by Beth Shepard   Beth's profile on LinkedIn

Meditation at the Heart of Your Wellness Program.

Richard has been walking each day; he’s swapped out a daily soda for water, is eating more vegetables and fewer sweets. He’s lost 6 pounds, is less stressed, and is feeling fantastic. But last Thursday, he arrives to work feeling grumpy after a lousy commute. While putting his healthy lunch in the break room fridge, he sees a box of pastries on the table… apple fritters, his favorite. Having practiced the STOP technique as part of his mindfulness meditation routine, he immediately uses it:


  • Stop. Instead of reaching in the box automatically, Richard stops in his tracks.
  • Take a breath. He takes several full, deep relaxation breaths and feels calmer.
  • Observe. Richard realizes he’s feeling anxiety from the long, slow commute; he wants a pastry, yet does not want to slow his well-being progress. He’s also aware that he doesn’t have to eat the fritter just because it’s there… he’s not even hungry.
  • Proceed. Realizing that eating now won’t make him feel better, Richard walks away, takes a few more slow breaths to enhance his mood, and gets busy on a project.

Wellness leaders everywhere look for ways to help people make behavior change stick, but sometimes overlook a key barrier: stress. When we’re stressed out, we tend to revert to older, more comfortable habits — even if they make us feel worse in the long run.

That’s where meditation comes in. Anyone can learn this ancient contemplative practice long known to promote well-being. Most important, meditation helps people shift from reacting to observing their own thoughts and feelings — and responding in more thoughtful ways to all kinds of situations. With regular practice, this leads to less stress… plus an enhanced sense of calm and well-being. Adding meditation training to your wellness offerings will equip participants with vital skills for staying on track with healthy behaviors, while improving job performance and fostering a positive culture.

Meditation Mojo

With organizations like Google, the US Marine Corps, and the Seattle Seahawks embracing meditation, it’s gaining ground as a mainstream workplace well-being practice. The benefits of regular meditation are well documented, including:


Types of Meditation

Of the many meditation forms, here are a few popular with workplace wellness programs:


  • Mindfulness meditation emphasizes nonjudgmental awareness of the present moment, teaching that thoughts and emotions come and go; participants can choose which to inhabit and which to dismiss.
  • Lovingkindness meditation (also called metta) focuses on sending benevolent thoughts and well wishes to loved ones, acquaintances, strangers, and self.
  • Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) is an 8-week intensive training program to increase awareness of mind and body sensations and connections. It’s very effective in helping people decease stress and cope with chronic conditions.

What to Do

You don’t need a huge budget to promote meditation. A few ideas:


  • Use free online guided meditations for group sessions during breaks; post links to these resources on your wellness website
  • Provide quiet space for workers who wish to practice on their own
  • Bring in a certified meditation instructor to offer an introductory course
  • Organize a mindful lunch experience
  • Lead a walking meditation once a week
  • Offer onsite yoga, tai chi, and qigong classes
  • Provide resources to support contemplative practices: local labyrinths, recommended apps and books, and MBSR courses
  • Include articles and posts about meditation and mindfulness in your wellness communications
  • Invite workers and family members to submit testimonials about their experiences with meditation and how it has made a difference in their well-being
  • Learn more about the health and performance benefits and what successful workplace programs are doing.

Practicing meditation equips workers with additional skills and resources to draw on during times of increased stress — helping them stay on track with health behaviors instead of sliding back into old habits. If your workplace wellness program doesn’t already offer meditation, make a plan now to delight employees with this vital tool.

Resources


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