General Interest

Mindfulness is a buzzy term that only seems to be gaining steam these days — and with good reason: in today’s stressful, fast-paced world, it’s more important than ever to bring your awareness to the present. One of the best ways to do this, of course, is through meditation. It may seem like a simple act to close your eyes, focus on your breathing, and be in the moment, but doing so can do wonders for your mental, emotional, and physical well-being. In fact, meditation can improve performance in all areas of your life. As studies are finding it actually changes the brain. 

The truth is, meditation has been practiced for centuries, with some of the earliest records in India. I personally have been practicing the Kriya yoga techniques of meditation from Paramahansa Yogananda for over a dozen years. Recently, more and more research is emerging that proves the incredible mental benefits that mindfulness meditation can have. So it’s not just Yogis who are taking advantage of mindfulness mediation anymore.

Mediation can improve performance.

Work comes with countless pressures. They can be from tight deadlines looming overhead, to working toward a promotion and impressing your boss. More pressures come from getting along with difficult coworkers and dealing with unhappy clients and customers. Or, work can mean running your household and taking care of a few little ones at home. And keeping the whole ship going!

Luckily, no matter your career, I’m a firm believer that meditation can improve performance and help you to be more efficient and even happy at your job/home. Sound amazing? Well, it is, coming from yours truly, a passionate meditator who has personally seen so much benefit! And here are some research-backed ways meditation can improve your performance, reduces stress, improve your productivity, and overall transform your life.

Meditation improves your focus.

We’ve all been there. It’s 4 p.m., you still have a proposal to finish, and you’re hitting a slump. Even a caffeinated beverage isn’t going to help at this point. You simply can’t focus. Your ability to concentrate on whatever you need to accomplish obviously plays a huge role in your overall performance at your job. As it turns out, studies have shown that meditation can help in this regard.

In fact, in one study conducted at the University of Washington Seattle, HR workers who participated in a two-month mindfulness meditation training course were found to be more focused than those who had taken a relaxation training course instead [1]. Not only that, but those workers who practiced mindfulness and meditation also had a less negative attitude towards work. Pretty amazing stuff, right? Another study revealed that all it takes is four days of meditation to improve someone’s ability to sustain their attention on something [2].

It makes sense when you think about it. Meditation helps to train your brain to focus on one thing at a time. Whatever you’re presently working on. That means improved concentration on the current task at hand. Which in turn, means you’re able to complete assignments more quickly and efficiently. As you begin your meditation and mindfulness training, you may become more aware of when your mind starts to wander. That way, you can re-focus on whatever you’re trying to get done rather than being side-tracked.

Meditation boosts your ability to cope with stress.

No matter what kind of job you have, it’s inevitable that you’ll be subjected to stress at some point. And stress can take a huge toll on your satisfaction as well as your productivity at work. Not to mention, it affects everything from our hormones to our microbiome balance to digestion. Luckily, there’s something that can help you manage and even reduce stress on the job. Yup, you guessed it! The solution lies in a meditation, even a quick one.

In one 2017 study, faculty and staff from 2 Australian universities were offered a seven-week mindfulness and meditation program with 60 to 90- minute weekly lessons. After those weeks, employees reported improvement on 3 things. The first, they thought more about their actions. The second, they had less preoccupation with the past and future (behaviors that are linked to depression and anxiety).  And lastly, they experienced improvements in sleep quality [3]. Moreover, participants reported an improved ability to calm down and regulate their thoughts, feelings, emotions, and reactions. Even in the midst of stressful events!

Here’s the kicker: Some participants even experienced personal benefits that applied at home, such as more healthy and harmonious relationships with their families. Really though, how could it not? Everything is connected to everything else. What’s going to improve your life in one area will improve it in others, because everything affects everything else!

Not only that, but meditation may be able to reduce the stress you feel, to begin with.

In one 2017 study published in Business Perspectives and Research, executives from a large oil company engaged in 16 weeks of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) training. Researchers collected blood cortisol levels and blood pressure readings, as well as the participant’s self-reports of perceived stress, before and after the program [4].

What they discovered is that after 16 weeks, participants reported enhanced sleep. Also reported, was better health-related habits and behaviors, better overall physical and emotional health, and less perceived stress. Not only did they report less perceived stress, but their bodies showed physical proof of this. Researchers found significant declines in levels of cortisol (the stress hormone), as well as blood pressure.

Meditation increases your engagement.

