Sometimes it feels like we’re all working harder, faster and under more pressure than ever before. With countless late nights at the office, long hours travelling, aggressive KPIs, increased competition, endless emails and social media updates, switching off is difficult. 59% of Australians check their social media first thing in the morning – it’s go-time right from the moment we wake up.
So, how do we ensure our minds are as sharp as they can be? How do we find that psychological edge that can be the difference between success and failure? The answer could be mindfulness and meditation.
Mindfulness and meditation have recently won mainstream cred and grown massively in popularity in the business community. Businesses have included purpose-built chillout or meditation spaces in their offices to prioritise mindfulness and meditation. In this article we take a closer look at the two practices and how they just might help you perform better and kick those business goals.
“You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes a day, unless you’re too busy; then you should sit for an hour.” Old Zen saying
What’s the difference between meditation and mindfulness?
These two terms are often confused or thought to mean the same thing, and in many ways, they are. Both involve introspective thought, and both have the same benefits of relaxation and attention.
There is plenty of argument about the definitions of mindfulness and meditation, and we don’t expect this explanation will suit everyone, but here goes!
A simple way to understand the relationship between the two could be to consider mindfulness as the awareness of ‘some-thing’ and meditation as the awareness of ‘no-thing.’
Mindfulness is a state of present moment awareness. It’s about paying attention to thoughts, feelings and behaviour. For example, being aware of the feeling and sensation of a hot shower on your skin. Jon Kabat-Zinn, a leading authority on mindfulness, defines it as: “paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.”
Meditation, like yoga and Qigong, has been used for centuries as a spiritual practice, to silence the inner and outer world and attune one’s connection to the spiritual world. Meditation is a more active practice, where you aim to remove conscious thought and focus on a simple or singular element such as your breath, a symbol or a sound. Meditation focuses inwardly on the body and is rooted in more spiritual beliefs.
Mindfulness has won many fans of late, including psychologists, as it is relatively easier to apply to the modern world. For a more detailed explanation of the differences between mindfulness and meditation, check out this article by Yoga International.
Quick, tell me the top-line benefits!
Hold on a sec. The first thing mindfulness and meditation teaches you is to slow down, calm your mind and let go. But for those in a rush to get back to the to-do list, here’s a summary of the key benefits for you personally.
- Increased focus and productivity
- More energy
- Improved memory
- Better decision making
- Greater patience
Let’s unpack that a little
Christi-an Slomka, Community Manager at Calm, says that business is a stressful endeavour, and cultivating mindfulness is important for self-care, stamina, perseverance and general wellness (emotional, mental and even physical).
“Business can be all-consuming, and we risk losing perspective and passion when our minds are constantly spinning and we're pushing our bodies. Pausing to relax and reset fuels creativity and focus required for your business to thrive,” says Christi-an.
“Mindfulness is crucial to helping you sleep better and feel healthier, which ultimately lessens stress, uplifts your mood, enables sharper attention/better memory, fuels creativity and much more. It helps you relax as well, allowing us to approach the day with more energy and presence.”
Want more? Mindfulness goes beyond the surface
According to Wellness Coaching Australia, being mindful also has many deeper psychological benefits, including:
- Experiencing unpleasant thoughts and feelings in a safe way
- Becoming aware of what you’re avoiding
- Being more connected to self, others, the world
- Becoming less easily disturbed by, and reactive to, unpleasant experiences ·
- Learning the difference between you and your thoughts
- Having more direct contact with the world rather than living through thoughts
- Learning that everything changes, including thoughts and feelings
- Having more balance and less emotional volatility
- Experiencing greater calm and peacefulness
- Developing self-acceptance and self-compassion
“Meditation is an inside job. Only you can create your inner peace.”
- Dani Stevens, 365 Lifestyle Motivator
According to Dani, mindfulness meditation also helps you create emotional space to have a more mindful, conscious response to those around you. Connecting with people today is more paramount than ever. In the digital world we live in, these essential people skills will gift you with higher levels of satisfaction in all working relationships.
“Think of meditation as a workout for your brain. Over time it can improve your overall brain health and build your mental capacity. During the process of ageing, meditation can help to improve concentration and create laser-like focus. Studies show that meditation can help people maintain their focus, even during boring tasks,” says Dani.
What are the benefits for business?
Great leaders and companies care about their people. Yes, productivity and performance are part of it, but these measures are achieved as a result of a happy, healthy workplace.
“Mindfulness improves productivity and focus on an individual level, and can also improve colleague relationships, build teamwork and foster a positive, more generous work environment,” suggests Christa-an.
- Reduced absenteeism
- Staff stress reduction
- Enhanced creativity
- Improved resilience
- Greater productivity
A study by the American Psychological Association focused on mindfulness in a work setting for employee awareness and employee absent-mindedness. The study concluded that these two aspects of mindfulness had a positive benefit on employee wellbeing and job performance. This included reduced emotional exhaustion, increased job satisfaction, psychological need satisfaction, and better organisational citizen behaviours.
