The past 2 years have been a struggle. The ongoing global pandemic. The climate crisis. Not being able to see family or connect with coworkers outside of a screen. Just to mention a few. However, a positive outcome of all of this is the wide cultural focus on mental health.
In the past year we’ve seen elite athletes like Simone Biles and Naomi Osaka choose their mental health stability over their sports championships. But what does this mean for business owners and workers in our ecosystem?
33% of respondents said they have an activity such as running, walking, or yoga as their meditation practice. 25% have a more traditional meditation practice (such as sitting in silence focusing on the breath.) 25% don’t meditate but are interested. and 17% say that it’s not their thing.
So it’s simple, you don’t have to be an elite athlete to prioritize your mental health.
In this blog post, I’ll be talking about the benefits of mindful meditation and how it impacts your mind and your work.
Let’s start at the beginning: what is mindful meditation?
Mindful meditation is the psychological process of purposefully placing your attention on the present moment without judging or entertaining thoughts that may arise. For example, sitting comfortably and focusing on your inhales and exhales.
Benefits of mindful meditation
Mindful meditation is proven to improve focus, reduce stress, and reduce irritability. A major benefit of meditation is that the act of meditating creates neuroplasticity in the brain. Neuroplasticity is the creation of new neural pathways which make you more susceptible to learn new habits. So if you want to take up Cantonese or Dutch, or a new instrument, meditating may help you with that.
Common misconceptions of meditation
One of the most common misconceptions about meditation is that you have to “turn off your brain” or hike up to a temple and leave all of your belongings and attachments to your life in order to observe your thoughts. This is not true. Meditation is an exercise like any other. In order to create a habit, first, you need to start to practice.
The most powerful thing I learned that enabled me to become an experienced meditator was to let go of that anticipation of “being good at it” and just practicing. Showing up every day for myself for 10-20 minutes and simply focusing on my breath.
5 techniques to start meditating
A walking meditation at the beginning of your day can be a way to start on the right foot. Rather than taking calls, checking your emails, or listening to a podcast or music, try taking a walk to cultivate mindfulness and an awake presence. Going for a walk in a calm and quiet place where you can focus on your breath and allow yourself to be present and alert is a perfect way to cultivate a walking meditation practice.
2. Running or swimming
Running or swimming offers a great opportunity to be alert, present and focus on the breath. It fosters concentration, contemplation, and allows you to be fully aware of the here and now.
Guided meditation can be beneficial if you find yourself to be easily distracted. There are many approaches to guided meditation. Such as visualization or using audio (most commonly an app) where a narrator guides you through a body scan or a story.
4. Silent (or non guided)
Silent meditation is where you sit comfortably in silence focusing on your breath using a timer or bell that rings at intervals to bring your awareness back to the physical space.
5. Metta or Love and Kindness
Metta means benevolence, positive energy, and kindness toward others in the Pali language. This is a type of Buddhist meditation where the goal is to cultivate kindness for all beings including yourself, family, and friends.
With these 5 techniques, I’m merely scratching the surface. There is a whole world of meditation techniques out there. Not to mention, there are several apps that are very beneficial to starting a meditation a habit. I’d recommend Headspace, Calm, Waking Up, or Jack Kornfield’s guided meditations.
How a meditation practice impacts your work
Reduce prejudice, foster teamwork
No matter our differences, in the workplace, we all have to get along. A practice of meditation such as metta, loving-kindness or compassion meditation fires the neural pathways of the brain that regulates positive emotions such as empathy.
It is my theory that this type of practice enables a space to build more social connectivity and allows people to become more amicable and affectionate.
Lower stress, counteract burnout
Meditation has been proven to lower cortisol levels, the hormone that powers stress. Sometimes not knowing when to take a break and step back can be fuel for burnout. Establishing a meditation practice can counteract that.
Less emotional reactions, more rational connections
It’s been proven that experienced meditators show much less emotional responses. This is because experienced meditators have a better grasp on emotions and thoughts as they arise. They are able to be the observer of the emotions and thoughts rather than the entertainer of those emotions and thoughts. For example, if something highly frustrating happens in the team, experienced meditators are more likely to respond with higher levels of compassion, understanding, and empathy.
By all means, I don’t think that meditation is a cure-all. However, I consider it to be a very effective tool in my arsenal that allows me to view the world in a more positive light.