Deep breathing. Finding a mantra. Sitting still and thinking quietly. These might not sound like things you and your co-workers might do at work – but one expert says they should be.
“It’s not uncommon now for big corporations to encourage meditation during breaks and even hold meditation events during working hours,” says Dr. Barbara Cox, a consulting psychologist and coach who specializes in working with innovative leaders and organizations.
“Research shows there are significant effects on physical and mental health for people who practice meditation, self-hypnosis and other stress-management tools,” says Cox, who earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of California, San Diego,and started her career as an environmental scientist, most notably organizing environmental projects for the Department of Defense. She has master’s and doctorate degrees in psychology from Alliant International University – San Diego.
And you don’t need a big budget to add meditation to your workplace.
“You can start small,” Cox says. “You could have a meditation week where everyone meditates at the same time every day for one week. You could have a meditation challenge between departments or send out weekly meditations in the company newsletter. You could even begin your meetings with a two-minute meditation.
“The key is to just get started because the sooner you do, the sooner your company will experience the results.”
Among the benefits:
Improved ability to manage stress: Life is filled with stress and the average work day can provide a host of new triggers that add to stress, whether it’s a demanding supervisor, a difficult client or uncooperative co-workers, just to name a few. “Stressful situations are going to happen,” Cox says. “So the question becomes how well you can handle the stress. Meditation can assist in that.”
Increased quality of sleep: Meditation can help people with their sleep issues, according to research by Harvard University, Northwestern Memorial Hospital. That doesn’t mean meditating only before bedtime. It also helps to practice meditation during the day, so you can more easily get into that relaxed state at night. “And if you get a good night’s sleep,” Cox says, “you’re more likely to perform well at work the next day.”
More mental energy: People can often feel tired during the work day, even if they don’t have a physically demanding job. One reason is mental exertion, some of which goes back to all that stress, Cox says. Meditation can help restore both your physical and mental energy.
Greater ability to concentrate: For many people, it doesn’t take much to let their minds wander – especially these days when distractions such as smartphones and internet connections are close at hand to give them an extra reason to lose focus. Those who meditate are better able to focus on ideas and remember facts without getting easily distracted, and there’s research by the University of California, Santa Barbara, to back that up.
“Supervisors need to take note of all that research if they haven’t already,” Cox says. “Companies are always looking for ways to improve productivity and meditation can help lead to a happier workforce and a more efficient one.”