With all the busyness of your life and the stress of situations outside your control–not to mention the stress that sometimes comes from your job–it’s imperative that you take time to relax and relieve tension. One of the best ways to do this is by following meditative practices designed to regulate your breathing and heart rate so you can find yourself shrugging off tension and anxiety.
When meditation is mentioned, people often get opposing ideas of what meditation is. They may carry the mental picture of one chanting and focusing on spirituality for a long period of time in alignment with the ancient art of meditating. But you might feel a little self-conscious and conspicuous chanting at work–don’t worry, because the definition of meditation is broader than this mental image. Meditation is defined as a range of practices centered around relaxation and creating a sense of calm. It can range from thinking deeply about something to clearing your mind and trying not to think at all to focusing on your breathing as an act of reducing your heart rate.
Surely these practices sound a lot more manageable to conduct at work, and helpful to provide a de-stressor during the long workday. We spoke with twelve successful business owners and CEOs who all offered insight onto their favorite practice for meditating either at work or during the workday. We know everyone’s work situation looks different right now, and some people can take a meditation break in the comfort of their own homes while others are at the office. Here is an accumulation of the best advice on workplace meditation, so enjoy diving in and be sure to try these methods yourself.
Meditating at Work 101
The CEO and chief marketing officer of TatBrow points out another popular misconception about meditating, which is that it needs to be done in some type of meditation room or relaxing space. We all know that sometimes your work environment is far from relaxing, but that does not mean you can’t meditate even when surrounded by fast paced operations.
“One of the biggest misconceptions about meditation is that you need a particular setting and location to elicit its benefits. That cannot be further from the truth. Indeed, if you find yourself at work and in desperate need of a destressor, consider closing your eyes and counting down from 100 to 0. This simple exercise will instill mindfulness and allow you to focus more conscientiously on the task at hand,” says Amanda E. Johnson, CEO and Chief Marketing Officer of TatBrow.
Meditation doesn’t have to be a singular activity. Although meditation is about mindfulness and centering yourself to relieve stress, that doesn’t mean meditation can’t be conducted in a group setting. In fact, meditating as a team can be one effective way to release tension directly related to work.
“One of the best ways to meditate at work is to meditate as a team with your coworkers. Some companies choose to actually set up meditation spaces in the office that employees can use whenever they need, or even plan to meet up and meditate collectively with their co-workers. But even without the fancy meditation space your office can focus on meditative breathing. I like to have my team start our mornings with a group breathing exercise. Usually one of us will lead the group in releasing tension and breathing in a controlled manner. I find it to be a super refreshing activity and by having our whole team complete the steps together, you can practically feel the tension rolling away as everyone feels lighter and more ready to begin their day,” says Adam Reed, CEO of Crown and Paw.
One such company that has designated meditation space is Salesforce. The CEO and chairman reports that the meditative rooms in the office contribute to the general company culture of wanting to keep an open mind when viewing all aspects of life, including work questions and issues that arise.
“Innovation is a core value at Salesforce. It is deeply embedded in our culture. This starts in the mindset of every person in the company — you must cultivate a beginner’s mind. A beginner’s mind is the practice of looking at the world with fresh, unencumbered eyes, and avoiding inside-out or homogenous thinking that can lead to blind spots and missed opportunities. To encourage this mindset, we have ‘mindfulness zones’ on every floor of our office buildings where employees can put their phones into a basket and clear their minds,” says Marc Benioff, Chairman and CEO of Salesforce Inc.
One issue people commonly have concerning following meditation is that they don’t have enough time. A common belief is that one will begin meditating during such and such season or once such and such big project passes. However, the point of meditating at work is to fit the much needed stress relief break into the midst of the busyness. Mirabai Bush discusses the incorrect notion that meditation takes too much time to easily fit into your day.
“Pretty much everybody thinks it’s difficult to fit meditation into their lives. But we say, ‘You’re not too busy to brush your teeth or to eat breakfast.’ Once you experience ‘mindfulness,’ which is an umbrella term for meditation and some other practices, you begin to realize its benefits, and then you can incorporate it into your life. Don’t think of it as a big deal, but rather as a short practice each day that really makes a big difference.
“We’ve seen all the research on the various benefits — from stress reduction to health and cognitive benefits, including an increase in attention and creativity and so on. So once you begin to practice mindfulness, you begin to think of it as just part of your life. And there are some ways to make it easier to incorporate into your life. First of all, keep it really simple; brief practice is fine. Just focus on your breathing for a few minutes, and each time you’ll be reminded of how calming and quieting it is,” says Mirabai Bush, Co-Founder of the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society.
Distance Yourself from Distractions
One simple way to meditate that will not consume much of your time but offers great benefits is to remove distractions and offer yourself a time purely for yourself and your relaxation. Digital devices like phones, tablets, smart watches, and computers are all bona fide distractions due to their interrupting nature. Research published in the Journal of the Association for Consumer Research proves this, with their finding being that even the presence of your phone nearby can reduce cognition by limiting your capacity for mental functioning–even when you try to focus on anything other than your device.
Especially at work, when you receive a notification to one of your devices you probably feel the need to check the message immediately. While it is important to be reachable at work, it also is true that everyone needs distraction-free time and it’s not selfish to allow yourself some anti-distraction time during the work day. Just make sure you have a short window of time to be “unavailable.”
