Did you read that headline right? Can meditation actually be a savvy business practice?
Absolutely, says psychotherapist and meditation teacher Stephan Bodian, author of Meditation for Dummies. Better yet, you can benefit from meditating for just 20 minutes a day, or less time than you probably spend on Facebook.
Meditation isn’t just for yoga-loving, spiritual types. It’s for mainstream folks, too. “There’s nothing mystical about it,” Bodian says. “Meditation is just the practice of quieting your mind, so you’re not constantly caught up in the chatter of your thoughts.”
If you meditate regularly, you may find yourself reacting less intensely to business challenges, listening more intently when talking with customers, and having more creative insights about your work.
Here are four ways mediation can improve your small business:
- Improved health — Studies show that people who meditate can lower their cholesterol, drop their blood pressure, and prevent serious problems like heart attacks or strokes. How? Many health conditions are brought on or worsened by stress. Stress creates inflammation in the body, and long-term inflammation is now thought to be responsible for many health problems. Bodian says meditation relaxes the mind and body, thereby reducing stress and its physical effects. An end result? Less missed work time.
- Greater insights — Once you start quieting the ongoing chatter of your mind (such as concerns about money or difficult employees), more useful thoughts can bubble up. Your intuition may improve. These insights could help you develop a new product, try a new marketing approach, or figure out how to handle a challenging customer.
- Better relationships — Meditation teaches you to listen more deeply to your inner self. Once you learn this skill, Bodian says you naturally do the same with others. You may listen more attentively to customers and colleagues, which will help you better respond to their needs. Plus, clients appreciate it when small-business owners don’t talk over them or always seem to be rushing to their next appointment.
- Less anxiety — If you tend to dwell on past mistakes, or worry excessively about the future (“What if I can’t make this product profitable for the next five years?” “What if a competitor takes this client six months from now?”), meditation can teach you the value of staying in the present moment. “Most of our stress comes not from events themselves, but from how we think or worry about them,” says Bodian. When you learn to keep your thoughts in the here and now, rather than in the past or future, you may feel less anxious and stressed.
Ready to try meditating? It’s often simplest to start with a guided meditation. Bodian’s book includes a CD, or you can download his mobile app: Mindfulness Meditation by Mental Workout (for and Android and iOS).
Try to meditate for 20 minutes daily, but even five to 10 minutes a day is a good start. It’s best to practice in the morning, when you’re fully awake. Sit comfortably in a well-supported chair or on a cushion, in a place where you won’t be interrupted by people or your phone. Gently place your hands in your lap or on your knees. Close your eyes.
Pay attention to your breathing. Feel the air entering and leaving your nostrils, its warmth or coolness, the rise and fall of your chest. Don’t try to change how you breathe — just keep your attention on it. Don’t try to stop your thoughts, but when you find yourself lost in your thinking (which will happen over and over), bring your attention back to your breathing.
The process will get easier over time. Before you know it, your 20 minutes will be up, and you’ll be refreshed and ready for your next business task!