Meditation is probably the most popular self-care activity that you can practice. The practice provides vast benefits that impact mental, physical and physiological health and well-being. Many of us think we don’t have time to meditate or we cannot fit it into our schedule, and thus we end up skipping out on the practice. Or, for some, sitting still for 10-20 minutes is a challenge that we end up giving up on. But with the excessive stress we all take in today’s modern day, meditation plays an integral role in helping us find balance, improving focus and concentration and in maintaining inner peace. When we achieve this, we are able to manage our lives better, thus being more productive.
What does science say about meditation and productivity
So we know the benefits of meditation and how it can significantly improve your life. But did you know that science backs the benefits of meditation for productivity? Meditation has a strong impact on the brain. It causes changes in the brain that enables you to be more present and aware of the current moment, thus impacting productivity. A study at the University of Massachusetts Medical School’s Center for Mindfulness showed that after two months of daily meditation participants reported that they felt “more capable of acting with awareness, observing, and remaining nonjudgmental.”
Meditation impacts the brain waves too. Alpha waves, which are active during relaxing activities like meditation, protect the brain by not allowing it to pay too much heed to superficial thoughts and stimuli, preventing you from procrastinating too much. We are able to control the mind better and stop the mind from wandering too much.
In another study at Yale University it was found that mindfulness meditation decreases activity in the default mode network (DMN), which is responsible for the mind wandering. In other words it helps us focus the monkey mind, leading to better productivity. Even when the mind starts to wander, those who regularly meditate are able to come back to the present faster. A Stanford University study also found that Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) brought about changes in brain regions involved in attention.
Furthermore, it is said even a few weeks of meditation can help improve focus and memory for students and adults. The first step of meditation (Dhyana) is, in fact, concentration (Dharana). So during meditation, practitioners are forced to develop a certain amount of concentration to meditate correctly. Over time, this focus is applied to day-to-day tasks, at work, when studying or doing any other activity, improving productivity.
Benefits of Meditation to Improve Productivity
Calming the monkey mind
Many of us find it hard to stay in the present. Most often this is the reason for lack of productivity. While doing one task our minds are wandering to other places. Procrastination is a common problem for so many of us. Meditation not only calms the mind but prevents it from wandering too far or for too long. It keeps us in the present and has the ability to bring us to the present faster than other times. It reduces distractions from endless thoughts and makes the mind quiet. When this happens, focus and concentration is better, leading to better productivity.
Meditation teaches us to breathe with awareness. Our breath is often influenced by our mood and thoughts, and vice versa (breath can influence mood and thoughts too). Observe when you are angry, stressed or upset, your breath will be shallow and fast. When you are calm and relaxed, your breath will be in a steady, deep rhythm. When we are conscious of how we are breathing, our mind is relaxed and focused. Thoughts are lesser or only focused on the task at hand. The nervous system is relaxed and there are lesser messages being passed between the brain and nerves. With this, we are more in the present and more productive.
Improves emotional health
Meditation improves our emotional health by releasing happy hormones like Dopamine. Meditation also impacts the part of the brain responsible for emotions (amygdala), improving our emotional well-being. When we are happier, the chances of us focusing and completing a specific task is higher. It’s like this - when you are happier, your mind is wandering less to green pastures, allowing you to be present and content with the task you are performing at that moment. With better emotional regulation, your productivity will improve.
Better stress management
When we are stressed, the cortisol hormone (stress hormone) is higher in our body. This affects our energy levels, immunity, motivation and more. When stress is high, our decision making ability is weak, memory and focus is affected and the mind is disturbed. All of this affects productivity. Meditation is one of the best practices to reduce stress, boost energy, immunity and the functioning of the mind. This allows us to function at our best, improving productivity.
Taking a mental break
Our minds are always in a state of go-go-go. We are constantly thinking of what’s next on our to-do list. Sometimes even when we are resting physically or laying down, our minds are churning. Meditation gives your mind a much-needed break. It allows you to relax, restore and slow down. It provides a break from thinking, planning, analyzing and worrying. When you allow yourself to restore, your ability to think and function efficiently improves significantly. You will feel refreshed and rejuvenated, mentally, allowing you to focus better on the tasks at hand.
It takes time to experience the benefits of this wonderful practice. Initially, if you find your mind wandering or it is difficult to concentrate, don’t give up. Give yourself time. The best way to learn and avoid distractions is to join a live meditation class with a certified yoga teacher. This way you not only practice in the right way, but will feel motivated to show up regularly as well.