journey Meditation practice) are non-denominational. Practicing meditation won’t make you a Buddhist, Scientologist or anything else, but it will give you clarity on who you do want to become as a person in this world.

3. It takes years to see results.

Meditation isn’t like preparing for the Olympics: it doesn’t take years of work to get in shape. Your mind is flexible, like a rubberband, and it responds quickly to mental workouts. Just one five-minute meditation practice can help you feel calmer, grounded, and more focused. If just a few minutes can do all of that, imagine the benefits of meditating everyday!

4. Meditation takes too much time.

A little bit of meditation can go a long way. If you don’t have 20 minutes, 15 will do just fine. If you don’t have 15 minutes, try getting in a quick ten. And if that’s still too much, take five minutes at the beginning or end of your day to just sit with yourself. Try this simple, easy Journey meditation, which only takes ten minutes, and see what you can accomplish in the time it takes to make your bed. [LINK TO A MEDITATION]

5. Meditation is the same as relaxing.

Meditation is an active practice. When you relax you turn off your mind, but when you meditate you focus your mind, typically on your breath. Meditation is a great way to tame those endless thoughts [LINK TO TRAINING THE MONKEY MIND]---like why does my dad still nag me about becoming a lawyer or how many times is my boss going to use the word ‘literally’ in today’s meeting---and that requires more effort than just hanging out.

Are there any meditation myths you believe? Tell us what you think in the comments below!

How Can A Company Cultivate Positive Employee Health? Enter: Meditation

Consider how much your company spends on health care and insurance every year. What if you could minimize those costs while deepening your commitment to every member of your team?

The benefits of meditation are multilayered, ranging from increased focus and elevated levels of productivity to positive emotions and a greater sense of well-being.

And they extend to nutrition. A literature review from UCLA found that people who meditate are more apt to make healthier, life-supporting decisions surrounding nutrition and eating. What that means for your employees is that meditation makes healthy living easier. What that means for your bottom line is that meditation helps to minimize health care and insurance costs. A win-win if we’ve ever seen one.

Maybe you already give your employees a gym membership or free training sessions, but how good are those physical interventions if the mind still needs adjustment? Research from the University of Paris Descartes states that the benefits of physical activity and exercise are enhanced with a meditation practice. There is a direct correlation between what’s happening in the mind and what’s going on in the body, and the sooner people can see and foster that connection, the happier and healthier (and more productive) they’ll be. 

Research also shows that meditation has a positive effect on our daily health behaviors. A study from UCLA shows that individuals who meditate sleep better at night. And what does longer, stronger sleep lead to? A happier, healthier person, someone excited by and committed to making the most of their everyday. (Don’t believe us? See what HuffPo wonder woman Arianna Huffington had to say about sleep in her latest book, The Sleep Revolution.)

This insight and research helps us understand the physiological benefits of meditation, both during and after. Cultivating good employee health starts by creating a trusted space for reflection and the calming aspects of mindfulness. Meditation is the path to guide you and your employees there.

What Does it Really Mean to be 'Mindful'?

You look both ways before crossing the street, hold the door open for the next person, and always remember to wish your best friend a happy birthday (riiiight?)

But is that what it really means to be ‘mindful’?

 To be mindful is to be present, open, and aware. In both head and heart. 

Have you ever been at a really great concert and felt like the only person there? Under the lights, amongst the crowd, immersed in the energy -- your senses are heightened, absorbing every sight, sound, and vibration; your head and heart are in communication, with one another and every other. This is what it means to be mindful. 

Your life is busy, filled with important commitments and tons of technology, all of which can make it can be hard for you to focus. Meditation provides you with an escape from everyday distractions -- it’s a way to feel calm even when things get crazy.

Jon Kabat Zinn has said that mindfulness is “Paying attention; On purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.”

So take time to stop and smell the roses (literally), chat up a new neighbor, or enjoy a good old-fashioned sunset while your Netflix account takes a power nap. Don’t worry, your busy life will still be there when you’re done.