Meditation has been practiced for centuries, and its advantages remain universally applicable to our modern lives. Regardless of the time of day, meditation can be practiced conveniently at home or work without requiring exercise equipment. It can also lower stress levels for leaders and employees during the workday by setting aside just a few minutes for deep breathing, silence, and free-flowing thoughtfulness.
Meditation is a widespread practice; 200 to 500 million people meditate worldwide. Meditation has tripled among Americans in the last decade. In the US, over 14 percent of adults (the majority being between 45 and 64 years old) have tried meditation at least once before, and seven percent of children regularly practice it.
In this piece, we talked to three meditation experts including two meditation teachers, and one psychotherapist to explore the benefits of meditation and how it can help employees be more productive, creative, and calm in the face of stress.
What is meditation?
Meditation is an ancient practice originating from India thousands of years ago. It is thought to be best appreciated by utilizing the five senses to be present (in the here and now) and allow one to be mindful, silent, and calm.
Practicing meditation can look and feel different to many people. Being comfortable and in a safe space is an essential aspect of meditation. Creating a sensory-positive environment is a wonderful way to achieve a productive meditative state. Though sometimes a quiet room is not always easy to manage during a workday, so even headphones can help create a barrier between external distractions.
There are various forms and many ways to practice meditation. People can meditate on their own or use guided meditations. When starting with meditation, it can be effective to take a class or workshop with a certified instructor who can provide insight into best practices, techniques, and movements to enhance and tailor meditation to meet specific needs.
Mindfulness exercises, mantras, and mudras (hand movements) are also forms of meditation that can be performed throughout the day.
The power of meditation
Meet Jan Johnson, a certified yoga and meditation instructor who has taught yoga and meditation for over 20 years. Jan shared her expertise and knowledge on meditation and mindfulness in on-demand classes and programs offered through Wellbeats Wellness, a product of LifeSpeak Inc.
Jan says it is easy to get wrapped up in life and feel overwhelmed, but practicing meditation regularly can help reduce everyday stresses from work, at home, and beyond.
“When we’re driving in traffic, when we’re just trying to do grocery shopping, there are energies all around you just sucking your own energy and ramping you up,” says Jan. “Your energy is when you come back to your breath, and you become internalized rather than focusing or feeling the external energies. You start feeling your own essence.”
Chance York is another Wellbeats Wellness yoga and mindfulness instructor. Chance shared insight on how meditation can improve focus and concentration.
“We have a lot more practice not being present and having our focus on either something else, some somewhere else, some other time,” says Chance. “But when you bring it [meditation] into here and now and be like, ‘This is it – life is happening right here and it’s only happening right here and right now, and all the other stuff is just noise.”
Nicole Lovald, a certified yoga teacher and licensed psychotherapist, also shared how regular practice of meditation can increase our focus and concentration on important matters.
“Most of us are walking through our lives with 10 things on our brain, or at least five things on our brain at a time. If you look at the research related to our phone usage and social media and how quickly we’re moving through things, we’ve lost I think the ability to focus, to really concentrate on one thing at a time,” says Nicole.“[Mindfulness] just invites you to come into the present moment so you’re not worried about the past, you’re not worried about the next meeting or the future, the things that you have to do and you’re just right here, right now. With time and with consistent practice, you are building those neural pathways again in your brain so that you can sustain focus. You could sit through a half an hour meeting and be present versus doing all the other, or worried about all the other things that you have to be doing.” The benefits of meditation for employees
When it comes to productivity, employees can benefit immensely from simple mindfulness techniques that can help both leaders and employees stay focused and get more done off their to-do lists.
Jan says that a simple breathing exercise only takes a moment out of a person’s day and can clear the mind to prioritize important tasks.
“In a workplace, you just take a pause. You just stop and just breathe, and say, ‘this is what’s happening; I’m just going to come to my breath and let this pass,” says Jan. “And that in itself will bring about a clearer mind, and you can also begin to prioritize tasks.”
Creativity also benefits from a clear and focused mind.
Jan says that since we are always being pushed and pulled into different directions, meditation can filter out the noise and allow someone to get their creative juices flowing.
“We’re always doing other things; it gets us away from the things we really want to do – our heartfelt stuff we want to do – writing a book, creating a beautiful painting,” says Jan. “But you pause again, breathe, let everything settle down, let everything filter out. And this is done without force. It just happens automatically if you allow it to. And that’s the thing, allow it. I receive this energy from myself. And then, creativity begins to flow. The words in your writing begin to flow. That beautiful painting you want to paint comes to you through your hands and fingers, and you begin to paint or draw.”
Stress reduction and emotional wellbeing
A stressful workday or meeting can throw off an employee’s focus and lower their productivity. Regardless of where they work, incorporating simple best meditation and mindfulness practices can reduce stress, improve positivity, and even enhance the potential for maximized productivity.
In stressful times, Nicole suggests trying a mindfulness meditation called the STOP Method, which is quick and easy to do.
“The S is just stop what you’re doing, so just pause essentially,” says Nicole. “Then the T is for take a few deep breaths. That’s where you calm your nervous system. You’re kind of calming yourself down. The O is for the observe. Then the P is for proceeding with mindfulness, so you’re proceeding moving forward with a little more attention on what’s actually happening within you.”
Nicole says that when she was working in a corporate environment and had back-to-back meetings, she would do the STOP method between meetings. She explains it allowed her to let go of whatever it was that she was doing, come into the present moment, check in with her senses and reset.
“When you’re doing that – the deep breathing and observing – you’re not only calming your nervous system, but you’re letting go of stress,” says Nicole. “Then you can move forward with a fresh slate, moving into the next meeting or the next thing that you’re doing without carrying all the heaviness of the stress and the layers of busyness and things with you.”
Supporting employees to embrace meditation
Organizations can encourage employees to try meditation by offering mindfulness breaks, working with managers to encourage meditation on a team level, and offering wellness solutions through employee benefits.
Everyone can appreciate a short break during the workday. When employers offer their staff meditation and mindfulness breaks to decompress and reconfigure their focus on priority tasks.
Employers can also work with leadership team members and managers to support wellness on a team level to support wellbeing in their organization. Health and wellness programs also play a key role in fostering a supportive environment for employees to adopt and sustain meditation and other stress-reduction practices.
Reaching more than 10 million families worldwide, LifeSpeak Inc. provides employers, health plans, and organizations with a comprehensive, leading whole-person wellbeing suite of solutions to reimagine how employees view wellness, mental health, and beyond. One of these solutions is Wellbeats Wellness, an on-demand digital wellness solution to help members and their families lead healthy and mindful lives through expert-led resources from certified professionals. Thousands of classes and programs are available, including a wide variety dedicated to meditation and mindfulness.
Peace. Positivity. Productivity.
Meditation can provide many benefits, including reducing stress, creating a peaceful atmosphere, and even boosting productivity levels among working individuals. Regardless of what time of day you choose to practice meditation, its immense value can transform how we live our everyday lives.
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