How Meditation Benefits the Working Brain

The workplace is more stressful than ever. With modern technology, employees rarely have a time in their day when they are completely removed from work responsibilities. A competitive job market encourages employees to work harder and longer, take on larger workloads than ever before. These added workplace pressures lead to stress and anxiety that affect how individuals make decisions and perform tasks both in and out of the office.

 

Many companies, both large and small, have been working hard to implement in-office programs that help employees to deal with stress, anxiety and workplace pressures. In addition to cultivating positive work environments, many employers have experience huge workplace improvements thanks to meditation programs. Some offices offer meditation spaces while others offer guided sessions that help introduce mindful practices into employees lives during the workday. The most common practice in the workplace is Mindfulness Meditation, which is a practice that brings the mind’s focus to the body and the breathing in order to help improve concentration and promote open awareness of thoughts and feelings. But the effects extend beyond the moment of practice and into all decisions made throughout the day from what to eat, how to perform tasks at work and how to spend free time.

 

So how exactly does Mindfulness Meditation affect the working brain and workplace performance? When we take time during the workday to stop working and focus on the present, it helps to create a stronger control of the mind’s function and productivity. By controlling senses and breathing, it’s easier to let go of thoughts and feelings of the past and future and train the brain to focus on what is happening in the present moment. By giving the brain a single-task workout, we learn how to stay focused on one task at a time instead of multi-tasking and attempting to complete 10 assignments at once. Training the mind to focus is undoubtedly beneficial to productivity when studies show that the average attention span is now 8 seconds thanks to the fast moving, technology obsessed society we live in. So not only does employee performance improve, but studies have shown that a regular meditation practice reduces stress and anxiety in the brain.

 

Aside from reduced stress and improved productivity, there are many other benefits that come from a corporate meditation program. A regular meditation practice helps to open creative doorways in the brain. With increased focus, problem-solving skills get more creative and new ideas enter the mind more freely. Many people believe that Steve Jobs was so successful in coming up with new and innovative ideas for Apple thanks to a regular meditation practice. As someone who maintained a regular meditation practice and was one of the first corporate leaders to implement in-office mindfulness programs, it’s no doubt that some of Apple’s success is due to his disciplined mental focus and control. 

 

Meditation benefits have also been proven to help resolve workplace conflicts. Mindfulness practices equip employees with better conflict management and interpersonal skills that make resolving issues easier for employees and managers alike. How does this work? Brain scans of meditators versus non-meditators shows that mindfulness meditation helps to trigger the relaxation response, the opposite of fight or flight. The relaxation response can be accessed during times of conflict or stress in order to solve rationally instead of reacting emotionally with the fight or flight response. Employees with meditation practices are aware of their immediate reactions and can more easily step away from a situation in order to make the best decision about how to solve an issue. By improving emotional intelligence and promoting the importance of listening to co-workers and peers, a mindfulness meditation practice can decrease the number of conflicts that arise in the workplace. 

 

Lastly, one of the greatest benefits of a workplace meditation program is the improved overall happiness of employees. With “employee happiness” being one of the biggest buzz works of 2016, it’s important to explore different ways to promote happiness that aren’t related to office kegerators or the mysterious unlimited vacation day policy. A regular meditation practice helps to improve overall happiness, self-awareness and patience. Big corporations like AOL and McKinsey & Co. have experienced increased sales performance, proving that what’s good for the mind and spirit is good for the company’s bottom line. In addition to sales departments benefitting from meditation programs, employees in customer-facing roles who meditate are more inclined to take a timeout when dealing with a difficult or frustrating situation. This is the relaxation versus fight or flight response in action!

 

With proven success in the workplace and studies that show how meditation changes how the brain processes information to better manage stress and anxiety, it’s no wonder that more and more companies are jumping on the workplace meditation trend. Whether that’s a space for mindful activities or guided meditation sessions, companies that offer these programs in-office experience improved productivity, higher attendance and increased employee happiness. It’s no surprise that workplaces looking to reduce stress and improve the lives of their employees are including mindfulness meditation to their wellness offerings. After all, a happy and calm employee is your best employee!

 

 

Interested in setting up a guided Mindfulness Meditation session in your office? Work From Om offers in-office meditation and yoga sessions for workplaces in New York City. 

This Is Your Brain and Body on Yoga and Meditation: 4 Powerful Scientific Findings

By Sarah Vaynerman
This article first appeared in The Huffington Post

The many benefits of yoga, a 5,000-year-old discipline, are finally getting support from modern science.

