You know the basics to climbing the career ladder: Take initiative, work late, and don’t complain. But scientists have stumbled upon another powerful way to get ahead at the office: Meditation.
According to a recent study published in the journal Psychological Science, people make more decisive and rational business decisions after just a 15-minute meditation session. Those who practice mindfulness also receive higher performance ratings and are less likely to quit. What’s more, even if you’re not Zen, it could help you to have a boss who is, as the study found employees tend to perform better when their managers are meditators.
The need to get spiritual has not been lost on many major companies: Orbitz recently introduced a meditation and prayer center to its Chicago location after noticing employees sneaking into stairwells for peace and quiet. And HBO, Proctor and Gamble, and Deutsche Bank are among corporations offering meditation programs to employees.
For those unfamiliar with the centuries-old practice, meditation has moved way beyond the hippy-dippy. Its devotees include politicians, Fortune 500 execs, Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, and athletes: In 2013, when the football team the Seattle Seahawks won the Super Bowl, its coach pointed to daily meditation as one reason. The medical community has also acknowledged meditation as a legitimate healing tool, with the Mayo Clinic calling it “mind-body complementary medicine” that’s a proven method for stress relief.
Sounds relaxing. But how can meditation help when you’re hunched over spreadsheets or stuck on a conference call?
“The basic principals of meditation — discipline, focus, deep breathing — can absolutely improve your job performance because you’ll make smarter decisions when you’re centered,” Suze Yalof Schwartz, founder of the studio Unplug Meditation in Los Angeles, tells Yahoo Health.
Meditation includes three basic steps: First, close your eyes and pick something to fixate on — your breath, a word, a mental image. Then, after a few minutes, release that thought, letting it slip away in order to clear your mind. If a distraction pops up (“Did I send that email?” “Is my best friend being weird?”), don’t banish it — instead, acknowledge it’s there, then place it aside. Finally, allow yourself to think. “When your mind is quiet, the answers will come,” Yalof Schwartz says.
Here are three more ways meditation can help you succeed at work:
You’ll become more confident: You can’t ask for a promotion or speak up in meetings without feeling self-assured. Meditation boosts self-worth because it requires tapping into your deepest thoughts and developing a personal and profound relationship with yourself. And according to the Dalai Lama, self-connection through meditation helps you accept your flaws, making any criticism seem unimportant.
You’ll become more focused: Email, Instant Message and phone calls often clutter the day, each demanding our attention with equal urgency. But pausing to center your thoughts and focus on one thing at a time makes you more efficient. Research from Stanford University substantiates that, finding that chronic multi-taskers perform poorly because they use their brains less effectively. “Meditation helps you prioritize your day — is that email really so important?” notes Yalof Schwartz.
You’ll become calmer: Work is a major source of anxiety, according to the American Institute of Stress, with heavy workloads and annoying coworkers logging in as two of the major complaints. But meditation is associated with lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which your adrenal glands pump out in droves when you’re frustrated. Become less reactionary through meditation and you’ll appear more polished and poised.