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Everyone Who Works in an Office Should Meditate

Chances are you’ve heard of meditation before.  The word meditate, according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, simply means, “to engage in contemplation or reflection.”  The practice of meditation makes time for a specific kind of mental reflection.  This article goes into more detail about what meditation looks like, but the best way to find out is to try it.  See the last section of the article for ways to try it out for yourself.  For an office worker, the benefits of meditation can help counteract two specific challenges we all face: distraction and procrastination.  See the third section of the article more on how.

Meditation as practice comes in many varieties, just like physical exercise.  Like running (or whatever form of physical activity you prefer), it can look as different as each person who attempts it.  However, meditation does not focus on training the physical body.  Instead it trains the mind.  One of the most popular forms of meditation is called mindfulness meditation.

Mindfulness mediation is essentially time dedicated to observing your own mind and the way that it functions.  Our external environment affects our subconscious (the part of our mind over which we do not have direct control) in ways that are hard to notice, but have profound consequences for our actions.  Mindfulness meditation teaches us to be aware of that our minds thinking, feeling, craving, or lacking.

What does mindfulness meditation look like?

The National Institute of Health says the following about meditation, “There are many types of meditation, but most have four elements in common: a quiet location with as few distractions as possible; a specific, comfortable posture (sitting, lying down, walking, or in other positions); a focus of attention (a specially chosen word or set of words, an object, or the sensations of the breath); and an open attitude (letting distractions come and go naturally without judging them).”  The last part, an open attitude, is the centerpiece of mindfulness meditation.  Mindfulness meditation teaches the mind to observe itself objectively and to accept whatever it sees.

Mindfulness can help increase focus and decrease procrastination

Technological advances are making humans more productive and efficient at a dizzying rate.  At the same time, technology like the internet, computers, smartphones, email, social media apps, etc are constantly bombarding us with new information.  Some of the information may be relevant, but most of it isn’t.  Even the stimulus that we don’t actively engage with, such as an email ping, thoughts of unfinished tasks, or open browser windows, affect our mind’s ability to focus.  Meditation counteracts these distracting influences by training the mind to understand when it is overwhelmed, distracted, or just stressed.  From a place of awareness, external factors can be changed create more focused productivity.

Meditation also works to directly increase focus and decrease stress.  For many, one of the largest drains on productivity is procrastination.  In essence, procrastination occurs when the pain of doing something now outweighs the perceived reward of completing the task now.  Meditation teaches the mind to accept the discomfort of taking action, which in turn short circuits the trap of procrastination.  The paradox is that procrastination creates more of the stress that it seeks to relieve.  Meditation helps the mind identify the effects of procrastination in the moment, so they can be overcome.

How can I try meditation?

The best way to understand meditation is to do it consistently.  Just like exercise, one session alone won’t have much of a lasting effect beyond the feeling it provides in the moment.  However, short daily meditation may be enough.  10 minutes a day is an easy yet effective place to start.

There are two popular apps that offer guided meditations: Calm and Headspace.  Both offer free trials in slightly different ways.  This article provides a good comparison of the two apps.  Both are somewhat expensive once the free trial ends.  For the price conscious, there are YouTube videos, and also guided meditations on apps like Spotify and other music apps.

If you are looking to increase focus, or decrease procrastination, look for guided meditations that address these topics.  Often guided meditations have a theme to them that helps achieve a specified goal.

Yoga is also a form of mindfulness meditation.  It differs from traditional mindfulness meditation because it incorporates physical movement.  Meditation can even be done with no guidance, however it is helpful to learn the technique and gain experience from a guide before trying it alone.

The bottom line is that meditation is worth trying.  It wouldn’t be surprising to hear health professionals of the not so distant future begin to prescribe mediation and other mental practices the same way that exercise prescribed today.  If you’ve read to the end of this article, and you haven’t already seriously tried meditation, you owe it to yourself to find a YouTube video or download an app.

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