For the millions of us now working from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, life looks a lot different. A lot of us aren’t used to working from home every day of the week, and adjusting to this “new normal” has created a new set of challenges. From distractions and lethargy to Zoom fatigue and a sudden lack of work-life boundaries, working from home can be as challenging as it is liberating.
Enter meditation: an ancient practice so simple yet stunningly powerful. “How hard could sitting still and breathing with my eyes closed be?” you ask? It’s harder than you think, but taking just 5-10 minutes a day to engage in a meditation practice is one of the best things you can do for yourself, especially if you find yourself struggling to concentrate.
As you work from home and figure out how to compartmentalize your personal and professional lives while also staying focused, a light mindfulness meditation could help in the following ways:
1. Increased Focus
One of the central benefits of adding meditation to your daily routine is its ability to improve attention and concentration. A 2013 study found that a couple of weeks of meditation training greatly helped people’s focus and memory during the GRE’s verbal reasoning section. The test-takers’ exhibited an impressive 16 percentile point increase in their average score.
The gentle focus of attention is a huge pillar of meditation. If being stationed at home has affected your ability to concentrate and you consistently find yourself straying off task, turning on the TV, or doing chores instead of responding to those important emails, meditation can help keep you on track.
Just a few minutes of meditation can keep your mind centered.
2. Anxiety Reduction
I have a good deal of anxiety about navigating the virtual world of Zoom meetings, and I know a lot of people are right there with me. Well, meditation can help us out here, too. Another study published in the Association for Psychological Science revealed that mindfulness meditation can reduce anxiety by changing the areas of the brain that regulate self-referential thought processes (aka “me-centered” thinking).
Even though there we may have some trepidation surrounding microphone-mishaps and screen-sharing fiascos, if we meditate regularly, our brain begins to become less self-absorbed and more logical. Will I really get fired because my 2-year-old screamed bloody murder in the background and I forgot to put my microphone on mute? No — a rational boss would completely understand. Being more mindful about our automatic emotion-based responses (like anxiety) helps regulate areas of the brain that produce these responses.
3) Improved decision-making
According to research from the UCLA Laboratory of Neuro Imaging, meditation strengthens the brain and improves your ability to think clearly, which in turn can help you make decisions more efficiently. This will obviously enhance your ability to make work-related decisions, but a less obvious benefit is that it can improve the quality of your work-breaks by helping you with positive decision-making, namely by delaying short-term gratification in favor of long-term benefits.
For example, if you use your lunch-break to scroll through social media and mindlessly scarf down your food, you probably won’t feel so great/energized afterward. Having a mindful eating experience and perhaps going for a short walk would of course increase your energy for the rest of the workday. Physical activity is essential to invigorate the body and mind, and meditation makes it much easier to tear ourselves away from the computer for some much-needed exercise.
4) Confidence Boost
Beginning a meditation practice will begin to increase your confidence as you learn to listen to and challenge your inner critic. During meditation, you may notice self-doubt making itself present. Remember, it isn’t your job to silence these thoughts, but rather to acknowledge them without judgment. Only once a thought is curiously acknowledged rather than silenced, does it have permission to leave.
Meditation can make overwhelming projects feel more approachable.
5) Permission to Pause
Motivation can be hard to come by while working from home, but it can be equally difficult to recognize when you need to take a break. With the amalgamating between home and workplace, it can feel like you have the responsibility to always be “on” or available.
It helps me to set a reasonable and flexible daily schedule. Setting time aside for meditation is the perfect opportunity to take deep breaths, relax, and move away from the screen. And remember: Though traditional meditation is typically done in an upright seated position, even just laying on the floor and breathing deeply is a wonderful act of mindfulness.
An Opportunity For Change
Meditating while working from home during this pandemic will also give you a chance to build a meditation practice over time and to trust yourself. Every day, you are making a copious amount of important decisions about your own life and mindfulness allows you to proceed with a clear mind and sense of purpose. The key, though, is to keep up with your meditation practice. In other words, you can’t just meditate once and expect all of your decisions thereafter to be easy-peasy. The only way to reap these mindfulness benefits is to show up for yourself and put what you’ve learned into practice.
There are countless forms of meditation that range from breath control exercises and muscle relaxation to internal reflection and observation. The exact form of meditation that works best for you will depend on your own mind, but guided meditations are always a great jumping-off point for those looking to dip their toes. To help you get started, here’s a guided meditation from our free introductory course, Awakening Your Intuition. If you enjoy it, you can sign up for the full course for free on Teachable and get access to an additional two guided meditations, five audio lessons, a PDF journal with prompts, and a roadmap for intuitive decision-making. Enjoy!