In this busy scenario where we are always trying to strike a balance between our personal and professional life, we tend to forget about our mental health. According to an article by Harvard Business Review, 43% of employees report high levels of stress and are on the verge of being burnt out. In situations like these, meditation comes out as one of the best ways to keep our calm.
What is meditation?
At a very basic level, meditation is defined as being aware: aware of your thoughts, the environment around you, and your emotions. When you become aware, you start acknowledging and appreciating things, which helps you gain patience and calmness. These practices have changed many lives for the better.
Consistent mindfulness and meditation programs—including guided meditation, silent meditation, and movement practices such as qigong and yoga—are helping many employees remain focused and balanced, increasing prosocial behavior and productivity. Here are the eight benefits of meditation at workplace:
1. Use Meditation to Relax and Focus the Mind
Stress reduction is a long-proven and immediate benefit of meditation. In bodies, physical and mental distress increases the stress hormone cortisol. Excessive cortisol leads to elevated levels of cytokines which may exacerbate depression and anxiety, contribute to cloudy or foggy thinking, and increase blood pressure. Meditation and mindfulness practices directly counteract stress, anxiety, and burnout.
A study from the Center of Mind and Brain at UC Davis highlights the connection between mindfulness and cortisol. Participants saw significant benefits after only a few weeks of meditation practice. Other research indicates that consistent mindfulness and meditation practices reduce cortisol levels and improve symptoms of stress-triggered health conditions such as fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Additionally, another study of corporate employees who used a mindfulness meditation app for eight weeks reflected that the employees experienced decreased job strain and anxiety while improving their feelings of well-being.
Even with a minimal time commitment, these quickly attained and lasting mental and physical results are a practical reason for incorporating mindfulness and daily meditation into corporate settings.
2. Meditation Improves Cognition, Attention Span, and Creative Thinking
Specific meditation techniques cultivate focus training. The ability to focus at will and for desired lengths of time enhance cognition. A 2018 study from the Center of Mind and Brain at UC Davis revealed that a regular and consistent meditation practice increased the ability to sustain attention. The cognitive increases were present at the time of the initial practice, but a longevity study of the participants also showed that cognitive benefits were still present seven years later.
Focused-attention meditation is like exercise for the brain. The technique helps increase endurance and strength of attention. Focused attention at work benefits the brain with task accuracy, productivity, problem-solving, and decision-making strategies, all of which support critical thinking and crisis management. Focus training meditation styles also reduce rumination, poor attention, and mind-wandering.
Additionally, these practices may improve creative solution problem-solving, promote divergent thinking, and reduce cognitive rigidity. Regular meditation or mindfulness practice encourages openness to bold and innovative ideas.
3. Meditation Boosts Memory
Improvements in clarity of thinking and attention may help keep minds young. Over the past decade, the American Psychological Association (APA) conducted research exploring the effect of mediation on the memory of military members.
The research group meditated regularly for eight weeks. Then, when exposed to highly stressful situations, including moments before deployment, they remained focused, productive, and stable. Control group members who had not meditated exhibited greater stress and decreased functional memory.
Meditation techniques that utilize mantras (chants) or mudras (specific hand positions) have been shown to focus thoughts and improve neuropsychological performance.
Harvard Medical School researchers found that meditation programs led to changes in brain regions involving learning and working memory capacity. Improvements in these regions assist reasoning and guiding behavior and decisions, especially at the workplace.
4. Group Meditation May Lead to Increased Empathy and Enhance Collaboration
Some meditation techniques intentionally increase positive actions and feelings toward self and others. They help cultivate an awareness of the common elements shared by all humans. Through the use of statements such as, “Just like me…” compassion and kindness are extended to loved ones, acquaintances, and ultimately people you find to be difficult. Practicing acceptance of others is a powerful leadership tool.
At the workplace, group meditation has been shown to successfully increase collaboration, innovation, and work quality. Group meditation may also be an excellent team-building technique for company off-site weekends or seminars.
5. Meditation Enhances the Ability to Respond Rather Than React
Through an increased ability to focus, the long-term practice of mindfulness and meditation techniques enhances the skill of responding to situations rather than reacting. This ability is essential for compassionate leadership.
A study published by the APA states that people who practice mindfulness and meditation are better able to distance and detach themselves from difficult situations. They are still fully engaged but have disconnected the emotional responsiveness and can better focus on tasks at hand and make pragmatic decisions in times of challenges or crisis.
6. Meditation Encourages Prosocial Behavior and Acceptance
Meditation is well known for enhancing kindness, empathy, and compassion. Likewise , research studies also show that consistent meditation practice also encourages prosocial behavior, including reduced judgment for self and others and a willingness to have the patience to listen to others’ perspectives rather than one’s own.
This enhanced ability to accept others reduces bias at the workplace. This awareness is beneficial when thinking about team building and making effective decisions for business and society.
An increase in emotional intelligence goes hand in hand with meditation and mindfulness practices. This leads to better work relationships and friendships because individuals can communicate and express emotions more aptly and easily. Augmented acceptance of others fosters welcoming and holistic work environments.
7. Meditation Reduces Imposter Syndrome and Supports Self-Esteem
Some forms of meditation lead to an improved outlook on life, enhance self-esteem, and reduce depression. Often workers feel overwhelmed, believing that they can’t complete projects efficiently or effectively. Sometimes employees focus too much on how they are performing in comparison with their colleagues and become frozen with imposter syndrome.
Through enhanced self-awareness, regular meditation or mindfulness practice bolsters self-esteem, self-acceptance, self-confidence, and self-compassion. All of these elements reduce comparison to others and help employees develop into their best selves. One study review showed that practicing tai chi or qigong leads to improved self-efficacy—a belief in the ability to overcome challenges, leading to more proactive work practices, and problem-solving skills.
8. Meditation Improves Sleep Quality
Most working adults struggle with insomnia at some point. Studies show that mindfulness or meditation programs help people fall asleep more quickly and stay asleep longer.
Many guided meditations specifically target the relaxation of both the body and the mind. Meditation relaxes the mind and helps redirect racing thoughts and detach from rumination. Meditation also relaxes the body, reduces muscle tension,blood pressure, and the stress hormone-cortisol.
Suggestions for Implementing Meditation to achieve work-life balance
A common misconception about meditation or mindfulness practices is that they’re only effective if a person sits for long periods of time. While consistency is necessary, a meditation practice can happen in as little as one to three minutes a day. It is an incredibly accessible tool that can be practiced anytime, anywhere without a need for specialized equipment.
Consider starting or ending meetings with two to three minutes of meditation; this can set the tone for the meeting or the rest of the day. You can also try meditating for two to three minutes at the end of the workday to close the day’s work and create a clean break, moving into the rest of the day away from work. Begin with something as easy as a four-part breathing cycle, or try using a mantra or mudra as a way to enhance focus. Any of these options settle and focus the mind and ultimately lead to lasting cognitive and health benefits.
There are proven success stories and studies illustrating how mindfulness and meditation practices relax and focus the mind, effectively changing how the brain processes information. It's no wonder why so many people these days are shifting towards incorporating meditation into their daily lives. Meditation helps you with work-related stress, but it has enormous benefits for your health and mental well-being. Just start by practicing 10-15 min of meditation daily, and you will begin to realize its advantages.