What Is Meditation?
Meditation is a powerful way to improve your mental and physical health, with many benefits. It can be defined as ‘awareness that arises through paying attention on purpose in the present moment.’ When you meditate, you become aware of everything – yourself, your surroundings and without using the context of past or future, and while without passing judgment. Meditation is grounded in science, and whatever it does for you, your professional life is guaranteed to profit.
It’s easy to say ‘I’m too busy to meditate’ – but that’s precisely why you should. Even brief meditation has been shown to improve ‘visuospatial’ processing, working memory, and executive functioning. Simply put, meditation improves your ability to focus, self-direct, and organize, and it boosts your memory. These traits are so desirable in the workplace that many businesses have started offering meditation programs for their employees.
A little time out equals a massive productivity boost and increased productivity equals a more adaptable, dynamic company. The effectiveness of meditation is largely explained by the changes it makes to the physical structure of your brain. A 2005 study found that meditation changed the structure and thickness of areas responsible for sensory, cognitive, and emotional processing. Combined, these processing abilities allow us to solve complex problems, from social confrontations to complex data. These same brain areas are also credited with giving us the capacity for sustained attention, which is key to capitalizing on those long workdays.
Did you know that when you meditate it can boost your creativity? For marketers and entrepreneurs, creativity is crucial to success. This is because, at its heart, creativity is basically problem-solving. This translates to smarter solutions, original campaigns, and innovative products in the workplace. Creativity and meditation go hand in hand, so it’s not surprising that meditation supports and enhances creative thinking.
Have you ever given so much of your attention to a project that the hours pass by in a heartbeat? When this happens, you’re experiencing creative flow. You are utterly present, hyper-alert, not thinking about the past or the future, and sometimes not thinking at all. In other words, you are meditating. And when you practice meditation, you train your brain to find and maintain this ‘flow state.’ Rather than chancing upon creative flow, you can learn to adopt it at will, thus significantly increasing your creative output and positively affecting your work.
One of the biggest challenges for digital marketers and entrepreneurs is the sense that your job never leaves you. You check the news over breakfast, Skype during your lunch break, and send emails before bed. The constant grind can leave you feeling overwhelmed and drained, which takes a toll on all aspects of your work. The ability to manage and minimize stress is vital.
Michael Chaskalson wrote a fantastic book called ‘The Mindful Workplace’ in which he explains the benefits of ‘Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction’ at an organizational level. Most relevant to us is the well-proven correlation between mindfulness and a decrease in ‘psychological distress, including depression and anxiety,’ as well as other stress-related health issues such as high blood pressure, hypertension, and insomnia. All of these symptoms are serious threats to your success as an individual. Likewise, it affects the success of your business, so minimizing their occurrence is a must. Mindfulness and meditation can address both the physical and psychological effects of stress so effectively, making it an obvious choice for stress management and something to implement into your daily routine.
As one recent study puts it, mindfulness is associated with ‘enhanced self-monitoring of emotions, expression of positive emotions, reduced negative emotions, and emotional regulation.’ In turn, this leads to stronger empathetic connections with the people you interact with, including colleagues, clients, and partners. As Chaskalson says, empathy is ‘crucial in the world of work.’ For marketers, especially, understanding and empathizing with your target audience is paramount. Emotionally-attuned marketing increases a product’s authority and builds an emotional connection with potential customers, ultimately increasing conversion rates.
Moreover, the cognitive changes induced by meditation improve your processing abilities and emotional regulation. In the workplace, this translates to benefits such as increased receptiveness and a more balanced response to feedback and criticism, stronger engagement, an increased sense of enjoyment, satisfaction, and fewer conflicts. These are huge assets in the development and maintenance of mutually profitable professional relationships.
How to Meditate
Practically, one of the most common ways to meditate is sitting still and focusing on your breath. You could do this on the train, at your desk, in a cafe – anywhere. Why your breath? Because it’s always there. Your breath isn’t going anywhere, even if your mind is. The trick is not to judge yourself for losing focus. You may also find yourself trying to assess how well you are meditating, and you may then judge yourself for making this assessment. Remind yourself that there is no need for judgment and refocus. Breathe in, breathe out. It’s challenging to maintain this focus, but the good news is that you’ll reap the benefits simply by trying.