Making time to meditate can be difficult, but a growing body of research is finding you don’t have to spend hours perched cross-legged on a cushion to reap some of its benefits and even apply those advantages in the work world.
In fact, one recent study by the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School and international business school INSEAD showed just a single 15-minute session prompted people to make better decisions when it came to cutting their losses.
It can be tough to know when to walk away from an investment gone sour, a business partnership that just isn’t working or a renovation that’s deep in the red. People often have a hard time moving on after they’ve already invested time and money into something. But study participants who listened to a recorded session of a mindfulness coach leading them through a 15-minute focused breathing exercise made more effective choices when faced with similar problems, known as “sunk cost” scenarios. Those who listened to the meditation session later reported they were better able to let go of negative emotions associated with their decisions.
Mindfulness meditation cultivates awareness of the present moment, often by focusing attention on the physical sensations of breathing, walking, eating or any other mundane task we often complete almost unconsciously, so it makes sense that people who practice it are better able to let go of time and money spent in the past and evaluate decisions based on the here and now.
You don’t need to be part of a psychological study to experiment with mindfulness meditation on your own. There is an abundance of online tools and books to help you make mindfulness as much a part of your everyday routine as getting dressed. As a start, here are a few of the ideas meditation teacher and author Sharon Salzberg shares in “Real Happiness at Work: Meditations for Accomplishment, Achievement, and Peace:”
Seat yourself in a comfortable posture and think of one good thing you did yesterday, no matter how small.
Extend that by thinking about the good qualities of a benefactor, a close friend and someone you know is going through a difficult time. Eventually, you may even be able to reflect on the goodness within someone you find difficult, or even hurtful. Salzberg, one of the founders of the Insight Meditation Society, writes “if we include even one good thing, if we can think of it, then a bridge is built, so that when we honestly and directly look at what’s difficult, it’s more from a stance of being side by side rather than across this huge gulf of seeming separation.”
Read an email twice from beginning to end before composing a response.
When writing an important or contentious message, send it to yourself first. The simple act of opening it in your inbox will help you view it from the intended receiver’s perspective.
Do a microwave meditation
While you heat up your lunch in the break room, focus on your in-breaths and out-breaths. Notice how your breath feels as it comes through your nostrils and fills your chest and abdomen before flowing out again. Try to devote your full attention to your own breathing without getting distracted. Let the microwave timer signal the end of the mini-meditation.
Have an “adventure in virtue” by resolving to take an extra step toward ethical behavior for two weeks.
If you gossip, set a goal of not talking about a third party and sharing thoughts and feelings with people directly. If you exaggerate, make a conscious effort to stay within the confines of the truth all while being mindful of how these changes in behavior make you feel.
Articulate your own mission.
Salzberg suggests ranking a list of verbs that includes “Communicating,” “Learning” and “Organizing” from one to five. High-ranking words should become part of your personal mission statement. Then reflect on how you can more fully integrate your core intentions into your work life. “Having a personal mission is such an important part of so many dimensions of a liberated life – including one’s livelihood,” she writes.