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The Case for Meditation as a Professional Skill

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Want to lower your stress levels and anxiety while increasing your focus, compassion and productivity? Meditate. 

By Nicole Bélanger (Community Builder, Ladies Learning Code)

What if I told you that there was one practice that, if incorporated into your daily routine, could help you build some of the most desirable leadership skills and traits? Would you believe me?

Valuable skills like:

  • Compassion and empathy
  • Creativity
  • The ability to manage stress and self-regulate
  • Self-awareness
  • Efficiency and productivity
  • Focus

And the best part? It’s absolutely free and you can start tomorrow.

I’m talking about meditation.

What Is Meditation?

At its most basic level, meditation is the practice of altering the mind, often to reach an altered state of consciousness or mindfulness.

But the term meditation encompasses a multitude of practices — not just sitting cross-legged on the floor and chanting ‘om’, desperately hoping for some divine moment of revelation.

Meditation can be broken down roughly into two forms: focused attention and open monitoring. In focused attention meditation, the individual focuses on a particular object, thought, feeling, or sensation and actively guides the mind back to the point of focus if thoughts begin to stray. But with open monitoring, the individual allows themselves to sense, feel, and observe to create awareness.

Beyond these two categories, there are is an incredible vastness of styles of practice, ranging from using a mantra, to visualization, to walking meditation, and much more.

Chances are if you’ve tried meditating before and didn’t enjoy it, there is another type out there waiting to be discovered that will better suit your needs, lifestyle, and personality.

Why Should I Bother?

With inboxes overflowing and calendars ready to burst, meditation can seem like a frivolous luxury that we just don’t have time for.

Let’s shift that thinking for a minute.

Forget about prioritizing time for your meditation practice. Instead, think of it as making time for:

Now let me ask you again: do you have time to meditate?

Countless studies over the last several decades have found that meditation can dramatically improve our physical, mental, and emotional health — all of which are foundational to our professional success.

Like a house built on a shoddy foundation, a business built on the back of an unhealthy founder can have unfortunate consequences.

Investing just a few minutes a day in your meditation practice goes beyond improving your wellbeing in the short-term; studies have shown that meditation has the power to alter our brains and produce incredible, long-lasting benefits.

How Do I Get Started?

As Leo Baubuta of ZenHabits explains, it can — and probably should — be as simple as starting out by committing to two minutes of meditation each day. “Start simply if you want the habit to stick. You can do it for 5 minutes if you feel good about it, but all you’re committing to is 2 minutes each day”, he advises.

Your meditation can be as simple as focusing on your breath, but if you prefer a little more support, you can try a guided meditation from an app like Bhuddify or Headspace.

The most important thing is to stay consistent. As Dr. Rebecca Gladding explains, the brain’s incredible neuroplasticity that can work in our favour by ‘re-wiring’ our responses to stress and anxiety can easily revert back to their previous state without daily practice:

“It definitely motivates me on those days I don’t ‘feel’ like sitting” she shares, “try to remind yourself that meditating every day, even if it’s only 15 minutes, will keep those newly formed connections strong and those unhelpful ones of the past at bay”.

While meditation is widely praised as a powerful tool in our wellness arsenal, it is a highly personal practice that needs to feel right.

Whether you meditate alone in your car, in the park by your office, or in a group session, the important thing is that you start — your body and your business will thank you.

What are your thoughts on meditating?

nicoleAbout the guest blogger: Nicole Belanger is an Ottawa-based community organizer, writer, and blogger. She is the National Sponsorships and Partnerships Manager for Ladies Learning Code, a women-run non-profit organization offering beginner-friendly technology education. You can find her on Twitter @nskbelanger and at nicolebelanger.ca