Imagine if someone told you there’s a magical way to motivate your workforce, improve productivity, performance and satisfaction – and it could take as little as 10 minutes per day. Would you do it?
Mindfulness and Meditation Go Digital
There are the standard ways of meditating like going to a yoga class, or a mindfulness retreat, but as a busy professional you might find you don’t have that kind of time. A big reason why mindfulness and meditation have grown in popularity comes down to the rise of the app. Guided mediations are now available on your phone and in the palm of your hand, so it’s quick and easy to dial into some down time. They all cater for various levels of user, from beginner to advanced, and provide specific programs for different situations or requirements. They are very easy to use, affordable, and you can meditate anywhere, anytime. There’s no excuse not to get started, really! Here are a few of the most popular apps available:
Calm claims to be the #1 app for meditation and mindfulness. It has over 100 guided meditations to tackle anxiety, stress and sleep problems. In the Premium version, you also get a library of Sleep Stories, music tracks, masterclasses and calm body programs. If you’re travelling to the US, keep an eye out for the Calm retail stores in all major airports.
This 100% not-for-profit organisation has a goal to make mindfulness accessible to all. The Smiling Mind free app has had over 3 million downloads, so they’re a good way down the track of achieving this. Developed by psychologists and educators, the app features programs for all ages, and a special program for the workplace includes 7 modules and 41 sessions.
Cool animations are a feature of the headspace app, as is a focus on healthier, happier lives. For the workforce, Headspace offer hundreds of themed sessions, quick meditations for time poor, and SOS exercises in case of sudden meltdowns. LinkedIn and Google have been using Headspace for years, and that’s a strong endorsement.
Meditation in Your Day
“A daily practice, even a short one, brings greater peace, clarity and focus”
- Rachel O’Brien, Leadershift 7
So, at this point you might be thinking well that’s all well and good but HOW am I going to find the time to work this into my busy schedule? Good question, here are some ideal times and easy ways to incorporate it into your day.
Before work can be a busy time. You’ve got to get up, get dressed, eat breakfast, pack your bag, and rush out the door. Then if you’re a parent times that process by how many kids you have and add the occasional spilled food, the “I can’t find my uniform” debacle, and the “I don’t want to go to school” saga. So where will you find time for mindfulness?
If you’re heading to work on public transport, then that’s a great opportunity to pop on a guided meditation through an app and relax.
If you’re driving to work, head off 10 minutes earlier and do a guided mediation before you get out of the car.
Grabbing a morning coffee? Sit down at the coffee shop instead of having takeaway and use the time waiting for the coffee to meditate.
During Work Hours
This might seem the most challenging. What if the boss sees you meditating and mistakes it for being lazy? Well first, you should probably send them this article so they can learn about the benefits of mindfulness and meditation. Here are a few ways to incorporate it into work hours.
Make it part of your lunch break. If you can spare 10 minutes of your lunch break to find a quite spot to sit and meditate, you’ll feel refreshed and ready to tackle the second half of the day.
Take an afternoon-tea meditation. Go for a quick walk outside and or find a park to sit in to meditate. If smokers are allowed out for a cigarette, surely you can go out to increase your productivity and wellbeing.
Head to a meeting early and use the space to meditate. Of course, this only works if those attending the meeting also aren’t early-birds.
TOP TIP: Rachel O’Brien from Leadershift 7 suggests eating lunch away from your desk, somewhere in nature is ideal. Have a few minutes of deep breathing before you eat. This will help to relax you and will even help with digestion.
This is probably the most popular time to meditate, once you’ve left the office and you can take some time to relax. You can utilise the same suggestions for transport we mentioned in the morning, or here are some alternatives.
As soon as you get home. Kick off your shoes, put down your bag and quickly lie on the floor or couch to meditate. This will help to bring you down from the chaos of the day and relax you. If you have kids why not make it a family activity.
Right before bed. If you’re someone who keeps working at home, then you’ll probably want to move your meditation to right before bed. This will help you switch off and get into relaxation mode to calm your brain for sleep.
The type of meditation or mindfulness you choose will depend on your personal style (and available time). But there are some essential elements you’ll need to have whether you’re heading to a yoga class or using an app for a 10-minute session. Make sure you have:
- A comfortable position (sitting, standing, laying down)
- A quiet setting (pop your phone on silent)
- Focused attention
- Relaxed and deep breathing (avoid having a coffee immediately beforehand)
- Dedicated time to meditate (let your team know you need time)
Meditate Your Way to Success
Now that you know the benefits for you and your business, as well as quick ways to incorporate mindfulness and meditation into your day it’s time to get started. You might even want to raise the benefits with your team and plan some time for everyone to meditate. It works best when you have everyone on board. Try it today!