Meditation. It’s like going vegan or giving up Facebook: everyone’s doing it.
In fact, a recent study by the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention found that the use of meditation in adults had spiked by over 10% in just five years (Norton 2018).
Presumably, one of the core reasons behind this lies in the way that our generation of humanity lives out its life: constantly switched-on to inboxes, instant messenger chats and social media accounts – both personal and professional.
All of this being tightly wrapped around eating ‘right’ (no carbs, less meat, organic where possible), working out 2-3 times a week (not to mention yoga), being a good person, and generally coming across to the rest of the planet as a happy and wonderfully-functioning member of society.
It’s little wonder that people are looking for a way to escape it all.
And with the benefits of meditation said to include stress reduction, improved sleep, and even pain reduction why wouldn’t you give it a try?
In fact, perhaps you’ve tried meditation already. Or maybe you practice at home. But what about taking your practice to work?
Yes, you read that correctly: how about taking your meditation practice to work.
Maybe you work in an office. Maybe you don’t. The demands are different for everyone, but some things remain constant no matter who we are: we all get to feeling stressed-out or overwhelmed sometimes.
And nearly all of us spend more time at work than we do at home, interacting with people we (let’s diplomatically say) wouldn’t choose to be around in our spare time.
As a result, we often spend our daylight hours wearing a mask that the people we do like probably wouldn’t recognize and one that doesn’t allow us to be who we truly are.
This kind of behavior is ‘normal’, but it’s also exhausting; explaining why many of us who don’t do physically demanding jobs still come home feeling crazy-tired and emotionally drained.
Being able to clear your mind during the workday can, therefore, provide huge benefits that transcend both your personal and professional life.
The 5 Key Benefits of Meditation at work
1. Improved Empathy
Imagine being able to deal with unfair criticism from that “a**hole” boss and even see things from their point of view. Yes, really.
Meditating before or after an awkward discussion can help you deal with the emotional outbursts of other people while keeping your own emotions in check.
2. Clearer Thinking and Less Emotional Turmoil
Just bombed a presentation to a key client?
Meditation can’t turn back the clock, but it can help you to put things in perspective and see that it’s not the end of the world if things occasionally go wrong.
3. Reduced Tension, Anxiety and Stress
Overwhelmed by the amount of work you have to get through, on an impossible deadline?
A study by Michigan Technological University found that a single mindfulness meditation session can help reduce anxiety, even up to an hour after the session. The benefit of meditating at work might subsequently be felt long after you snap back to ‘reality’ (Christensen 2018).
4. Stronger Focus and Concentration
Who out there can freely admit having never let their mind wander onto what they’re planning to do that evening, or how they’re going to spend the weekend?
And even with the best intentions, sometimes we just find it difficult to get even the most simple tasks done. No doubt more than one of us has been faced with a task at work that’s so simple, and yet so mind-numbingly tedious that you need to fuel up on gallons of coffee and make peace with your career choice before anything can be achieved on it.
Meditation for Dummies, written by mindfulness guru Stephan Bodian, puts it simply:
“The more you invest your mental energy in a single focus during meditation, the more one-pointed your mind becomes, and the more the distractions recede to the background.” (Bodian 2013)
Developing a daily mindfulness meditation practice at work can help to improve your concentration and focus while simultaneously increasing your productivity and performance.
Which brings us to our final key benefit…
5. You’ll Have a Secret Weapon
Practice meditation enough and slowly, but surely there’s a good chance you’re going to breeze through things that previously held you up.
You might start getting sideways glances in those team meetings as your stressed-out colleagues wonder how it is you’re managing to stay so together despite the constant pressure.
Maybe someone will ask you how you do it all. Maybe you’ll tell them. Maybe you won’t.
But How Can I Meditate At Work?
While all of this sounds great, the reality for many of us is that it isn’t quite as simple as telling your boss or your colleagues that you’re just “stepping out to meditate” for a few minutes.
Although the practice is on the rise, some people may still associate meditation with hippies and Buddhist monks – certainly not hardworking corporate professionals.
However, this doesn’t mean that it’s not possible to practice mindfulness at work.
Many experienced practitioners advise that meditating for just a few minutes every day can be even more effective than getting quiet for an hour once per week. And that means there’s bound to be at least one opportunity to find a place of stillness in the course of your typical working day.
If you’ve already made it to that corner office, then it should be easy: close the door for a few minutes once a day and make it clear that you’re not to be disturbed.
However, if you’re like the majority of working professionals and your own private office is just out of reach (for now!) you still have many ways to get the benefits of meditation at work – here are just a few:
The Ballsy Option
Speak to your boss or Human Resources department and ask them to help you set aside a quiet place where you can be uninterrupted for ten minutes every day.
While some employers might not have seen this request coming, the steady rise in popularity of meditation means that you may even find your employer will want to get behind your practice and encourage others to do the same.
The Not-So-Ballsy Option
Scared of openly discussing your practice with the very people you’re trying to appear ‘together’ in front of?
Take 5 – 10 minutes out of your regular lunch or coffee break to sit in your car or in a peaceful place. Chances are, if you’re spotted, people will probably think you’re sleeping.
The ‘I Look Busy But I’m Secretly Meditating’ Option
For those who just can’t squeeze any time out of their day, or who definitely don’t want to be discussing the best meditation cushions with HR, you can still meditate at your desk without even closing your eyes.
Just spend a couple of minutes focussing intensely on one particular object; it could be the letter M on your keyboard or the nib of a pencil laid on your desk. Whatever it is, make sure it’s a very specific object and just notice everything about it for as long as you can.
The worst that can happen with this option is someone interrupts your moment or sees the gentle but steely focus in your eyes and silently notes that you may be hatching an idea for a billion-dollar start-up (in which case, expect to gain a new friend next time you visit the water cooler).
The bottom line is, meditation is good for every aspect of your life – even if practiced around a hectic work schedule.
If you can incorporate even a small amount of mindfulness in the course of your workday, slowly but surely, you’ll begin to reap the benefits.