Mindful for Better Health
More and more studies have shown direct links between meditation and health benefits. Recently, researchers at Johns Hopkins found that eight weeks of meditation are just as effective as taking medication when treating depression, anxiety and pain.
A meditation or mindfulness practice doesn’t need to take much time and can greatly affect your attitude, perspective and ability to effectively cope with stress throughout your day. Often a few minutes of meditation can save you hours of stress and more productively handle challenges that arise. Meditation is a life-long habit, and you’ll find the most benefit when practiced regularly. Allow yourself to refocus if at times you sway from a regular commitment.
What’s the difference between mindfulness and meditation? Meditation is a way to clear the mind, let go, and achieve peace and stillness within. Mindfulness is being presently and actively aware of feelings, thoughts, and behavior in a non-judgmental way. The blend of the two techniques is often referred to as “mindfulness meditation.”
The physical benefits include lower blood pressure, increased serotonin to improve your mood, an enhanced immune system and increased energy. The mental benefits of meditation encompass emotional stability, increased creativity and happiness, enhanced intuition, and overall peace of mind. Neuroimaging studies have shown that meditation does indeed generate actual changes in several areas of the brain. The changes appear to affect density and thickness of brain tissue, white matter fiber density and cortical surface area as well as brain activation patterns.
How Do I Get Started?
Try integrating some of the following techniques most days of the week to get the most benefit:
- Set aside 5-10 minutes each day for calm and stillness. Make it a habit.
- Begin by concentrating on your breath to slow your heart rate, relax your muscles and focus the mind. Stretching can also help prepare the mind and body, as you loosen muscles and tendons and begin the process of looking inward.
- Notice when frustrating feelings come up and make meditation an active process focusing your attention on a single point.
- Experiment with sitting, lying down, opening or closing the eyes, to see which type of meditation feels most comfortable for you.
- Listen to guided meditations. There are many free sessions available through YouTube or smartphone apps.
- Integrate meditation into any moments during the day when mindfulness and breath could help you get through stress or challenges.
Is It Useful in Employee Wellness?
Meditation can be incorporated into workplace wellness programs along with other elements promoting a healthy, holistic and productive lifestyle. Its personal benefits can certainly be extended to the work environment.
A study found that mindfulness can be beneficially associated with employee well-being in terms of emotional exhaustion, job satisfaction and psychological need satisfaction. Positive effects were also seen with job performance, as measured by task performance, organizational citizenship behaviors and deviance.
For hardworking folks on the go, there are some different practices that can be adopted, many of which are available for tablets and smartphones:
- Themed sessions on aspects such as sleep and stress
- Quick meditations to work into a busy schedule
- Concentrated exercises to apply in high-stress situations
If you’re thinking about incorporating meditation/mindfulness activities in an employee wellness program, here are some suggested guidelines:
- Clearly define the program, what you want to achieve and how you will evaluate results
- Understand your organizational culture and their current familiarity with meditation
- Develop a formal proposal for the program with details on goals, participants, program elements, targeted benefits and measurement criteria
- Select an individual, preferably at an executive level, to endorse the project and be its champion
- Stay the course and patiently encourage participation through a variety of communications
Whether you’re considering meditation and mindfulness on an individual basis or participation in a program where you work, the benefits appear strong. In today’s fast-paced world, it could be what you’re looking for to help create the peace and productivity we all seek.
A longer version of this article previously appeared in Corporate Wellness Magazine.
About Danielle Keenan
Danielle Keenan provides consulting to Keenan clients to design, implement and evaluate best-practice population health management programs. She holds a B.A. degree in Psychology from California State University – Long Beach and an M.P.H. degree in Public Health from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). Additionally, she has earned the Wellness Council of America (WELCOA) Worksite Wellness Certification, is a continuing WELCOA Faculty Member, and was recognized as one of WELCOA’s Top 50 Health Promotion Professionals.