The Benefits of Workplace Meditation

Clarity and the ability to focus on goals are crucial to the success of any business. Both of these are a byproduct of the inner calm and peace that meditation brings.

In this context, we had a chat with Sarah Presley, Professional Meditation Teacher, Teacher Trainer & Reiki Master based right here in Bristol.

ADLIB: Let’s start with ‘Why’, how do you think meditation can help boost wellbeing and decline workplace stress?

Sarah Presley: According to the Office for National Statistics, the days lost to sickness in 2016 was 137.3 million days. That is the equivalent of 4.3 days per worker. 24% of those are for coughs and colds, 20% are for musculoskeletal problems and 22.4% are due to depression, stress and anxiety.

Meditation is the perfect antidote for workplace stress and the science behind it is so compelling.

We know that meditation introduces the relaxation response, which is a counterbalance to the flight or fight response. The relaxation response activates the parasympathetic nervous system which allows the body to release chemicals and brain signals that makes our organs and muscles slow down and increases blood flow to the brain.

This directly impacts our metabolism, heart rate, respiration and brain chemistry. When we are calm, the body does not have to produce as much adrenaline and cortisol (the stress hormone), and so this allows the immune cells to remain strong – so we are less likely to have coughs and colds.

Meditation has also been proven to change the brain in areas that are important for learning and memory, and in structures associated with self-awareness, compassion, introspection and emotional processing. But most importantly, meditation can help with stress and anxiety, the main contributors to many health conditions, by shifting brain waves in the stress-prone right frontal cortex to the calmer left frontal cortex. This mental shift decreases negative effects of stress, mild depression and anxiety.

And for musculoskeletal problems, it has also been proven that meditation has an effect on all the areas of the brain that deals with physical pain so it can reduce, or assist with the management, of pain.

ADLIB: Can you share 3 meditation exercises that one could introduce into their daily routine as an employee or as a manager?

Sarah Presley:When you have to wait for a few moments — at the printer or lift, or as your computer turns on – instead of taking out your phone and checking your email, try a Purposeful Pause:

Take a moment to check in with your body. What does it feel like to take one breath? How does it feel to stand, or sit, with the weight of your body balancing there? If your mind wanders, come back to the sensations in your body. Just pausing for a moment. And when you’re ready, proceed with your day.

When you are experiencing a particularly stressful moment, a mindfulness exercise known as C.A.L.M can be helpful.

  • C for chest. Bring your attention to your chest for a few calming breaths
  • A for arms. Bring your attention to your arms as you continue to breathe. Notice how your arms can relax with each breath.
  • L for legs. Now bring your awareness to your legs for the next few breaths. Feel your legs becoming rooted and strong.
  • M for mind. And not bring your attention to your mind for a few more calming breaths.

A mindfulness exercise for when you are being hard on yourself

A simple exercise, known as R.A.I.N can help us stay in the present moment and not get caught up with the reactions or opinions of others, or our own emotions.

  • R: Recognise. Acknowledge what is happening, just noting it in a calm and accepting manner.
  • A: Accept. Allow life to be just as it is, without trying to change it right away, and without wishing it were different somehow.
  • I: Investigate. See how it feels, whether it is making you upset or happy, giving you pleasure or pain, just note it.
  • N: Non-Identification. Realise that the sensations you are feeling make for a fleeting experience, one that will soon pass. It isn’t who you are.

ADLIB: In your opinion, how can meditation improve the way that people work?

Sarah Presley: Long days, tight deadlines and office politics can induce high levels of anxiety! Most of the time our minds are wandering to the past where we are dwelling over events that have already taken place. Or we can be worried about the future.

Our minds can often be creating dramas out of every eventuality which is not at all based on fact. The great thing about meditation is that it can help to train the brain and body to be less reactive. Meditation is a tool that can bring us to mindfulness – a state of being where we are fully present in each moment in a non-judgmental way.

When we meditate and bring ourselves to the present moment it allows us an improved focus of mind, which can lead to better concentration. This enhances our capacity for retaining new information and offers us excellent memory power, as well as new levels of creative thinking.

We are less likely to procrastinate and we are able to manage our time much more effectively. We may find we are much calmer, as well as more resilient – just being more aware of the signs of stress can help an individual to respond more effectively.

ADLIB: How can meditation be reinforced consistently in the workplace in order to be made a priority?

Sarah Presley: Meditation isn’t just great for the individual. If each of the employees meditate, it can benefit a whole organisation. To date, 45 workplace mindfulness studies have shown improved working relationships. For this reason, both employers and employees need to recognise that there is a common need for meditation in the workplace.

Bringing meditation sessions to your organisations does not have to be costly or time-consuming, but having clear objectives at the start is important:

Is your organisation going to offer sessions during the day or/and space for this to happen? Is there going to be any resources available to support this? Are you going to have a teacher-led programme to get your organisation stated? Or will your organisation support digital programmes or apps?

Plan your approach and pilot it to a small group first. This way you can see what is effective and what works. Involve the management team – if they can see the benefit for themselves, they are more likely to support it within their teams. Consider having a mindfulness champion within the office too: someone who can reinforce the use and benefits.

Thanks so much for sharing your knowledge Sarah!

Sarah Presley is a Meditation Teacher Trainer for the British School of Meditation. Based in Bristol, she heads up the South West training centre bringing externally accredited meditation teacher training to meet the growing demand for highly trained meditation teachers. Sarah also brings meditation courses to local businesses and schools as well as her local community. See her website here for more information.

As part of our “work and life balance” initiative, we are featuring knowledge, tools and advice that will help businesses and individuals to understand the benefits and approaches to finding the right work-life balance. This series is all about the conscious step of “putting people at the centre” and utilising them as your greatest asset in order to increase productivity and happiness in the workplace.

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