We’ve all heard whisperings about the benefits of meditation - increased self confidence, a longer attention span, improved memory and a better ability to regulate emotions.
For the uninitiated, this endless stream of positive results can feel almost beyond belief. But the evidence in favour of meditation continues to pour in nonetheless.
Meditation is more than just about deep breathing and being more ‘Zen’. Studies have shown that meditation can actually change the shape of our brain and could even cause it to reverse age. For example, when Steve Jobs (a regular meditator) died at the age of 56, his brain may have been as active and healthy as when he was around 27 years old.
So, how can we harness the power of mindfulness and meditation at work and what benefits can it bring?
Mindfulness meditation trains our brains to pay attention to the present moment, which can boost our ability to focus on tasks. A 2016 study found that completing just one 15 minute session of meditation, resulted in a 22% reduction in mind-wandering and that a consistent meditation practice can lead to a 14% increase in our ability to focus.
A more focused brain is a more productive one, and when we feel productive, we finish the day feeling energised and proud of what we have achieved. Just imagine what we could achieve at work with a present and undistracted mind.
One of the ways that meditation affects the brain is that it can cause the amygdala - the part of the brain responsible for stress, fear and anxiety - to decrease in size.
Geoffrey James, author and contributing editor on Inc.com writes that stress is caused by worrying about future events; things that are outside of our control in the present moment.
Alongside the physical benefits of meditation, to decrease stress Geoffrey James suggests a meditative approach to projects: make a plan and then focusing on each of the steps - one at a time - not thinking about the results. Results are important, but focusing on the end result can leave individuals to feel overwhelmed. With this approach, the results will come naturally with a proper plan.
Another benefit of meditation is that it can make individuals more compassionate to others and less irritable too. Colleagues who can understand and empathise with each other can lead to better collaboration and an overall feeling of camaraderie.
In turn, positive relationships at work can make individuals feel happier, more engaged in their work and improve overall job satisfaction. The benefits of meditation seemingly are endless indeed.
Meditation at work
If you’ve been inspired to build meditation into your routine, Headspace suggests some simple steps to get started.
Firstly, schedule in some time, preferably at the same time every day. Then, find a quiet place, in your home, an empty conference room (when we return to offices) or a nearby park. They also have walking meditations if you prefer to practice meditation on the move. Make sure it’s quiet and limit any distractions, turning off your phone and any other notifications.
Just 10 or 15 minutes of meditation can save time in the long run by making you more productive and effective at your job.
If even that seems too long at first, get started with this 3-minute mini meditation video for letting go of stress at work.