In this article, we will be looking at the 5 best meditations for decision-making and clarity of mind. If you’re a leader, manager or you just happen to wear the trousers, these meditations will help you make better decisions and to decide on whatever tough choices you’re facing.
There are very many powerful cognitive benefits of meditation.
One of the key ways meditation makes us more intelligent is that it improves your decision making skills.
In my guide to the best meditation techniques you can learn 31 styles of meditation and the amazing brain-benefits you get from them.
One such benefit is the fact that meditation improves decision making skills in as little as 15 minutes.Science proves it.
According to research at The Wharton School and INSEAD (“The Business School for the World”), as little as fifteen minutes a day practicing mindfulness meditation significantly improves decision making skills .
Link Between Meditation And Decision Making
There are many benefits of meditation for decision making and clarity of mind. And to understand how meditation and decision making relate to one another, we first have to understand how we make decisions.
So, what is decision making, scientifically?
Decision making is the cognitive process of choosing a course of action or a believe, and can be made either rationally or irrationally based on information, values, tacit knowledge, beliefs and personal preferences. It’s a form of problem solving and prioritising.
There are many things that affect decision making. For instance, the environment we make a decision in can have an effect. A study performed by the University of Colorado showed that complex environments lead to higher cognitive function. Emotions and current circumstances can also affect decision making.
Sometimes it seems impossible to make a decision, which is usually due to analysis paralysis, a state of paralysis caused by being overwhelmed with information or by overanalysing. Decision Precision Paralysis can also affect choice-making; this is when the individual keeps finding new questions and new information that prevents them from making a final decision. And then there is Risk Uncertainty Paralysis, which is when the individual is paralysed because they cannot overcome uncertainty.
The opposite of paralysis is extinction by instinct, which is when an individual makes careless decisions without proper forethought. This is usually cure by creating a system for decision making.
One of the biggest problems with decision making is information overload (and indeed this is where we most need meditation for clarity of mind). Naturally, information is necessary to make a decision, but excessive information makes it impossible to process that information to make a final decision about something. Psychologist George Armitage Miller states that decision making becomes difficult simply because, “human brains can only hold a limited amount of information”.
Two other problems with decision making are decision fatigue (being tired of making too many decisions), and decision avoidance, when we avoid making decisions., often because of stress, anxiety, and fear of the unknown.
Emotions also play a pivotal role in making a decision. When making a decision, the body creates sensations related to the outcome of a decision, and these states are used to infer how we would feel having made a decision.
Interestingly, decision making is a complex neuroscience involving many brain structures: the cingulate cortex), orbitofrontal cortex, and the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, and perhaps other parts.
There are numerous decision making techniques. Group decision making techniques include consensus decision making (doing what’s right for the group), voting, score voting (each person gives a score for each possible decision), and quadratic voting (casting preferences for different decisions). Individual decision making techniques include Decisional Balance Sheet (listing pros and cons of each decision), Expected Value Optimization (choosing which option was the best probability of success), Satisficing (examining decision to find which one is most acceptable), asking an expert, and anti-authoritarianism (doing the opposite of what a distrusted source suggests). And then you can always just flip a coin.
Sometimes we do not make decisions based on rational thought. Rational Choice Theory states that we make decisions in our best interest, but in actual fact people often make irrational choices.
How Meditation Helps With Making Decisions
Now that we understand the complex nature of decision making, we can look at how meditation helps us make decisions.
Meditation is the exercise of focusing the mind on the present moment without judgment. It is both a form of therapy and a psychological exercise for wellbeing. It’s roots are largely in Buddhism, but it is also used in modern treatments of many conditions, as well as for general wellbeing and relaxation. There are numerous forms of meditation, including Buddhist meditations like Anapanasati and Vipassana, mindfulness, visualizations, mantras, mudras, and specific guided meditations for decision making.
We know from science that there are significant benefits of meditation. And many of those benefits relate to decision making, like so:
- Meditation helps decision making by reducing information overload. Information overload leads to paralysis and the inability to make a decision simply because we have too much information in the mind. Meditation is the opposite of information overload. It’s about focusing on one thing. This relaxes the mind, reduces the effects of information overload, and helps us focus on the information that matters for the decision we are making.
- Meditation makes us more aware of our thoughts and actions. This can help with Extinction by Instinct (careless decision making) so we stop making rash decisions.
- Meditation relaxes the mind and helps us unwind. This helps the brain to recharge, which reduces the effects of decision-making fatigue.
- Another link between meditation and decision making is that it reduces symptoms of stress and anxiety, which is essential for stopping decision-making avoidance.