“In order to meditate you need to be able to clear your head and take time to simply think and focus on something other than your notifications. One of my favorite practices for reminding myself that I don’t need to constantly be available to those who want to get ahold of me–because everyone deserves some time to themselves–is setting a timer for 5 minutes and giving myself pure uninterrupted time. After setting the timer I’ll put my phone across the room or on ‘do not disturb’ mode. Then I close my eyes and try not to think about anything that brings me stress or reminds me about what I need to get done. I find this time to be like a period of space where time does not affect me because I am unaware of it. I always leave my ‘me break’ feeling rejuvenated,” says Ashwin Sokke, Co-Founder of WOW Skin Science.
The chief marketing officer of Genexa offers another suggestion for creating a temporary distraction free zone. She allows herself time to simply focus on her food during meal breaks in the work day.
“Meditation is a lot simpler and less time consuming than a lot of people think. I expect many people would be surprised to learn that I use meal times as a meditation. Yes, meditating is often about removing distractions but I choose not to view my meals as a distraction and rather as the thing I want to focus on. I meditate during meal breaks by simply removing all distractions like my phone and hone in on each taste and bite of food. It’s easy to fit this form of meditating into the work day because everyone has to take a break to eat. I’ve found I enjoy my meals so much more when I focus on each taste and flavor than I would if I had half of my attention on my phone and half on my food. That’s not to say I never eat with others; group meals with your friends or loved ones are equally valuable. But when I want to meditate at work, I allow myself to eat alone and focus,” says Kelli Lane, Chief Marketing Officer of Genexa.
Another method for meditating without distractions is recommended by the co-founder of Reel Paper who speaks about a mental exercise that helps release withheld tension.
“I have a meditation exercise I love that has helped me to recenter myself at work and feel a physical sensation of releasing stress. How I do it is by finding a window of time during my workday when I can take a few moments to myself without being interrupted. I repeat this activity as many times as needed throughout the day. I close my eyes and picture each concern and task that is on my mind causing me overwhelm. I usually picture each little stress as a neatly wrapped package, then I imagine releasing each one until my mental image is clear and empty of packages. You could picture your stresses as any image that helps you to visualize. I find this activity helps me actually feel the release of tension and worry,” says Derin Oyekan, Co-Founder of Reel Paper.
Meditative Breathing Exercises Business Professionals Enjoy
Other forms of meditating fall under deep breathing exercises. When we spoke with these business founders and CEOs about their advice for meditating at work, some of them offered their favorite breathing exercises to use as a form of meditation at work.
“Meditation can be as simple as stretching and taking deep breaths. After all, studies have proven it is highly effective when workers who sit at a desk stand up every thirty minutes to an hour. I take these opportunities to stretch and focus on the reach of my limbs while I breath deeply. This activity makes me feel centered in myself and ready to focus again. Part of the benefit of stretching is the flow of blood to your limbs and brain which aids in mental capacity,” says Ajay Mehta, Co-Founder and CEO of Birthdate Co.
The founder of plant-based sweets and treats company MiiRO says breathing lies at the heart of reorienting yourself on your tasks at hand. Founder Rym Selmi’s favorite method for meditative breathing is taking the time to count to 100.
“I follow a meditation practice that gives me roughly 100 seconds to refocus and align my priorities back on my health and wellness. When I take deep breaths I remember to be thankful for the life I’ve been given and that no problem or project is insurmountable. I take 100 deep breaths by following an inner dialogue that says ‘inhale and exhale, one, inhale and exhale, two” etc. all the way to the hundreths deep exhale. Usually this is more than enough time for me to feel relaxed and less stressed,” says Rym Selmi, Founder of MiiRO.
Not only does breathing for a specific amount of time designed to offer a relaxing window help bring about a calming effect, but so does breathing with a certain intention. If relaxation is the end goal, sometimes your whole body needs to coordinate with your lungs as you do more than just breathe.
“I follow an easy and quick breathing exercise I call ‘tension relieving breathing.’ I complete this exercise regularly at work throughout the day to help me exude calm. As I take full breaths, inhaling through my nose and exhaling through my mouth, I focus on various parts of my body and try to release tension there. Usually I collect tightness in my neck, shoulders, and spine, so I always focus on those areas. Sometimes I’ll give myself enough time to focus on my whole body and other times just my most tense spots,” says Ryan Brown, Integrated Marketing Director of Kenra Professional.
The CEO of Doelashes offers a very simple and comprehensible breathing exercise anyone can follow to meditate at work.
“Meditating is sometimes misconstrued, but it really comes down to breathing to focus on a clear mind. Sometimes work tension makes your brain feel stuffy and overwhelmed which is exactly when I step back and meditate. One method is to breathe in for eight seconds, hold your breath for seven seconds, before exhaling for four quick seconds. You can repeat it as many times as needed but you can feel the relaxing effects after only a few rounds,” says Jason Wong, CEO of Doe Lashes.
Meditating at work does not have to only occur indoors, whether in your company’s office or in your self-determined workspace, such as your house or coffee shop. Tension does occur anywhere you deem to get your work done, and isn’t exclusive to offices. The founder of Modloft says he meditates outdoors.
“I find nature to be calming so I like to spend time outside when I need to take a mental break and refresh my mindset. During the workday I always try to give myself time to stroll in nature and focus on taking deep, life giving breaths,” says Ted Toledano, Founder of Modloft.
With these suggestions, advice, and breathing exercises compiled by successful business owners and founders you should have ample ideas for how you can begin to meditate during your work day. The biggest importance is to remember to take time to de-stress, whether through breathing, moving around, or some other healthy method that works for you.
Speaks from heart, always too passionate and driven by emotions. Spins the words with kindness & sharpness, intriguing your ever-inscrutable minds.