Happy New Year! We wish you a joyful and rejuvenating 2017. May all your positive aspirations come to fruition, and may you experience equanimity and warmth in the coming year. Last month we introduced mindfulness meditation and what makes it so compelling. Now we would like to share with you what researchers are saying about it and how it can be helpful in the workplace. Enjoy!
What are researchers saying about meditation?
In the past 10-15 years researchers have been studying and documenting the many positive effects of a mindfulness meditation practice. Here is a small sampling of what has been discovered:
- Better sleep: researchers found that mindfulness meditation helped to treat chronic insomnia, decreasing the total time awake and enhancing levels of melatonin.
- Increased ability to focus and pay attention: Harvard researchers discovered that people who meditate actually grow a thicker prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain associated with self- awareness and attention.
- Less workplace burnout: Teachers at a school for children with severe behavioral problems who meditated regularly experienced a new resiliency.
- Decreased depression: Johns Hopkins researchers found a 10-20% reduction in depressive symptoms of those who were treated with meditation compared to others treated with a placebo.
- Weight loss: In a clinical study, it was found that 30 minutes of mindfulness meditation every day helped patients to reduce "stress eating" and lower cortisol levels.
How is mindfulness meditation particularly helpful in the workplace?
- Increases Teamwork: In the competitive global economy, with its fast-approaching deadlines and multitude of voices asserting differing opinions, multi-faceted problems demand teamwork. Challenges invite employees to work together, pooling their intellectual resources to succeed. Unfortunately, when people feel fear and tension, or they are too distracted to really hear each other's point of view, it's common to slip into a more competitive state of mind which can lead to the formation of an unsafe cut throat culture. Meditation helps people connect with the heart, enhances the ability to listen and allows for a moment to slow down and evaluate a challenge without fear and tension. From a more human, relaxed thoughtful point of view, true collaboration emerges and people can bring out the best in each other instead of pointing fingers.
- Boosts Health: Pervasive stress wears down immune systems. Health expenditures at high pressure companies are tremendous: the American Psychological Association estimates that more than 550 million workdays are lost each year due to stressful experiences at work. Meditation's relaxing effects help employees to shed nervous tension and stay healthy. Stress also degrades a person's ability to think clearly and focus; so, helping workers to relax can actually improve the quality of their work and reduce needless mistakes born from distraction.
- Improve Work Culture: While a high-intensity workplace culture of fear can ensure employee engagement, research suggests that the tension created from working within an environment such as this over the long term can harm both employee health and company outcomes. When the principals taught in meditation practice expand beyond the cushion, they can promote the cultivation of an emotionally safe workspace. The more individuals practice self-compassion and non-judgement, the easier it is to see things from others point of view, and to respond instead of react when crucial moments arise. Meditation can bring out the best in each individual, and promoting creativity and collaboration. This can help to magnetize top talent and to reduce costly turn over.
- Inspire Creative Solutions: Allowing space and time to integrate the experiences of one's life can create more psychic space. Without so much noise in the head, it's easier for new ideas and ways of thinking to spontaneously arise. It can also help meditators to get in tune with a sincere sense of purpose and vision. Employees who experience this kind of clarity and connection in their meditation make thoughtful decisions and bring fresh ideas to the table. With a team of clear-thinking workers, true innovation is possible.