For less stress and better focus at work, meditate

The co-worker two cubicles down who appears to be nodding off may not be indulging in an afternoon nap after all.

Instead, he or she could be in a state of meditation, and the bosses likely are happy about that — or at least they should be. It’s not uncommon now for big corporations to encourage meditation during breaks and even stage meditation events during working hours. Research shows there are significant effects on physical and mental health for people who practice meditation, self-hypnosis and other stress-management tools.

Improved ability to manage stress. Life is filled with stress, and the average workday can provide a host of new triggers that add to stress, whether it’s a demanding supervisor, a difficult client or uncooperative co-workers, just to name a few. Stressful situations are going to happen. So the question becomes how well you can handle the stress. Meditation can assist in that.

Increased quality of sleep. Meditation can help people with their sleep issues, according to research by Harvard University, Northwestern Memorial Hospital. That doesn’t mean meditating only before bedtime. It also helps to practice meditation during the day, so you can more easily get into that relaxed state at night. And if you get a good night’s sleep, you’re more likely to perform well at work the next day.

More mental energy. People often feel tired during the workday, even if they don’t have a physically demanding job. One reason is mental exertion, some of which goes back to all that stress. Meditation can help restore both your physical and mental energy.

Greater ability to concentrate. For many people, it doesn’t take much to let their minds wander — especially these days, when distractions such as smartphones and internet connections are close at hand. Those who meditate are better able to focus on ideas and remember facts without getting easily distracted. Research performed at the University of California, Santa Barbara, backs that up.

Supervisors, if they haven’t already, need to take note of all that research. Companies are always looking for ways to improve productivity, and meditation can help lead to a happier workforce, and a more efficient one.

Bringing the benefits of meditation into a company doesn’t have to be a major undertaking. You can start small. You could have a meditation week, when everyone meditates at the same time every day. You could have a meditation challenge between departments or send out weekly meditations in the company newsletter. You could even begin your meetings with a 2-minute meditation.

The key is to just get started, because the sooner you do, the sooner your company will experience the results.

Barbara Cox is a psychologist working as a consultant and executive coach.