A Google query returns 151,000,000 results in less than a second when you type in meditation. This ancient mind-body balancing method is getting more mainstream attention in our culture as researchers are starting to quantify its effects on our mind, body and, may I say, spirit.
Despite its growing popularity, many people still find meditation unappealing or unattainable. Lack of believing that it works, time constraints and lack of know how are cited as the main reasons. Let’s tackle each.#Meditation makes us happier, healthier and kinder. And we do better work and make better decisions. Click To Tweet
The benefits of meditation for health and productivity
Growing up as a gymnast and a dancer, visualization has always been one of my favorite tools. For me, having sharper focus and getting calmly in the zone were good enough reasons to dedicate a few minutes to meditation as often as I could. But if you’re a numbers person, check out these results on the effects of meditation.
Mindfulness meditation rebuilds the brain’s gray matter in 8 weeks, leading to improvements in cognitive and psychological functioning (Harvard Gazette. 2011).
Meditation helps with anxiety and other stress disorders. It “stimulates the pituitary gland and the hypothalamus, thus releasing endorphins. Meditation also increases production of serotonin, dopamine and melatonin, all related to positive moods, happiness and relaxation” (Brainwave Research Institute. 2016).
Dr. Herbert Benson’s relaxation response study showed positive results for the 14 participants with blood pressure concerns. In this before/after study, both systolic and diastolic blood pressures improved significantly (Benson et al. 290. 1974).
An experiment with fourth and fifth graders showed that kids who did mindfulness exercises had 15% higher math scores than the other kids (Time. 2015).
Your new 2-minute reset
Do you have the image of a yogi in your head sitting in lotus position for hours? Scratch that! Set the timer for 2 minutes and make meditation your break during your workday. Meditative exercises can be effective in hitting the reset button, which we should all do periodically throughout the day. Breaks are essential to replenish your energy and boost your performance. But make it a good 2 minutes so less can become more. Place your full attention on the meditation of your choice!Fully engage in your 2-minute #meditation break so less can become more. Click To Tweet
Over time, you may increase the length of your meditation to 5, 10, 20 or to however many minutes you wish. Based on my experience, once you become comfortable with the idea of meditation, you won’t even think about time. You’ll often find yourself craving to stay in that sacred space you’ve created for yourself for as long as you can. And you’ll learn that 20 minutes can fly by quickly.
The question of how
Ok, so you only have a few minutes. There are plenty of things you can do—even at your desk. Download a meditation app or try one of these 4 ideas:
Start with this blog. For people with racing minds, it may be hard to solely focus on the breath. If that’s the case, add a mantra. This mantra can be “so hum” (I am that) as I wrote in my article or any other word combination you create for yourself. For example, say “OK” on the inhale and “let go” on the exhale. Or breathe in your favorite word and breathe out your worries. Play with it.
Reset with a simple sound. If you feel comfortable with repeating “Om” to yourself, do so. If “Om” makes you uncomfortable, the sounds of the ocean or another pleasant instrumental sound can help you put other thoughts out of your mind. Pause for 10 seconds after the last sound is made to let it all sink in. Without judging, just observe its effects on your body and mind.
If you’re staring at your computer all day long, gazing may not be your first choice. But it’s one of the quickest ways to reset if you’re new to meditation. I like using a tea light candle but you may opt for a fruit or another object at work. Your fire department will thank you for a non-hazardous choice! Observe the object in front of you. Take it all in—the sound (if any), color, shape, texture, smell and temperature of the object. If you wish, close your eyes and picture the image in your mind.
Your break time should also be an opportunity to move. Whether you opt for seated postures or standing exercises, the goal of moving meditation is to move slowly and with full awareness. If it feels good, close your eyes to amplify your attention on your body and mind.
To seal my practice, I like to finish with my eyes closed. Then I rub the palms of my hands together and gently bring them to my eyes. I open my eyes one-third of the way inside my palms, another third and finally open them all the way. I gaze softly into my palms for a few seconds before I remove them. Try it and let me know your experience.
- CEO Glenn’s story: how I got hooked on meditation
- 10 ways for the time-strapped to quiet your mind
- With every breath, you make a statement
Image by Kampus Production, Pexels
Chen, Kevin W., Christine C. Berger, Eric Manheimer, Darlene Forde, Jessica Magidson, Laya Dachman, and C. W. Lejuez. “Meditative Therapies for Reducing Anxiety: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials.” Depression and Anxiety. U.S. National Library of Medicine, 14 June 2012. Web. 02 Oct. 2015. <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3718554/>.
McGreevey, Sue. “Eight Weeks to a Better Brain.” Harvard Gazette. Massachusetts General Hospital, 11 Jan. 2011. Web. 13 Jan. 2016.
“Meditation Boosts Endorphins.” Brainwave Research Institute. Brainwave Research Institute, n.d. Web. 13 Jan. 2016. <http://www.brainwave-research-institute.com/meditation-boosts-endorphins.html>.
Oaklander, Mandy. “Mindfulness Exercises Improve Kids’ Math Scores.” Time. Time.com. Web. 26 Jan 2016. <http://time.com/3682311/mindfulness-math/?xid=newsletter-brief>.
I am new to meditation but this line says it all “You’ll often find yourself craving to stay in that sacred space you’ve created for yourself for as long as you can.” My goal is to get to that spot easier, allow it to live longer and repeat it regularly. I always keep a pad close by to write down any insights, goals or observations that come to me. It has become a great new tool to deal with stress, planning and project management.
Absolutely–journaling is a great tool!