Stress Less, Stress Relief

One Simple Trick to Finally Fit Meditation Into Your Busy Schedule

By Sarah Sarway

Think you’re too busy to fit meditation into your jam-packed schedule? Try doing it at the office, say Sukey and Elizabeth Novogratz, the co-authors of meditation guidebook Just Sit.

While that may seem like the last place you’re going to find a spare minute, office meditation can help you manage work-related stress, increase concentration, and clarify your personal goals. Regular practice may even give your career a boost.

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“Studies have shown that meditation increases the cortical thickness in the hippocampus, which runs the memory as well as the ability to learn new things,” explain Sukey and Elizabeth. “It helps with long-term memory, too, which aids you in everything from giving a presentation to closing a sale to remembering your boss’ husband’s birthday.” (When was the last time you did that?)

Whether you’ve never meditated or have pockets full of mantras, one thing’s for sure: finding time to practice should not be yet another stress trigger. Check out these six tips that make it easy to check the magical practice off of your to-do list while you’re getting the rest of your work done, too.

office meditation

How to Fit in Office Meditation

1. Don’t worry about seating

No cushion? No problem. While your local meditation studio may have plush pillows and cozy couches, your swivel chair will do just fine. “You do not have to sit like a swami! Instead sit comfortably, but with integrity,” they say.

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2. Embrace the noise

Don’t let your cubicle mate’s constant phone calls rob you of your Zen. A half hour of silence is far from required. “While it’s nice to have, total silence is an unrealistic expectation,” say Sukey and Elizabeth. “In fact, learning to meditate in noisy places is a wonderful skill to have.” Instead of hunkering down in a uncomfortable stairwell, meditate at your desk and when chatter pops up, observe the noise, note it as sound, and get back to your breath. You can also try putting on your headphones to drown out the chatter with your favorite Bon Iver track.

3. Try the 4,7,8 technique

Breathing is a great way to keep pre-meeting jitters from getting the best of you. “Find your breath and follow it—this will put the brakes on racing thoughts and calm the fear center of your brain,” they say. To give this method a try, Sukey and Elizabeth recommend the 4,7,8 breathing technique. “It’s a quick way to activate your parasympathetic nervous system, which will take you out of fight-or-flight mode and put you into a state that allows for more creativity, focus, and attention,” they say. Here’s how to do it: Close your eyes, inhale through your nose for a count of four seconds, hold the breath for a count of seven seconds, and exhale out of your mouth for a count of eight seconds. Repeat three more times.

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4. Pick a mantra

Getting your mind focused on a thought or set of words is a great way to focus on your meditation (especially in noisy situations). Repeat “let go,” or try to inhale with the word “calm” and exhale with the word “heart.” If trying to find the right mantra for you feels like way too much pressure, try gently humming to yourself without using any words.

5. Stop watching the clock

Don’t drive yourself mad by trying to “do it right.” There is no specific amount of time that one must strive for, so don’t feel like you need to give up your entire lunch break to meditate. Instead, aim for quality over quantity. “When you first start, sit for a short period at a time, and then let your practice develop,” they say. The beauty of meditation is that it is always there for you in times of stress, even if you’ve only got 90 seconds in between emails.

6. Tune out while you commute

Okay, you’re not actually at work in this scenario, but close enough. If you take the subway to the office, try using that precious time to practice. Download a meditation app like Pause, Headspace, or Breathe, or bring a book. (The Just Sit authors recommend Real Happiness by Sharon Salzberg, True Love by Thich Nhat Hahn, Awareness by Anthony de Mellow and A Path with Heart by Jack Kornfield.) If you prefer the audio route, you can also use reading material to create private space. “Simply hide behind your newspaper or magazine and focus on an image while you meditate,” they say. Genius!

Take these tips to heart and the next time you feel like you’re running low on creative juices or are on the brink of a deskside meltdown, close those eyes, take a few breaths, and tackle the day mind-strong.

(Featured Photo: Shutterstock)