Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Meditation Has Clinically Proven Workplace Benefits

Stress has gotten to be fairly commonplace in many employees' lives. More EAP programs offer stress management as a part of their work-life balance menu, and that may include meditation.

"I teach classes for meditators in the corporate environments already, and it reflects a growing trend in the workplace as employers discover the benefits for themselves," said David Michie, author of Buddhism for Busy People.

When people meditate regularly, Michie said some clinically proven benefits include physiological changes that promote stress reduction including reduced blood pressure.

"Not only is blood pressure lowered, our whole metabolism slows down. Our heart beat and breathing slows down, and we become more relaxed. When we're less stressed out and more relaxed, we tend to be a lot more forgiving of people's behavior, and interpersonal relationships tend to improve. In contrast, if everyone's uptight and angry, we all know what kind of environment that creates."

Michie said a second benefit to regular meditation is increased focus or concentration.

"When we meditate, we focus on our object of meditation, which is usually just one thing. It could be focusing on your breath or a mantra or visualization - even a physical object. When we do that over a sustained period of time, our concentration tends to improve. It has a kind of ripple effect, and as our concentration improves, that makes us far better performers in a corporate environment. We're able to process tasks and get through work. Our focus is enhanced, and our sense of objectivity and clarity is dramatically enhanced, as well."

Michie said much like a glass of storm water left to settle so that the sediment separates to the bottom, regular meditation can reduce the agitation employees build up.

"That tends to subside, and we're able to see opportunities and avenues that we didn't see, with a far greater degree of detachment and objectivity than when we have an agitated mind.

"I tried for many, many years to become a published writer and never really got anywhere. Then I decided to go on a holiday. This is before I was meditating. I was in Los Angeles, enjoying a walk down Venice Beach and feeling very relaxed, and suddenly it occurred to me that I should write a book about spin-doctoring and public relations because I had some experience in the field. And that was in '97, when spin-doctoring was becoming a big thing in Britain. I was in the right place at the right time, and I was able to see that with quite a degree of clarity."

Michie said clarity and objectivity can be especially important benefits in the corporate environment because stressed employees can lack the objectivity required to make effective decisions.

"For example, you're pitching your client or company into some position where you want to contract or sell products or services," said Michie. "If you're attached to the outcome and desperately want it to happen, that's not a really strong negotiating position to be in. It's far better to be in position of strength, where if the company likes it, great, but you really don't mind one way or the other."

Regular meditation can promote better overall health, as well, which can reduce absenteeism and improve engagement.

"We tend to become sick less often. It's a very practical thing, really, because our immune system benefits from regular meditation," he said. "It's the opposite of the fight-and-flight syndrome. Our production of endorphins increases significantly. Apart from being the feel good hormone, endorphins are also very good at repairing and protecting the body's immune system. Things like the common cold, flu, etc., you tend to get better at resisting. Even if you do suffer from them, you tend to suffer from them slightly less and in slightly shorter periods. I used to get really bad colds or flu every winter, which put me in bed for a week. But that hasn't really happened since I started meditating regularly."

The modern workplace can be a sensitive one, and some talent managers may worry about the suitability of meditation in the workplace and thus be hesitant to promote it. Michie said there aren't any religious or inappropriate connotations associated with meditation. It is a secular activity, he said, as evidenced by the growing popularity of transcendental meditation and research done in that area.

"There's not necessarily a relationship between meditation and religion," he explained. "There are a lot of people meditate who are not in any way religious, and they get the same benefits from it. For example, some of the most widely practiced forms of meditation are breath-based meditations, which involve counting cycles or inhaling through one nostril and exhaling through the other for three breaths and vice versa. But they don't involve anything to do with Jesus or Buddha or Muhammad. It's the fact that the repetition of a particular phrase has a calming effect on the mind."

Kellye Whitney
[About the Author: Kellye Whitney is managing editor for Talent Management magazine.]


  1. Richard Ingate said...
    This is an interesting presentation of the benefits of meditation. There is, as you mention, research demonstrating the benefits of TM. there is also considerable research of the benefits of mindfulness meditation, which does not involve repetition of a particular mantra.

    In the end any meditation that helps to focus the mind is beneficial!

    best wishes,


    Samantha said...
    A very insightful post on concentration exercises. Here's a website that i thought i might share with you, which is very helpful on teaching you how to improve your concentration. It's at www.attention-deficit-disorder.net. There are easy guides for you to follow too.
    HealingMindN said...
    In reference to Richard's Post, actually mindfulness meditation, in its simplest form, is the basis of all other meditations. Whether you're focussing on breathing, mantra, visualisation, or all 3 at once, it all begins with mindfulness.

    Nostril breathing as indicated by Kellye is a form of Ha-Tha yogic breathing that helps to activate both sides of the brain is a most excellent form of mindfulness meditation.

    My question to Kellye is how did you get into teaching this - in a corporate environment no less? What's your experience in meditation and how did you introduce your services?


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