For business leaders, the stress experienced in the working world is of increasing concern. According to the Health and Safety Executive 526,000 people suffered from work-related stress, depression or anxiety in 2016/17, and 12.5 million working days were lost. While this entails inevitable costs, there’s a growing feeling that the corporate world has an ethical responsibility to provide mentally healthy workplaces, from the boardroom to the shop floor.
One solution that entrepreneurs have found is meditation, both pursuing it personally and initiating workplace wellbeing practices which give staff the option to learn and practice meditation techniques. But while it’s mindfulness which has most grabbed the headlines in this regard, (and for good reason, as it can be extremely helpful) Vedic meditation is another technique that’s fast becoming part of the business world.
What is Vedic Meditation?
Vedic Meditation is a form of meditation that originated in ancient India. Initially developed for spiritual reasons, today it is often used in a secular setting – reducing stress and anxiety, increasing productivity and improving physical, mental and emotional well-being. Numerous corporations are embracing this type of meditation as a form of corporate wellbeing, doing their part to reduce the chronic levels of stress which affect so many of us in the modern world.
Vedic meditation is arguably the oldest technique still alive today and a large part of its appeal lies in its simplicity. Unlike other meditation techniques, Vedic meditation does not require a huge amount of conscious focus and concentration – practitioners simply slip into an effortlessly focused state by internally repeating a mantra.
For those living hectic, corporate lifestyles, the idea of squeezing yet another thing on to their to-do list can be less than appealing – especially something as seemingly inactive as meditation. However, the gains made in productivity, focus and general wellbeing can mean that people often find themselves saving time rather than expending it.
The personalised mantra (which is silently repeated in the mind while you sit comfortably with your eyes closed) resonates with your nervous system and induces a state of calm, transcending you into deep restfulness. It is a technique which makes you feel calm and settled but also energised. There is no visualisation or contemplation involved and it can be practised anywhere even during a busy daily commute on the train or bus. It has shown to be most effective when practised twice a day for 20 minutes.
Why is Vedic meditation important in the workplace?
Stress Reduction: The demands and pressures of the workplace can have a profound effect on our lives and often result in high levels of stress. Stress is a physiological reaction to challenging events or a perceived threat, and when it is experienced too often, it leaves your bodily systems out of balance. This results in increased production of cortisol and adrenaline which in turn increases blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension and oxygen consumption while suppressing digestion and cellular repair.
Vedic meditation allows the body to rest 33% more deeply than we even achieve in sleep, creating physiological reactions that counteract those experienced through stress. The amygdala (the engine of the ‘flight or fight’ response) calms down, cortisol levels decrease, so-called ‘happy hormones’ are produced and the vagus nerve (which relaxes us) is more regularly stimulated.
Ultimately, this type of meditation brings your body back into balance and changes the way you respond to and engage with the world.
Increased productivity: A big advantage of Vedic meditation in the workplace is that it helps you to prioritise and to manage your workload. This occurs through increased blood flow to the cerebral cortex and greater activity within the frontal lobes, improving your happiness and wellbeing.
Employees often feel more positive as a result and are able to think with more clarity. Sleep and rest are also facilitated and you may feel more relaxed and well-rested which can significantly increase your professional output. Research has shown that positivity and productivity are closely linked, and consistent levels of positivity allows workers to be up to ten times more engaged in the task at hand.
Boosts creativity: Vedic meditation can improve the fluidity of your creative thoughts and in turn, improves your originality and flare – undeniably important in many workplace roles. Meditation activates the pre-frontal cortex in the brain, which is where your creative thinking takes place.
Furthermore, the reduction of stress and sleeplessness as a result of meditation enables you to feel fresher and allows you to unleash your creativity. While a little adrenaline can get your creative juices flowing on occasion, for the most part being stressed out makes it incredibly difficult to think creatively. Getting the rest and relaxation you need is extremely helpful when you require the energy needed to come up with original ideas.
Improves concentration, memory and decision-making: Those who meditate are less distracted by trivial thinking and therefore, the ability to process greater levels of information is increased. When you are handed a large number of tasks your ability to concentrate one task at a time without your mind wandering isn’t always easy, but meditation can increase your focus.
Meditation is also linked to improved memory due to the greater access to your subconscious and the wealth of information stored there. Reduced stress levels allows you to think more laterally and your critical thinking is improved. Rational thinking is also enhanced, enabling you to make decisions more easily and without distraction.
5. Improves overall health and well-being
Meditation reduces cellular decay and subsequently boosts the immune system. High blood pressure and cholesterol levels are reduced and ultimately so is the risk of heart disease. The reduction of stress levels can lead to notable improvements in depression, anxiety, PTSD, IBS and stomach ulcers (to name a few!). Medical research has shown that an astonishing amount of medical problems are caused or aggravated by stress. In reducing stress, levels of absence due to stress-related problems also decrease.