There is a zen quote I heard that goes something like this:
“Meditate for an hour every day unless you are too busy. In that case, meditate for two.”
That probably doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to you. How is taking even more time out of my day going to help me get more done? But meditation can actually help improve your productivity! I don’t meditate for an hour each day (#lifegoals), but I’m working up towards 30 minutes each day and the difference is drastic in how much crap I can accomplish in one day.
Let me explain…
When you have an anxious, stressful mind you end up frantically switching from project to project without really accomplishing anything. You ultimately end up feeling unfulfilled and overwhelmed at the end of the day.
With mindful meditation, 3 things happen:
1. FOCUS. Meditation is essentially the practice of focusing your attention. You are probably used to, and take comfort in, looking at your work, then check your phone, then opening your email, then check your phone, then messaging a coworker, then opening Facebook…all within a matter of a minute! Face it, you forgot how to focus for long stretches of time and it’s killing your productivity! Just like you’ve trained yourself to jump from one activity to the next (fueled by dopamine release), you must retrain your brain to focus on an activity in order to complete it (also fueled by dopamine release..unless you have ADHD..). This doesn’t just happen, you’ve got to practice every day!
2. MEMORY. Meditation allows the parts of your brain (frontal lobe, parietal lobe, and thalamus) that process massive amounts of info to take a break. A rested and recharged brain increases its ability to synthesize new information and recall old information more effectively. Wouldn’t it be cool if you could remember the names of all those people you met last night? Instead, you were too worried about what you should say, what they thought of you and how you were going to refrain from eating the cookies on the dessert table.
3. LESS ANXIETY. When you are sitting calmly and silently, you aren’t worried about anything…not your mortgage, how your clothes fit, or whether you are a good enough husband, instead you are in complete serenity. This decreases your anxiety levels, i.e. you stop worrying about all the little shit you have no business to be worrying about. By strengthening these neural connections, you are practicing the care-free attitude that allows you to calmly deal with situations that might otherwise make you snap. Ever heard about the phrase, “Don’t cry over spilled milk?” – Let’s not do that, ok?
So before you run away scared thinking that the only way to meditate is to hike to the top of a Tibetan mountain and sit there with your legs crossed chanting absurd mantras, listen!
Here is how to meditate in 10 BREATHS!
1. Sit down…anywhere…it doesn’t matter. Just get comfortable.
2. Notice your breath in and out.
3. Try to make the IN part a little deeper into your stomach, then nice and slow back out.
4. Notice that you are feeling relaxed, like all your muscles are going limp. Your face muscles droop, your shoulders droop, and your butt sinks into the chair. It feels nice.
5. Now begin counting your breaths quietly in your head: In and Out…1, In and Out…2, In and Out…3.
6. Keep counting until you think a thought, then start over at 1. This thought is neither good or bad, it’s not a punishment, it’s not anything, it just is. All you should do is notice that thought in your mind then kindly wink at it and dismiss it.
What you are doing here is practicing FOCUS and being in the PRESENT. This is going to directly correlate to more productivity throughout the day.
Expect the first couple of sessions to feel stupid and like you can’t do it. Get over it, you aren’t good at anything the first time you do it. Be a big kid and keep at it, you need to feel this for yourself. And only start with about 2 minutes on a timer and work up to 20 minutes, you got this!
Remember, meditation lasts way longer than just the 5-10 minutes you spend actually meditating. Relate it to exercise – you lift weights for an hour in the gym to build muscle long term. Meditation is strengthening your mental muscles…it takes time every day, but the benefits are observable and last all day.