The World Health Organization estimates that stress costs companies at least $300 billion a year through absenteeism, turnover and decreased productivity. Some studies have even called stress a national epidemic. As such, more people than ever are making meditation a part of their weekly or even daily routine. Businesses are starting to see its impact on work culture, as employee wellbeing can enhance productivity in the workplace.
“Meditation reduces people’s reactivity and increases openness,” says Dr. Jeffery Martin, a meditation guru who’s conducted studies on the benefits of meditation. “So, imagine a group of people at a team meeting. Even if you have two or three people out of 10 who are actively meditating at home, it can produce a significant positive impact because people are literally acting differently. They’re reacting from a calm, centered place.”
In a recent study that Dr. Martin conducted last year, he found that meditation has five key benefits: a 30 percent decrease in stress, 40 percent decrease in depression, 11 percent increase in engagement, 30 percent decrease in neuroticism and that employees are taking 13 percent fewer “sick” days.
All of these benefits can help improve the work environment, which is why several companies across the nation are incorporating meditation into the workday routine. It’s important to note, however, that everyone has different meditation methods that work for them. Here are three “hacks” that Martin suggests to get you started:
- Mantra: Silently repeat Love, Peace or another word or phrase for 20 minutes in the morning. Choosing a word that is likely to psychologically prime you in the right direction for the day. Pause each time you think the word, wait for its afterglow to fade, and then repeat it. When your mind drifts, just bring your attention back and say the word again. Drifts happen because of a core rhythm in the brain, and they are nothing to get frustrated about. After a while the brain will settle in.
- Focus on your breath: For some, using a mantra just doesn't work. If you're one of them, a good option is to simply follow your breath. Focus on either how the breath feels flowing into and out of your nostrils, or the rise and fall of chest or belly while you breathe. It may help initially to mentally note “in” and “out,” but you can drop this after awhile. They key is to try not to change the breath, just watch it as your body breathes in and out.
- Post workout brain stretch: One of the benefits of exercise is increased neuroplasticity. In other words, your brain is primed for its own workout after you finish your physical one. Scheduling some time for meditation immediately after you exercise allows you to take maximum advantage of effects it can provide.
Whether you actively practice meditation or are simply interested in its benefits, companies that bring meditation to the workplace table have a better chance at creating healthier, more engaging employees, even if it’s as simple as encouraging employees to sit and be mindful for a few minutes before a meeting, says Martin.