Stress, lack of productivity and communication breakdowns – all are significant work challenges whether working at home or in the office. Mindfulness can help with all these issues. Most people associate meditation with management of stress.
In fact, meditation enables people to focus on the present and eliminate external distractions. In doing so, meditators can lower stress by up to 40 percent.
The body can create a stress response to overwork. This is more commonly called ‘fight or flight’. It results in the release of cortisol, which raises your blood pressure and the heart rate. Meditation directly counters this by inducing the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for relaxing the body and bringing back control.
Although meditation is often seen as a solo pursuit, it can achieve communal benefits too. Research shows practising meditation improves the way employees interact with each other – something that is crucial whether working in a small team or as part of a large organisation. A 2015 study by Headspace, a leading meditation and sleep app, reported that using its service resulted in increased compassion.
Team mindfulness, which takes a group approach, reportedly helps to eliminate work judgement and can support workers being on the ‘same wavelength’. HR departments are increasingly looking at the benefits of mindfulness into the workplace.
One of the biggest barriers to productivity is distraction. Realigning focus through meditation can help tackle this. Giuseppe Pagnoni, a neuroscientist with a keen interest in the effects of mindfulness, conducted a study in 2012 into the impact that zen meditation can have on focus. He found the brains of experienced meditators were more ‘stable’ and less prone to ‘mind wandering’. Additional research has shown that 15 minutes of meditation time can increase focus by 22%.
Meditation can also improve someone’s ability to store and retrieve memories? Memory processes are predominantly managed by a structure that sits in the brain’s temporal lobe called the hippocampus. A 2011 study by Harvard University showed that just eight weeks of mindfulness meditation can thicken the hippocampus. As well as boosting memory functions, this has a positive impact on learning and applying new skills to solve problems.