Since 4 years now I have been teaching meditation as part of stress management workshops I hold in different work environments. I like to call them ‘Happiness @ Work’ workshops and I would like to share with you how and why a simple meditation process, practiced regularly at work, can have a positive benefit in your life.
When people who spend a long time in the same environment engage in meditation practice together the work environment can transform into a space with increased levels of happiness and productivity, resulting in less stress and negativity. Also, reduced numbers of absence from work related illnesses.
What has happened when successfully practiced and people are engaging in this relaxing, peaceful activity over a period of time together with the group, relationships develop more natural and perform better as a team. Now, instead of feeling stressed when thinking about work, the subconscious association with the work environment has changed into feeling good instead.
Today, more than ever before, we are faced with stress related to work. Whether we work for a big company, smaller organization or if you're a freelancer or owner of a company, stress levels are high and we all know that it's not good for our health. Common stress related consequences include cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, irritable bowel syndrome, and increased cancer risk. You may also be aware of how damaging stress can be to your work; reduced cognitive ability and distorted thinking. For example, finding it difficult to solve problems, taking longer to complete tasks, nervousness, it affects our relationships with people at work and out of work, it's harder to focus, manage time and prioritize. Our view of work and the world around us starts to appear negative to us and if we don't do anything about it it can affect our mood for the long term and cause us to burnout and continue experiencing anxiety or even depression.
When we practice meditation, we are actually training our mind and body to being calm and relaxed. We all already know how we function when we feel calm and relaxed; we think better, we find solutions to our problems easier and those solutions tend to be the best solutions. We also manage time better, we are more productive and we don’t spend our time ‘banging our head’ and ruminating. We think clearly and we get things done, just like that.
One of the reasons why people who work together in big offices or companies experience more stress is because they are exposed to more people around them who are nonverbally showing signs of stress. This is something that we are often not aware of. We are empathetic beings and our brains are equipped with mirror neurons and these brain cells are responsible for only one thing and it is to notice and reflect back behaviour of people around us. When you yawn or smile after somebody you see is doing the same, you have experienced your mirror neurons in action. You can read more about it here Mirror Neurons. We can use the same process to spread good feelings around us. When people who spend lots of time at the same office engage in meditation together, they are all becoming calmer and more positive.
Shawn Achor wrote about the happiness ripple effect in his book Happiness Advantage. “Each one of us is like that butterfly the Butterfly Effect . And each tiny move toward a more positive mindset can send ripples of positivity through our organizations our families and our communities.” .
Another reason is that it is at first hard for us to begin to relax and meditate at work because we have associated stress with our work environment. Human and animal brains associate their environments with how they are feeling. This is part of our survival kit we are born with. It obviously has its purpose to protect us and it also makes connections that look like this, ‘office means stress’ or ‘beach means relaxed’. We can use this knowledge and change the feeling of stress associated with work when when we start meditating in that same environment.
For those of us, I am part of the ‘us’ too, who do not work in big offices, advice is: use the same principles when you are at the place you call your own work environment. It can be at home if you work from home, or an office/coworking space.
Meditation at work makes sense. Today may be the right day for you to start! Until you develop a good routine it is advisable to have somebody experienced guiding you through the meditation process and once you develop a skill to enter meditation on your own, guidance is not necessary.