When you are engaged in your job, you’re better at it. Simply put. Unfortunately, many of us get to points where we feel uninspired by our work. In fact, one global Gallup survey revealed that only 13 percent of workers feel engaged in their jobs [5]. Yikes! You might relate. Ever accomplished a task and thought to yourself, “I don’t even remember doing that!” When we’re on autopilot, we’re not performing at our max potential.

We’re not really using our full brain power to make decisions and execute something. There are endless distractions we face day to day, particularly as a result of technology. (It’s OK, admit it. You check your phone without even thinking about it! I do it too sometimes!!)

Fortunately, meditation can help us to filter out the noise and stay engaged in our work. Thus bringing about better results. In fact, a 2015 study of Japanese business people found that meditation can have positive effects on work engagement, as well as job satisfaction [6]. If you’re looking to boost your motivation at work, a daily meditation could very well do the trick.

Mindfulness meditation enhances your work relationships.

There are many important relationships to maintain our jobs. On a daily basis, you have a slew of interactions with coworkers that can impact these relationships. Sometimes, personality differences or conflicting opinions can create some challenges. But it’s important to do your part to uphold healthy relationships with your manager, colleagues, etc.

Think about it this way. Mindfulness meditation is all about being more aware of what’s going on around you in the present moment. And if you can be more aware of your own thoughts and feelings as well as those of your coworkers, you can have more positive interactions. Because you’ll be more “tuned in.” That makes you a better team player who’s able to strike compromises, voice your opinions and ideas in a productive way, and avoid misunderstandings that lead to unnecessary conflicts.

In case you need proof of this benefit, one 2011 study conducted by Harvard Medical School found that mindfulness meditation increases the amount of grey matter in the brain’s hippocampus. Which, by the way, is the region associated with self-awareness, introspection, and compassion [7]. And who knows? These advantages could certainly prove to make a positive difference in your other relationships outside of work as well.

So… how do I get started?

I’ve heard so many clients admit that mindfulness meditation feels intimidating to them. How are you supposed to start? How long do you need to meditate for? What should you think about? What are you supposed to feel like? I get it. When most people think of meditation, they imagine a peaceful Yogi spending long periods of time in silence, in bliss.

In reality, meditation is a practice and it definitely requires some regularity to progress. We are all so busy and in thinking mode (beta brainwaves) all the time. So it requires some work and training to make meditation more and more deep and beneficial.

I always recommend starting small. If it only feels realistic to do a 3-5-minute meditation every day, start there.

The key, of course, is consistency. Find a time that works for you to meditate on a daily basis.  I recommend when you first wake up, as well as possibly on a lunch break, or right before bed.  If you lose your concentration and start thinking about what you’re making for dinner, or a work project you need to get done, don’t stress. Simply bring your attention back to your breathing. Eventually, it will become easier and easier to simply be in the moment. That’s why meditation is called a practice! It takes some time to retrain your brain.

Most people find it helpful to participate in guided meditations, particularly when they’re first starting their practice.

That’s why I launched my own free 7-day guided meditation course. In each meditation, I’ll help you to center yourself and focus your thoughts, making it so that your mind is less likely to wander.  

Each meditation has a different theme. For example, the first one in the series helps you to “scan” your body for hidden sources of tension and stress. And then we use breathing as a strategy for eliminating them. There is also a meditation on focus and on power. Both of which are bound to help you in the workplace!

The bottom line is this, Beauties.

Meditation does require some time, consistency and effort. Yet it comes with very enormous, can’t-really-put-into words rewards. Mediation can improve performance and increase your levels of peace and joy.

If you’ve been feeling a little lackluster on the job lately, set aside just five to 10 minutes a day to start meditating. With some consistency and dedication, you will surely see some incredible improvements in your concentration, stress management, relationships, and engagement. Here’s to being healthier — and happier — at work and beyond!

 

 

Lots of love to you!

 

Sources:

[1] “The Effects of Mindfulness Meditation Training on Multitasking in a High-Stress Information Environment”

https://faculty.washington.edu/wobbrock/pubs/gi-12.02.pdf

[2] “Mindfulness meditation improves cognition: evidence of brief mental training.”

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20363650

[3] “The influence of a mindfulness-based intervention on job satisfaction and work-related stress and anxiety”

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/14623730.2017.1316760

[4] “Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction for Executives: Results from a Field Experiment”

http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/2278533717692906

[5] “Five Ways to Improve Employee Engagement Now”

https://www.gallup.com/workplace/231581/five-ways-improve-employee-engagement.aspx

[6] “The Association between Meditation Practice and Job Performance: A Cross-Sectional Study”

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4449168/

[7] “Eight weeks to a better brain”

https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2011/01/eight-weeks-to-a-better-brain/

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