Ever heard of meditation? Yeah, everyone has.
Meditation – a state of heightened mental awareness, or transformation of the mind – has become a very popular way of helping people better manage things like stress, depression, anxiety, productivity, and attention span among many others. Mindfulness meditation, specifically, teaches you to focus on the in and out motion of the breath – and only that. It may sound easy to sit still for a few minutes a day and focus on your breathing – and nothing else! – but just like any other skill, it must first be learned.
So, what’s the big deal?
According to an article by Emma Seppala, Ph.D., Science Director of Stanford University’s Centre for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education, a meditation practice can increase your immune function, decrease pain, decrease inflammation at the cellular level. It can also increase positive emotion, reduce depression, anxiety and stress, increases your social connections and emotional intelligence, make you more compassionate and feel less lonely, improve your ability to control your emotions, and improve your introspective capacity (ability to examine your own thoughts and feelings).
Plus, it increases the grey matter of your brain, increases cortical thickness in areas of the brain related to paying attention, increases your focus, your ability to multitask, your memory and your ability to think creatively and ‘outside the box.’ Oh, and it makes you wiser. That’s 20 benefits of meditation, in case you were counting. And that’s just from one article citing a handful of the thousands of scientific studies out there which boast the benefits of this quiet practice.
The overarching benefit of meditation, and especially mindfulness, is learning the skill of staying present. Have you ever spent your entire commute worrying about what happened yesterday or about how your day at work is going to go or if you’ll make it home in time for dinner with rush hour traffic? Through mindfulness, you’re taught to stay in the moment and experience life as it is happening now. Because that’s all we really have anyway, right? Okay, let’s not get too deep.
It’s obvious that meditation can impact your life in general – but what about meditation for work? As it turns out, tons of huge companies – we’re looking at you, Google and Apple – have incorporated meditation and mindfulness practice into their everyday workplace culture so their employees can reap the benefits.
According to Headspace.com, a mindfulness and meditation website and app, “Neuroscientists found that, after just 11 combined hours of meditation, practitioners had structural changes in the front part of the brain involved in monitoring focus and self-control. In fact, research shows that, compared with people who didn’t meditate, meditation practitioners stay on task longer, switch between tasks less frequently, and enjoy their tasks more.”
The benefits of a meditation practice are so numerous it’s difficult to not want to give it a try. It’s always a good idea to do a bit of Googling and research what kind of meditation is suitable for you. You could seek out a class at your local yoga studio; purchase books online or borrow them from the library; or take a closer look at apps like Headspace or Aware (many are free for the first several sessions with an option to subscribe for access to a larger library of sessions).
If someone handed you the chance to improve your productivity and satisfaction at work, be less stressed and anxious, be better able to control your thoughts, be more creative, and simply improve your overall health, why wouldn’t you seize it? This and much more is what many feel a consistent meditation practice can be.
Written by Jess Campbell