If you've ever taken a vinyasa class or spent time meditating, you may be familiar with the even-keeled buzz often referred to in the yoga world as "yoga bliss" or "yoga high." As it turns out, several recent studies support that this feeling of mind-body nirvana is not just a fleeting sentiment, but rather an indication of some very real physical responses that could lead to better health, reduced stress and increased productivity.

Yoga gets on your nerves, in the best way

The human body is an incredible, interconnected web of life, but one key player doesn't get nearly enough credit. Many people are entirely unaware of the vagus nerve, which extends from the base of the brain and branches out through the neck, chest and abdomen. It is essentially the command center for regulating the homeostasis of many vital organ systems including the heart, lungs and digestive tract. Researchers from Boston University School of Medicine presented evidence that yoga helps to regulate vagal tone, or the homeostasis of these systems, by stimulating and increasing the activity of stress-blocking neurotransmitters.

Mindfulness meditation can literally change your brain

A team of Harvard researchers compared MRIs of meditators to non-meditators before and after an eight-week course in mindfulness-based stress reduction, where participants practiced meditation on average for 27 minutes a day. Meditators showed a significant increase in gray matter in the hippocampus, which is associated with learning and memory, and a decrease in gray matter in the amygdala, which is associated with anxiety and stress. The non-meditating control group showed none of these changes in brain structure.

A few deep breaths really do go a long way.

 A study published in 2013 by the National Center for Biotechnology Information found that participants showed a significant reduction in blood pressure following 10 minutes of alternate nostril breathing and 10 minutes of breath awareness compared to a control group. The study concluded that alternate nostril breathing is associated with improved focus and attention while keeping anxiety levels low. This is significant because tasks requiring focus and attention are usually associated with stimulating the nervous system -- a response that can be dangerous for those with conditions such as hypertension and high stress levels.

Not all exercise is created equal

Think yoga is just one way to get the benefits of any aerobic workout? Think again. A University of Illinois study concluded that 20 minutes of Hatha yoga improved participants' ability to maintain focus and take in, retain and use new information significantly more so than after 20 minutes of moderate to vigorous aerobic activity. In fact, participants showed no significant improvements on working memory and inhibitory control scores after activities like jogging, while reaction times and accuracy on cognitive tasks following yoga increased.

Stress Management Techniques & Meditation with NYC's "Urban Monk", Yoga for the Office With Certified Corporate Yoga Teachers!

Stress Management Techniques & Meditation with NYC's "Urban Monk", Yoga for the Office With Certified Corporate Yoga Teachers!

Picture this: it’s Monday evening and you’re in a packed room filled with NYC’s busiest professionals - in quiet meditation. Sounds impossible, right? Wrong! Nothing is impossible. Indeed, this was exactly the scene we set at last week’s Stress Management, Yoga and Meditation Workshop at OFFSITE, our preferred venue partner for corporate events.

On May 4th we held our first open-to-the-public event with Pandit Dasa, Work From Om® Urban Monk-in-Residence who spent more than fifteen years as an East Village monk, studying and applying wellness and meditation techniques and helping countless New Yorkers cope with stress. In this two-part event, attendees were engaged in Pandit’s Stress Management Talk & Guided Meditation, followed by a Mindful Movement asana sequence and demos led by our co-founder and certified yoga teacher Ashley Mancuso.

Here’s a summary of the takeaways for those of you who weren’t able to make it (don’t worry - more events are on the horizon!), and a refresher for those of you who were.

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Stress Management and Running From Tigers

Stress Management and Running From Tigers

Office-dwellers of New York City, I have a some questions for you. Just to humor me, please read them over and make a mental selection of your answers. Here we go:

  • What is more frightening: running from a tiger or making a presentation in front of co-workers / clients?

  • What is more intimidating: battling a predator for food or clamoring against another commuter for the last seat on a rush-hour subway car?

  • What requires more focus: escaping a fire or escaping a last-minute Friday 5pm assignment?

The choices seem obvious, right? Well... not quite, at least from a physical standpoint. Believe it or not, since all of these scenarios are stress-worthy by today’s standards, you’re likely to experience a pounding heart, sweaty brow, hands that get cold and clammy, and tense muscles as much from fighting for that rush-hour subway seat as you are from running from a tiger (albeit maybe not to the exact same intensity).

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