In their quest to improve effectiveness in this ever-changing environment, many businesses are looking for new approaches. Innovative companies such as Google, Intel and Goldman Sachs (1) are turning to mindfulness and meditation. Many others are following their example.
In this blog post, you’ll find out how meditation and mindfulness can improve your bottom line. Let’s begin by defining our terms.
What is the difference between mindfulness and meditation?
People often use the words mindfulness and meditation interchangeably. However, although related, they are not the same thing. Mindfulness is an approach to life, a quality you might say; Meditation is a practice.
I find Thich Nhat Hanh’s (2) definition of mindfulness particularly clear. He describes it as ‘being aware of what is happening inside and around you in the present moment.’
You can be mindful while walking to work, coaching a client, or washing the dishes in the office pantry.
Meditation is an activity you set aside time to do regularly. Many recommend meditating for 20 minutes, three or more times a week. There are various kinds of meditation. But each involves finding a quiet place, sitting or standing comfortably, focusing your attention and keeping an open attitude.
Meditation can be challenging, especially at the start. However, a wide range of research has shown it can benefit us in many ways. And these benefits can positively impact your business’s bottom line.
Let’s look at three of them.
Meditation reduces stress, depression and anxiety
Not many would dispute that work has become more challenging. And this is having an impact on our mental well-being. A recent survey (3) in Great Britain reported a rise in the number of workers experiencing work-related stress, depression and anxiety. This reached 828,000 in 2019/2020, resulting in 17.9 million working days lost.
This not only impacts the quality of life of your workforce, but also your bottom line. From an ethical and business standpoint, we need to tackle this problem.
Bringing meditation into your workplace could be part of the solution. There is a growing body of research showing that meditation reduces anxiety and depression (4) and stress levels (5). It also leads to falls in our level of the stress hormone, cortisol. When we have lower levels of cortisol, we feel less stressed and have a stronger immune system.
Meditation makes us smarter
In this rapidly changing world of ours, the problems that businesses need to solve are growing in complexity. We need to work smarter. Meditation can help us do this.
It seems incredible, but meditation can actually change our brain. How? By increasing the concentration of grey matter in our brain (6).
If we have more grey matter, we have more neurons. These increases happen in the parts of our brain involved in learning, emotions and decision making.
Meditation also helps us develop our creativity, concentration and clear thinking. And it develops our ability to filter out irrelevant information7. This focusing of thought occurs both shortly after meditating and on a long-term basis.
Meditation can help you develop mindfulness
To succeed, businesses need employees who are resilient, empathetic and calm in a crisis. We can develop these characteristics through mindfulness. Mindfulness keeps us in the moment. It stops us from reacting negatively and without thought. It stops us from catastrophizing.
Mindfulness can also improve leadership (8). When leaders practise mindfulness, their employees are less emotionally exhausted and have a better work-life balance. They also have higher job satisfaction and psychological need satisfaction.
Mindfulness brings many benefits. However, the ability to be mindful takes time and practice. Meditation can help us get better at it.
Now you know the benefits, it’s time to consider how you can bring meditation into your business. First, you’ll need to influence key stakeholders. You may face resistance. Put together a clear case for the business value of meditation. Use the research linked to in this blog post.
Once you have buy-in, here are some ideas you could try:
Bring in a meditation teacher to teach your team meditation techniques; go for virtual if you have hybrid working
Ask for a volunteer to act as a meditation lead in your company
Establish a meditation space in your office for staff to use
Stewart, H. (17 August 2015) Five big companies who swear by mindfulness [online] Linkedin.com. Available at: Five Big Companies Who Swear By Mindfulness | LinkedIn
N.K. thichnhathanhfoundation.org. Available at: Thich Nhat Hanh Foundation
Health and safety executive (4 November 2020) Work-related stress, anxiety or depression statistics in Great Britain 2020 [online] hse.gov.uk. Available at: (Work-related stress, anxiety or depression statistics in Great Britain, 2019 (hse.gov.uk)
Goyal, M; Singh, S; Sibinga, E. and Gould, N. (March 2014) Meditation programs for psychological stress and well-being: a systematic review and meta-analysis [online] pubmed.gov. Available at: Meditation programs for psychological stress and well-being: a systematic review and meta-analysis - PubMed (nih.gov)
Mulla, Z; Govindaraj, K; Polisetti, S; George, E and Nagraj Rao (19 April 2017) Mindfulness-based stress reduction for executives: Results from a field experiment [online] journals.sagepubcom. Available at Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction for Executives: Results from a Field Experiment - Zubin R. Mulla, Kalaiselvan Govindaraj, Srinivasa Rao Polisetti, Elis George, Nagraj Rao S. More, 2017 (sagepub.com)
Holzel, B; Carmody, J; Vangel, M; Congleton, C; Yerramsetti, S; Gard, T and Lazar, S (30 January 2011) Mindfulness practice leads to increases in regional brain gray matter [online] ncbi.nlm.nih.gov Available at: Mindfulness practice leads to increases in regional brain gray matter density (nih.gov)
Vishton, P. (2016) Outsmart yourself: brain-based strategies to a better you The Great Courses, The Teaching Company
Reb, J; Narayanan, J and Chaturvedi, S (2014) Leading mindfully: two studies of the influence of supervisor trait mindfulness on employee well-being and performance [online] ink.library.smu.edu.sg Available at: Leading Mindfully: Two Studies of the Influence of Supervisor Trait Mindfulness on Employee Well-Being and Performance (smu.edu.sg)