The popularity of workplace meditation at companies such as Google, KPMG, McKinsey, and BlackRock has been well documented in the media. Mindfulness meditation is the most commonly used workplace meditation practice, which practitioners claim boosts focus and energy and relieves stress. I describe mindfulness meditation as a breathing exercise with the intention of making you feel present and clear-minded, but my favorite description of mindfulness meditation was given by Jon Kabat-Zinn during a presentation made at Google. In that presentation, he described the human body as an instrument, similar to one musicians use. He explained that before performing or practicing, musicians must first tune their instruments to themselves, and then tune them to those around them. The same “tuning” of the body can be achieved through mindfulness meditation. You prepare, or tune, your mind to take on your workday.
It’s well known that the effects of stress can lead to loss of productivity, absenteeism, turnover, and higher health-related costs, all of which negatively affect the workplace. Meanwhile, studies show that just 15 to 30 minutes of mindfulness meditation a day can lead to improved concentration, resilience, patience, higher energy levels, and increased employee self-awareness and happiness. Mindfulness meditation has also been shown to reduce stress, anxiety, and reoccurring depression. And so, it seems like a good idea (and good business) for employers to encourage employees to engage in mindfulness meditation (or other types of meditation) at work. However, there are some counter arguments for doing so.
Some people believe that mindfulness meditation in the workplace is nothing but a Band-Aid that treats the symptoms and makes employees feel better but doesn’t tackle the actual cause of their stress or concerns. Employees may feel happier through meditation, but those employees would still be better off with higher pay, better benefits, a smaller workload, or better vacation time for example.
I see validity in both sides of this argument, but while writing this blog I began to feel my mind wander away from the task at hand—to each new email as it came in, to my other tasks that needed to be completed at work, and to my personal errands. So I thought I should give mindfulness meditation a try. I figured I should see for myself if mindfulness meditation allows me to re-center my mind more on the present and my current tasks, and increase my productivity.
This led me to a YouTube video by The Mindful Movement, and I decided to try out what was outlined in the video. I found the meditation mostly related to breathing awareness and breath control, and there were many positive self-focused affirmations used. Ultimately, after following the meditation offered in the video and focusing deeply on my breathing, I did feel that my thoughts slowed down, making it easier for me to focus. I also found that I was more productive and my other worries became less urgent.
If you're interested in reading more about mindfulness meditation, here are two informative articles on the subject: Getting Started with Mindfulness and How to Do It. And to get you started on your own practice, here are a few helpful guided meditations: Mindfulness Meditation - Guided 10 Minutes, Mindfulness Meditation to help Relieve Anxiety and Stress, and 10 Minute Mindfulness Guided Meditation Joy Peace Happiness Gratitude.
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