How to practice meditation at work
Heard of meditation but not sure where to start? Worry no more. We’ve put together a simple, accessible guide to stress relief meditation in the workplace. The benefits are only a breath away.
What is meditation?
Mediation is a mental practice used to find emotional calm and clarity. Meditational practices have been around for many a millennia with benefits that could be life-saving.
Meditation helps to reduce stress and anxiety by allowing us to find a sense of mental stability and security in ourselves and in the present moment. In fact, it can help deal with a whole host of psychological factors such as anxiety, depression, stress and even PTSD and other mental afflictions.
What produces stress in our minds and bodies is deeply subjective. More often than not, it can be triggered by completely trivial and insignificant things. But a build-up of such mini stress-inducers can turn into an impenetrable mountain if not dealt with.
By using breath to find calm and stillness, we can limit the production of adrenalin and noradrenalin, hormones released by the body in moments of anxiety or stress – also known as the fight or flight response.
Give me the science
Scientifically speaking, the sympathetic nervous system produces hormones to keep us wired and ready for action. The parasympathetic nervous system, on the other hand, is about resting and restoration. The parasympathetic nervous system keeps us calm and collected, with hormones such as serotonin and cortisol, which counteract the release of stress-induced adrenalin.
Unfortunately, we spend most of our time in the sympathetic part of our nervous system. We live in a hyperconnected world where we feel increasingly hardwired to be always alert, always on the go and always active. Hello burnout.
Through meditation, though, we can guide our thoughts in the right direction and limit our stress-response by taking a few moments to relax.
There is scientific evidence to suggest that if we meditate often enough, we can literally rewire the way in which our brain responds to certain situations. Through neuroplasticity (the brain’s ability to reorganise itself by forming new neural connections, the things we do often can become stronger) be those physical or psychological.
Medical research has also shown that the relaxation response – the state of calm produced by meditation and mindfulness – can actually switch on genes related to an augmented immune system, reducing inflammation and other bodily traumas such as arthritis and diabetes.
Meditation has also been linked to the thickening of the prefrontal cortex region of the brain, the part responsible for our emotional and cognitive functions. The more we do it, the better we can train ourselves and our minds to remain calm, and the more we will be able to consciously guide the way in which our minds and bodies instinctively reacts to what is happening in our lives.
How to practice mindfulness
So, how do you meditate? There are many forms of meditation, and you can choose whichever one suits you and how your own mind works. Here are some meditation techniques to get you started.
- Sit comfortably and close your eyes.
- Start to tune into your breathing and send your attention inwards.
- Don’t try and quieten your mind, but rather let the thoughts come and go.
- Observe your thoughts as a witness, rather than engaging with them.
- Start by seeing if you can do this for 5 minutes, then increasing to 10 minutes, then to 20 minutes.
- After a few moments of meditation, you can choose a word or mantra to help you concentrate. For example; ‘Peace’, ‘Everything is okay’, or ‘All is well’.
- You can softly repeat this word to yourself to help focus your attention on the current moment. It can also help to quieten the many thoughts buzzing around in your head.
“The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another” - William James
Count your breaths
- You can also try counting your breaths.
- Inhaling for 3 seconds, and exhaling for 6 seconds, focus your attention on feeling your chest expand as your inhale and soften as your exhale.
- Try just breathing through your nose. Breathing in and out through the nose helps us take fuller, deeper breaths, which stimulates your lungs to distribute greater amounts of oxygen throughout the body.
- As we exhale more slowly through the nose than we do through the mouth, the lungs have more time to extract oxygen from the air we’ve already taken in.
- The increased oxygen we get through nasal breath increases our energy levels and sense of vitality, while the increased resistance allows us to take deeper, slower breaths, helping to calm our nerves and lower our stress levels.
Trãtaka Meditation: Use your gaze
- Rather than closing your eyes, choose an object and focus on it.
- Trāṭaka is a method of meditation that involves staring at a single point such as a small object, black dot or candle flame.
- Your sight is one of your most powerful senses. By stilling your eyes, you can help still your mind.
- Use whichever object you choose to maintain your concentration, drawing your attention inwards, away from what is going on around you.
- This will help improve your mental stability, giving you much needed mental space and peace. By keeping your gaze fixed on the object, you stop seeing anything beyond that object, anything that does not serve you in that moment.
Listen to your environment
- Notice all the sounds taking place around you.
- Try not to connect with the sounds, but rather just be witness to them.
- This will help you to come fully present in the moment, unlike how we usually live, tied up in an endless chain of inner noise and frustration.
How can Perkbox help?
Not sure how to encourage employees to meditate? You can help your employees to maintain a sense of calm by setting up an employee wellness programme.
An employee wellness programme is a workplace initiative designed to support the health of your employees. This could be anything from encouraging healthy dietary choices, to flexible working policies to, our new watchword, mindfulness.
The benefits of an employee wellness programme are countless, but the main things it targets are reducing stress levels, improving levels of self-esteem and self-belief, and generally supporting higher levels of motivation and engagement.
Perkbox Medical also provides support for employees suffering from mental health issues, as well as other physical maladies. With Perkbox Medical, you can fast-track the NHS straight to essential care, including wellness counselling, physiotherapy and X-rays.
To finish, just remember that meditation shouldn’t be a chore, and it certainly shouldn’t be another thing for you to stress about. You don’t need to find the perfect time or place, because it can really be done anywhere.
In fact, mediation can be done in very short windows of time. At any moment, you can choose to bring your attention to your breath and become present.
Hopefully, now from the very confines of your desk, you can escape for just a few moments, reconnect, recalibrate, and find a little inner peace.
“People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills… there is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind… so constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.” – Marcus Aurelius