There are a huge number of studies supporting the benefits of meditation for overall health and wellness. Many of these benefits are specifically related to the changes that can occur in the brain as a result of a regular meditation practice.
Let's take a look at some of the many potential brain related benefits of meditation and how these relate to improved performance in the workplace.
Improve mood and decrease anxiety levels
Meditation can be helpful for treating mood and anxiety disorders. A review of medical databases analyzed 36 studies related to meditation and its effect on anxiety levels. 25 studies reported statistically superior outcomes in the meditation group as opposed to the control group. Overall, the findings demonstrated efficacy in meditation for improving anxiety symptoms.
A person who experiences anxiety may suffer from symptoms such as sweating, palpitations, shortness of breath and panic attacks. These symptoms can lessen their ability to focus on workplace tasks and properly execute the job at hand. Including meditation as part of an overall workplace wellness plan may help these employees to manage their symptoms and feel more in control. (Learn more in Supporting Employee Mental Health in the Workplace).
The benefits of mediation for cultivating positive emotions and retaining emotional stability have been evidenced time and time again in studies of long term meditators. This suggests that the positive emotional effects that result from meditation are likely to be increased over time.
Reduces stress levels
For many, the workplace can be a major source of stress. High levels of stress can affect a person's ability to focus and concentrate and can decrease their productivity levels overall. Employers should be aware of ways that they can help employees to get out of a place of distress and into a place of eustress where they are motivated, happy and productive.
Meditation can form part of an overall workplace wellness plan aimed at reducing stress levels. A study on the effects of a meditation based stress reduction program in cancer patients showed a positive effect on mood and stress related symptoms across all ages, stages of illness and types of diagnoses. These benefits could easily extend to a healthier, happier and more productive workforce. (Learn more in A Step-by-Step Guide To Helping Employees Set Personal Wellness Goals).
Improves attention span
As an employer, there are many ways to help employees improve their attention span to focus more easily on tasks. Some of these include:
- Allowing regular rest breaks
- Rotating tasks so that employees aren't doing the same thing for long periods of time
- Ensuring the task at hand is a good fit for the employee
Including meditation as part of an overall workplace wellbeing plan is another way to help employees to increase their levels of focus and attention. One study found that the ability of participants to sustain attention was enhanced after only four sessions of mindfulness meditation training. Another study reported improvements in attention related behavioral responses from both a retreat and a course based approach to mindfulness meditation.
The enhancement of cognitive skills such as maintaining attention and disengaging from distraction can be highly beneficial for superior performance in the workplace. Some of these positive meditation effects have been observed in experienced meditators in a non-resting state. This suggests the possibility for these cognitive benefits to transfer into daily activities such as those which are carried out in the workplace.
It can enhance the function of the brain
Neuroplasticity is a term used to describe the changes that can occur in the brain as a result of experience. Meditation is one practice that has shown evidence of neuroplasticity and the ability of the brain to grow new connections. Studies of long-term meditators have identified alterations to the structure of the brain. These changes can result in positive mental changes and over-all improved levels of wellbeing.
16 participants underwent an eight week mindfulness meditation program. The study results highlighted changes in the gray matter concentration in the brain. These changes were associated with the areas responsible for learning and memory, emotional regulation, self-referential processing and perspective taking. The effect of such changes could offer some profound benefits for workplace performance and wellbeing.
Ways to include meditation as part of an overall workplace well-being plan
There are various ways that employers can help employees to learn meditation skills aimed at helping their performance and well-being in and out of the workplace. Here are a few ideas:
- Suggest meditation apps or podcasts that employees can download and listen to on their phone when they are on breaks, traveling to and from work (note that listening meditation podcasts while driving may not be recommended) , when they wake in the morning, or before going to bed at night.
Try Meditation Station by Stin Hansen for short guided meditations that are around 10 minutes in length, or The Meditation Podcast with Jesse and Jean Stern for guided meditations around 25-30 minutes in length. Both podcasts have specific episodes to cater for a huge number of needs including anxiety reduction and decreasing workplace stress.
- Run a weekly guided meditation class for the team where a meditation teacher comes in to run a 25-30 minute session
- Consider a breathwork focused class such as Qi Gong or Tai Chi which can provide mental and emotional benefits for workers. This is a good consideration if your employees are desk bound for much of the day and could benefit from a little bit of movement alongside a practice that promotes mental focus and relaxation
- Research meditation course providers and retreats in your area that will take employees through a program to incorporate meditation into their daily life, step by step
- Provide a silent relaxation space in the workplace where employees can sit or lie with their eyes closed, free from distractions. This could be a small room where each employee can book in ten minutes per day for themselves. Make it comfortable by including cushions, low light and perhaps some relaxing background music
The effects of meditation for mental and emotional well-being can be profound. For a happy, healthy and thriving workplace consider incorporating meditation into your overall workplace wellness plan.