5 Ways Meditation Can Make You Happier and More Successful at Work
by Deepak Chopra, MD
Whether you work from home or in a corporate high rise, taking a little time each day to rest in the inner quiet of meditation will protect your mind-body balance, help you stay centered and calm, and open you to your highest potential for creativity and success.
As the popularity of meditation grows in the West, we now have access to thousands of ancient and modern techniques. It can feel overwhelming to know where to begin, so to help people get started, at the Chopra Center we launched the 21-Day Meditation Challenge™– a free, online experience where I offer daily instruction and guidance in the practice of meditation. We have been honored that more than a million participants have joined us for the meditation challenge so far, including thousands of busy professionals, parents, and others who have enjoyed the convenience of being able to access the daily meditations at any time and from anywhere in the world via their mobiles devices. This year's 21-Day Meditation Challenge launched on August 5, and I invite you to learn more and register for the meditation challenge here.
Now let’s look at the five ways that meditation can help you prevent burnout, and experience more fulfillment and happiness at work.
1. Meditation Reduces Stress
Chronic, unmanaged stress can make you sick and accelerate aging. As many scientific studies have found, prolonged stress contributes to the development of high blood pressure, heart disease, stomach ulcers, autoimmune diseases, anxiety, cancer, insomnia, chronic fatigue, obesity, and depression.
In meditation, your body releases stress and reverses the effects of the flight-or-fight response – that ancient instinct we all have to either run from perceived danger or take it on in battle. Intended as a short-term protection mechanism, fight or flight causes our body to speed up our heart rate, increase our blood sugar, suppress our immune system, reduce insulin production, pump out stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol, and reduce the blood supply to our digestive organs. All of these reactions happen so that our body can focus on either running away as fast as it can – or staying to fight. Although few people reading this article face daily threats to their bodily existence, many live in a prolonged state of fight or flight, generating stress in response to bad traffic, criticism from a supervisor, or a workplace disagreement.
2. Meditation Helps You Create Harmonious Relationships
When you’re feeling balanced and centered, it is much easier to respond rather than react, to be present with a client or co-worker and really listen to what they are saying and what they may need.
As you meditate on a regular basis, you develop what is known as “witnessing awareness” – the ability to calmly and objectively observe a situation, notice when you are being triggered, and consciously choose how you want to respond. The ability to be present and aware is valuable in the workplace and every other area of your life. During the upcoming Meditation Challenge we will be focusing on specific tools and approaches to creating relationships that support greater happiness and fulfillment in our lives.
3. Meditation Improves Focus and Concentration
Many people feel frazzled because they’re trying to do more than one thing at a time. As neuroscientists have discovered, the conscious brain cannot multitask. If I’m speaking to you and checking my emails at the same time, I’m doing neither. Meditation helps us to train our brain to stay focused on the task at hand rather than letting our attention be pulled away by every passing thought and distraction. This one-pointed attention makes us more productive and less stressed.
There is a lot of interesting research showing how meditation and mindfulness improve the brain’s focus and concentration. A study carried out by the Kyoto Convention Bureau found that when people meditated for at least ten minutes before a meeting, they were much better at focusing, listening, retaining information, and completing tasks. The next time you’re leading or attending a meeting, you may want to suggest just a few minutes of meditation for everyone to get centered and present. It doesn’t have to be complicated – just have people close their eyes and focus on their breath for a minute or two.
4. Meditation Enhances Your Creativity
We each have between 60,000 and 80,000 thoughts a day – unfortunately, many of them are the same thoughts we had yesterday, last week, and last year. The mind tends to get stuck in repetitive thought loops that squeeze out the possibility for new ideas and inspiration. Meditation takes us beyond habitual, conditioned thought patterns into a state of expanded awareness. We connect to what is known as the field of infinite possibilities or pure potentiality, and we open and receptive to new ideas, fresh perspectives, and flashes of insight.
The world’s great innovators, athletes, and other high achievers have described this state as “being in the flow,” being in the right place at the right time, or a state of grace. Time seems to stand still and instead of struggling and trying to force things to happen, everything you need comes naturally to you. You do less and accomplish more. You aren’t burdened by the past or worried about the future; you’re flowing in the ever-present, eternal now. This higher state of consciousness, which we can access through meditation, is the birthplace of all creativity.
5. Meditation Improves Health and Vitality and Enhances the Power of the Brain
When we’re feeling healthy and energetic, it is much easier to stay focused and meet the daily demands of work. Meditation is now recognized as a healing tool with numerous benefits for the mind-body system. In the state of restful awareness created by meditation:
- Your blood pressure normalizes
- Your heart rate slows
- Your immune function improves
- You use oxygen more efficiently
- You produce fewer stress hormones, such as adrenaline, cortisol
- You make more sex hormones particularly DHEA
- Your pituitary gland release more growth hormone (an anti-aging chemical)
In addition to all of these benefits, the deep state of rest produced by meditation triggers the brain to release neurotransmitters that enhance feelings of wellbeing, focus, and equanimity, including dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin, and endorphins. Meditation choreographs the simultaneous release of these neurotransmitters, something that no single drug can do – and all without side effects.