How Meditation Improves Productivity
* “Verified by a US-based board-certified doctor”
I don't know what my mornings were before I began my meditation practice. I can remember that I often rushed into the day without checking-in with myself, without grounding myself in peace, and without the strength of a quiet inner self. I know that sounds cheesy, but it is so true. A meditation practice can seem innocent enough - it's even trendy right now. But it is much more powerful and beneficial than you realize.
Meditation will bring such calm to your life. In a chaotic world, we can use more calm. It will also benefit you spiritually - whatever that looks like for you.
But apparently, meditation is more than a calm mind. It has other benefits that extend into all areas of our lives, including our work. It may seem counterintuitive, but this quiet practice performed in solitude can even make you more productive.
What is meditation?
Meditation is the practice of using some technique (and there are many) to train your mind in attention and alertness by focus. Often beginners are taught to focus on the breath - that is, by counting our unforced breaths or focusing on some aspect of our breathing. There are other techniques, but this is one of the most popular and easiest to grasp.
Youtube is full of guided meditations, which is what you might need initially. But as your practice grows, you won't need to be guided. You will learn which techniques work best with you, and you'll find that you can sustain the state of meditation for more extended periods.
Here is a concise list of some of the many benefits of meditation. We will discuss the main ones that involve productivity in greater detail further on, but all of these benefits deserved mention.
- Improves focus and memory
- Relieves stress & builds stress-management skills
- Increases creativity
- Produces inner calm
- Increases blood circulation to the brain
- Dissipates negative emotion
- Improves self-awareness
- Enhances life (longevity)
- Keeps us present in the moment
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How meditation improves productivity
Here are just a few of the ways meditation benefits your productivity.
This is one of the most exciting ways that meditation makes you more productive. According to research published in 2005, meditation changes the structure of the participant's brain in positive ways. Researchers observed that the cortex was thicker in meditators than in non-meditators. Thickening of the cortex means that there are greater volumes of grey matter in those locations. The significance of this is multi-faceted.
One of the regions of increased thickness was observed in the pre-frontal cortex. A thickened pre-frontal cortex is closely associated with increased intelligence, and of course, the pre-frontal cortex's function is our executive function.
So increased grey matter, thus strengthening this region, improves the following behaviors and abilities:
This information makes it easy to understand how meditation can improve productivity.
More mental discipline
Our minds tend to wander. It has been speculated that we spend less than 50% of our time actually being present with our activities. Wherever we are physically in any given moment, we tend to be someplace else mentally. This negatively affects our ability to accomplish our goals.
Research has found that a wandering mind is not a happy one. Having so many thoughts bouncing about in our heads impedes our ability to think thoroughly and insightfully.
Meditation is the antithesis of these unrestrained thoughts. It won't happen right away, but over time, the practice of meditation will teach you to control your thoughts. As you meditate and realize that a thought has come to your mind, you gently bring your mind back from the thought to the breath. It's challenging at first, as thoughts can be overwhelming. But you will find it easier to dismiss thoughts by merely turning your attention from them.
The link between productivity and mental discipline doesn't take much explanation. As we have more control over our thinking, we can aim our mental energies toward our work and produce more.
Stress is a disrupter of sleep, clear thinking, positive emotions, creativity, and energy flow. Meditation reduces cortisol (the stress hormone) in our bodies and thereby helps reduce stress and its effects. The process of deep breathing (during meditation) helps the body feel safer and increases the sense of well-being - both of which are targeted when we feel stressed.
Cortisol is also linked with age-acceleration, so reducing this hormone can be beneficial in extending life.
As we live in this crazy world, reducing stress isn't a one-off situation. But meditation gives the practiser the skills and opportunity to keep stress at bay. When stressful situations arise during the day, meditators can enter a quiet, internal calm state by having a mini-session wherever they are.
This benefits productivity because you can escape the confining effects of stress and be free to work and create from a place of calm and assurance.
Provides deep rest for mind, body & soul
When we are over-worked in any area of ourselves, we don't function very well. Even while we sleep, sometimes we still aren't at rest because of inner chatter, worry, and mental processing. Our minds and bodies need rest. Fortunately, meditation puts your body in a state of resting awareness. You are aware of your surroundings, but your body and mind are at restorative rest.
Giving your mind a break will recharge it, and you'll see the benefits in more profound insights, clearer thinking, enhanced creativity, better perspective, and more excellent problem-solving. All of this means improved productivity.
Meditation can be frustrating in the beginning. Drawing in the wonderings of your mind can seem more like herding cats, and finishing a session feeling like you have actually meditated can seem impossible. But don't stress. If you managed to hold focus and a quiet mind for even the briefest period, be encouraged that you will grow in this. You will slowly discipline your mind in this gentle way and you’ll reap all of the above benefits and more. Happy meditating!
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