How to Get Away With Meditating at Work

Business woman meditating near laptop
Zen out to keep yourself from zoning out. (Image: CentralITAlliance/iStock/Getty Images)

You have an endless to-do list, your clients are waiting on you, your team is working slowly and your boss just handed you another project. The day is overwhelming, and you really need a moment to breathe.

Meditating at the office isn’t always easy to do. But taking even two minutes out of your day can increase productivity, improve concentration and boost your mood, etc. And according to a study published by the American Journal of Psychiatry, meditation can dramatically reduce your stress and anxiety.

The idea of being the co-worker sitting in Lotus Pose with closed eyes may seem silly and uncomfortable, but there’s more than one way to meditate. You can calm your mind while sitting at your computer or by making a quick escape outside.

So how can you get away with meditating at work? Here are six tips:

Portrait of young woman looking busy working on laptop at a cafe. African woman sitting in coffee shop using laptop.
(Image: Jacob Ammentorp Lund/iStock/Getty Images)

1. Listen to Binaural Beats

Quiet your monkey mind, as the yogis say, and entertain your brain waves by listening to binaural sounds while you work or on your break. Binaural beats are two tones that have slightly different frequencies — one played into your right ear and the other into your left ear.

Two neuroscientists from Ohio found that just one binaural-beat session (or song) helps memory, attention, stress, pain, headaches and migraines.

When you listen to sounds of different frequencies, your brain combines them and levels them out. For example, let’s say your left ear hears a frequency of 100 Hz and your right a frequency of 10 Hz. Your brain will perceive a sound of 90 Hz, which can help put you in a deep meditative and focused state.

This happens in nature, too. For example, when you hear the different frequencies of frogs croaking or the ocean waves moving, your brain harmonizes the sounds and calm your mind.

Listening to binaural beats is one of the simplest forms of meditation for those who feel chained to their desks all day. Simply plug in your headphones and relax.

2. Practice Samatha Meditation

Also known as “calming meditation,” samatha (sha-mah-tah) meditation increases your focus, helping you be more productive. While everyone is laser-focused on their work, allow yourself two to five minutes of staring at one inanimate object.

Don’t attach any judgment to this object, but simply focus on the rising and falling of your breath. Whenever your mind wanders or gets distracted by an external noise (which it will, and that’s OK), draw your awareness back to your breath.

It’s often practiced with the eyes open — usually partially open — but if you’re at work surrounded by people, it’s fine to practice with your eyes completely open. As long as you’re focused on one still object and your breath.

3. Meditate in Your Car

Find a silent space or a moment of “zen” in your car, where you are less likely to be interrupted in any way. Go ahead and make an excuse why you need to run out to your car, and set a timer to a time that makes sense for you. An amount of time that won't make co-workers wonder where you are, but gives you enough time to calm that monkey mind.

You can blast the binaural beats (see No. 1 above), focus on one thing and your breath with your eyes open (see No. 2 above) or simply sit in silence and focus on the rising and falling of your own breath.

If your mind wanders or someone walks by and distracts you, that’s fine. Just draw your awareness back to your breath. This is a short time for you to allow the outer chatter and chaos to go, so you can increase your productivity and focus for the remainder of the day.

"Walk as if you are kissing the earth with your feet." —Thich Nhat Hanh

4. Take a Meditative Walk

How do you take a meditative walk? Thich Nhat Hanh, a Zen Buddhist monk, said that you “walk as if you are kissing the earth with your feet.” Use the experience of walking as your point of focus. Take advantage of this walk to let go of the thoughts on your to-do list and just be aware of your footsteps.

As you walk, focus the soles of your feet and recognize the pace at which you naturally move. Do you choose to walk a little faster or slower in this moment? And become aware of your senses in this present moment with each step you take. Is the ground hard or soft? How does the temperature feel against your skin? What objects do you see? What do you smell in the air?

You can also do a short meditative walk with headphones, listening to meditative music or binaural beats (see No. 1 above).

5. Take Advantage of a Moment Alone

Everyone else is either at a meeting or at lunch. Quick! Take advantage of this short window of opportunity to connect to your breath. Keep your eyes opened or closed, but allow yourself as much time as you can to step away from your to-do list and focus on 10 or more deep inhalations and exhalations.

This may also be a good opportunity to close your eyes and determine how you’re feeling in this present moment. Mental chatter or distracting thoughts of the day may arise, but remind yourself that you’ve allowed this short moment to let those go so you can focus on yourself. You may even want to try a short guided meditation (like the one below or even more on YouTube).

6. Hire a Meditation Instructor for the Office

So maybe it’s nearly impossible to find a moment alone or you’re afraid you may look like you’re slacking if you’re caught meditating at your desk. Instead, add it to the agenda for your next meeting. Why not get the entire office involved to not only make meditation more socially acceptable, but to improve the team’s performance?

Does the boss still needs some convincing? Share this study, published in the International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, that found that employees who meditated gained more satisfaction from their work and began to enjoy the workspace more, which reduced work-related stress and improved employee job performance.

What Do YOU Think?

Do you need a mental break from the stress of work? Are you up to the challenge of trying any of these techniques? What do you think you’ll struggle with most? Which tip do you think you’re going to try first? Or do you already take meditation breaks at work? Do you have any tips of your own to share? Let us know in the comments below!

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