Modern life is noisy and often overwhelming. Is meditation the answer? It’s never been so imperative to brain health and general wellness. But can it be done in the workplace?
Meditation at work may sound counterintuitive. Most work environments are a hub of activity, constant interruptions, and background noise that can prove to be distracting rather than relaxing; hardly the place for Zen. However, it’s for these reasons that office meditation is all the more necessary.
With hectic paces and cut-it-close deadlines, it can seem like there’s simply no time for meditation in the workplace. But once you know how to quiet your mind and drown out the noise, you’ll find taking meditation breaks will help boost your productivity, improve your focus and mindset, and ultimately, be better for your bottom line. For many, it is a life-changing practice that provides heightened self-awareness and a newfound sense of calm.
Why is Meditation Important?
Meditation has been heralded as one of the best exercises you can do to better your mind, reduce stress, and present an overall calmer presence, all of which is important to have a healthy work life. The value of meditation is in making a conscious effort to do nothing and clear out the clutter that overtakes your brain.
It’s important to “reset” your mind every once in a while to prevent burnout. Just as we take time to care for our bodies through healthy eating and regular exercise, it’s also necessary to give that same care and attention to our mind. Several high-profile, successful business leaders have advocated for meditation at work. Rupert Murdoch, Oprah Winfrey, Russell Simmons, and Arianna Huffington all appreciate the powerful effects of mindfulness.
How Does Meditation at Work Help?
Many work situations can lead to long hours, little sleep, and unhealthy habits like sitting for hours at a time, little to no exercise, and snacking throughout the day instead of having a proper meal away from the desk.
Meditation in the workplace benefits people in countless ways, including improved performance and a better sense of wellness when in the office, which isn’t always easy to achieve. Every day is filled with mini (or major!) obstacles, which require the brain to work overtime to get through the day. Rather than transitioning from task to task without a break, a meaningful slowdown can help the brain operate at a higher level.
In a Washington Post interview, Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital neuroscientist Sara Lazar shared her findings about meditation and its countless benefits, stress relief being a main one. She looked at several studies and concluded meditation can “change the brain.” If a person meditates for 20-30 minutes a day, it can help increase or improve:
- Physical and mental health
But what does this mean for the workplace?
Being Present and Having a Purpose
There are several characteristics that can be directly tied to how a person performs at work. Presence has been a buzzword lately mostly due to the popularity of Amy Cuddy, and being present is essential to work.
Amy Cuddy has built a following based on her TED Talk and book covering this topic. She discusses the importance of presence and how to maintain “being present” in everyday life. It’s easy to multi-task and be thinking of a response before someone has even finished talking rather than being present. This often leads to miscommunication, ineffectiveness, and lack of efficiency. This where meditation and presence go hand in hand.
Office meditation can help you listen more efficiently, which can help streamline task, make meetings more meaningful, and instill a sense of purpose behind every part of the project. In short, the practice of meditation in the workplace allows people to work smarter. The Guardian posted an article that indicated 80% of employees don’t take a regular lunch break. Does this mean they’re working harder? Or, should they be working smarter by allowing themselves a break to eat, meditate, and walk around to then tackle their afternoons with full stomachs and better focus?
For the business bottom line, meditation at work delivers a positive return on investment. There’s little to no cost and a minimal time dedication necessary to reap rewards that will prove to be long-lasting.
Implementing Meditation in the Workplace
Once you realize how beneficial office meditation can truly be, the next step is to implement it and make it part of your routine. The best way it’ll get done is if it’s scheduled. Set a timer or a write it in your calendar to prioritize it into your workday. Meditation is exercise for the mind and typically, gets easier with time. For those starting out, it may be difficult to sit quietly for more than a couple of minutes without getting distracted or letting the mind wander. Start small and grow.
If you have five minutes, focus on your breathing. Close your eyes and breathe slowly in through the nose and out through the mouth.
If you have ten minutes, practice visualization. Picture a serene place that instills a sense of calm and happiness or focus on a specific goal (it doesn’t have to be work-related) and hone in on that one thought for the entirety of your meditation.
If you have twenty minutes, shut your office door, go to a quiet space, or head outdoors where you can clear your mind without interruption. To start, download a meditation app or find a meditation on YouTube that will take you through a guided meditation.
People meditate in different spaces and in different ways. Shavasana during yoga is a popular time to meditate and clear clutter from the mind. Others prefer to use apps like Headspace or other programs like Deepak Chopra and Oprah’s 21-Day Meditation Experience. Then, there are those who simply have a mantra they repeat to bring their stillness to do their day. The point is to find what works best for you.
Making Meditation a Habit
Like your morning coffee or afternoon walk around the block, make meditation a habit. Here are a few tips to meditate at work even if you don’t think you have the time.
- Ask yourself why.
Why do you want to meditate? Is it because it’s being offered as a wellness perk at work? Is it because you’re falling behind on important tasks due to your lack of energy and focus? Or, do you just want to instill more calm into your life? By answering the “why,” it’ll be easier to find a way to stick with a plan.
- Stick with a scheduled time.
Maybe meditation at work is the best way for you to start your day. Maybe it’s the afternoon pick-me-up you need to finish strong. Choose a time that works well for you and stick with it. Mark the time off your calendar and don’t let it be easily pushed aside.
- Prep your space.
There are a few options you have to create a meditation space in the workplace. Go to an unused conference space and play meditation music or soothing sounds. For special meditation breaks, use a singing bowl or light an aromatherapy candle. Turn the lights down low and get in the right physical space so it’s easier for your mind to fall in line.
- Keep with it.
As mentioned before, it can be difficult when first starting out meditation in the workplace. Don’t take on too much too soon. It doesn’t matter if it’s five minutes or fifteen, as you long as you do it consistently.
Customize Your Workplace Habits
By creating daily habits that help make your workdays more pleasant, you might be surprised how much easier it is to breeze through your task list. Set time for yourself with mini treats throughout the day, whether that’s a piece of chocolate, time for meditation at work, a quick walk outdoors, or a coffee break with a co-worker. Drown out the noise and be attentive to your mind and body while at work, even if it’s only for a few moments at a time.