This article originally was published on Forbes.com. You can view it here.
I’ve been dabbling in meditation since discovering the Headspace app years ago. And by dabbling, I mean it took me more than a year to complete the introductory ten basic sessions (intended to be completed in ten days). Needless to say, it’s hard to make time for something that seems - on the surface - kind of "fluffy."
Meditation is becoming more and more mainstream, thanks to Headspace and other easily accessible apps like (my personal favorite) Calm. But it’s actually an ancient practice that dates back as far as 1500 BCE. Calm and Headspace state their missions similarly: to make the world healthier and happier. By making meditation accessible and easy to incorporate into our lives, these startups are contributing to a higher standard of consciousness that leads to higher levels of awareness, compassion, and productivity, plus lower levels of stress, anxiety, and chaos.
That all sounds amazing, right? But it’s hard to get in the habit. One thing that makes it so hard is that it’s easy to forget to do it. So, I made a commitment to myself that I would set aside just ten minutes a day for a full week to see if I could start to build a habit. I wasn’t sure what to expect, or if it would have any impact on me professionally. But after just one week, I was a believer.
Here are four ways meditation can make you exponentially more effective in your career.
Increased focus and productivity.
Our good friend the Internet has contributed to our collective challenge with focus. We’re surrounded by stimuli and interruptions 24/7. It’s so easy to get distracted, making any task that calls for immense concentration require triple the time and effort it should. The first thing you learn in meditation is the basic task of focusing only on your breath. Teachers remind you that it’s normal for your mind to wander, and that when this happens, you should gently bring your attention back to your breath.
I’ve noticed that I’m less distracted when concentrating on specific tasks. In meditation, you'll focus your breathing, giving that your full attention. The practice of gently guiding your brain back to that focus will assist you in doing the same when working on something important. When you get distracted and start down a rabbit hole, you will notice and gently guide yourself back to the singular task on which you want to focus. The result is greater productivity and a higher rate of successful task completion.
Elevated energy and memory capacity.
I can now fall asleep in ten minutes. Through meditation, it will become easier to rest your busy mind and replace anxious thoughts with a focus solely on your breath. I can now do this without any guidance, and it works like a charm, no matter what mental burdens I’m carrying when I lie down.
Getting to sleep faster, sleeping longer, and sleeping more soundly all contribute to higher energy levels during the day, as well as increased memory capacity.
Better, easier decision-making.
One great benefit of meditation is that it forces you to slow down, quiet your brain, and be still. But an unexpected benefit is that you will be more able to access your intuition to make decisions. This means you can quiet your mind during deliberation and feel less stress over the outcome.
Most effective coaches will tell you that you already know the answers to the questions that keep you up at night. It takes practice (and sometimes some extra support) to learn to listen to your intuition when you’re looking for answers. A great way to access that intuition is through meditation.
Higher patience and tolerance.
There is something magical in the practice of becoming quiet for an extended period of time. Learning to block out the sounds and environment around you for even just ten minutes will make a big impact on processing time when something triggers you.
Now, when I hear, read, or experience something that would normally send me into a rage, I’m able to take a beat, breathe, and choose my response. This is immensely beneficial in my work and interpersonal relationships, and also in helping me process the negative aspects of social media (which can be a minefield for many of us).
Additionally, the process of learning to notice when your mind wanders, but not judge it - a basic principle of meditation - can really help you to practice releasing judgment about other things you notice, like things others say and do in the workplace.
It’s easy to imagine the long-term benefits.
Just like when you start working out regularly, you need to ease into the practice of meditation. Just a tiny, ten minute break can leave you feeling refreshed, inspired, and more equipped to face your day or wind down before bed. And, just like building body muscle, you’ll start to establish a habit. After a few days, you’ll find yourself remembering to do it, because you’re feeling the amazing effects.
I’m choosing to embrace this everyday practice of quieting my brain and all the benefits that come with it. What might happen for you after a month of daily practice? Six months? A year? Let’s find out together!