- Meditation helps with clarity of the mind, which can enable us to clearly examine how we feel about different choices.
- Meditation strengthens the cingulate cortex, orbitofrontal cortex, and the ventromedial prefrontal cortex—the main parts of the brain used in decision making. [source]
As you can see, there are big benefits of meditation for decision making and clarity of mind.
By improving decision making skills, meditation can also have a significant impact on quality of life.
Consider how many people:
- stay in bad relationships for long periods of time
- continue to eat unhealthily
- do not exercise
- do not look after their health;
- stay in an unsuitable job sometimes for years.
These poor choices are often caused by a behaviour scientists call “sunk-cost bias,” which is essentially the unwillingness to deviate from a decision you have already invested time or resources into.
Researcher Andre Hafenbrack tells THE DAILY MEDITATION:
“People struggle to admit that they were wrong when a previous decision leads to a negative outcome. They prefer not to feel wasteful and don’t like to believe their original decision and original investment was a loss.” This behaviour then leads them to delude themselves into looking positively at bad decisions. “This causes them to lose more resources and more time.”
In their studies, Hafenback and his co-researchers discovered that we can use mindfulness to improve decision making. Mindfulness reduces the effects of the cognitive bias of “sunk cost mentality”, the idea that if we’ve been doing something for a long time we should continue it because we’ve spent so much time on it.
Mindfulness does this by enabling us to see with more clarity and more acceptance.
“A brief period of mindfulness encourages individuals to make better decisions by considering the information available in the present moment while ignoring [the complications associated with ‘sunk cost bias’].”
The studies performed by INSEAD and The Wharton School tested the effect that 15 minutes of mindfulness meditation on decision making skills.
In the study, individuals discussed how they focus on the present moment and read ten sunk-cost scenarios—which included such scenarios as attending a music festival which had already been paid for, while illness made enjoyment unlikely.
The results of the test showed that after mindfulness meditation people were more focused on the present moment and were more likely to make better quality choices.
“Meditation reduces the amount of focus people place on the past and the future, and reduces negative emotions,” said Zoe Kinias, co-author of the research.
5 Best Types Of Meditation For Decision Making And Clarity Of Mind
The following are the best meditations for decision-makers.
One of the problems you may experience when choosing what to do it that your mind throws up thoughts that are either unhelpful or just plain wrong.
These negative thoughts prevent you from thinking in objective ways, which is the key to making smart selections. Negativity can interrupt the decision-making process so you enter a cognitive rut, unable to choose.
As a meditation teacher, I often teach people mindfulness as a way to help them make important choices in life, decision like having a baby, leaving a job, leaving a marriage, and moving home. Vipassana helps because it gives us insight into the mind and helps us to see our thoughts more clearly.
2: Mindfulness-Based CBT
Sometimes your mind plays tricks on you when trying to make a choice. Mindfulness-Based CBT [Cognitive Behavioural Therapy] can help out.
Mindfulness CBT is a series of mental exercises designed to remove negative or unhelpful thoughts that are getting in your way.
Above we shared the science of why mindfulness helps decision making. And there is a helpful link up top for you to learn mindfulness. Give it a try. It’s definitely one of the best meditations for decision making. It will help with whatever puzzle you’re facing.
Buddha taught that one of the main reasons for suffering is ignorance, by which he meant the inability to understand the workings of the mind. As a meditation teacher, I often find that my meditation students are surprised by what the effect of mindfulness. It helps them to understand their thoughts and to see things more clearly, and they often tell me that it has helped them to make important decisions (and of course, I have experienced the same thing myself).
4: Any relaxing technique
One of the main problems with making choices is that stress gets in the way. Our ability to form resolutions is inhibited by stress, according to Anthony J. Porcelli [Department of Psychology, Marquette University] and Mauricio R. Delgado [Department of Psychology, Rutgers University] [source].
Not only does stress prevent our brains from functioning at their peak, it also makes us dwell on the negative. One of the best solutions is to use relaxation techniques.
5: Creativity methods
When you’re really dwelling on a problem you tend to zero-in on one possibility instead of exploring all the options. Essentially what is happening is that divergent thinking is impaired (your ability to see things from different angles). This prevents you from thinking in creative ways and making smart decisions. The best solution to this is to use techniques that open your mind and make you more creative.
6: Guided Meditation For Decision Making
There are big benefits of meditation for decision makers. Meditation opens your mind so you can see the situation from different angles. And it also quells your stress so you are more able to relax and think rationally.
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