How to Meditate at Work: 7 Tips for Easy Work Meditation
Meditation can help reduce stress and lead to a calmer, more peaceful workday. However, it can be tricky to know how to meditate while at the office, especially if you share a workspace or office with coworkers.
Learning how to meditate at work requires making a space for your meditation, focusing on your breathing, using your imagination, and utilizing helpful tools. It may also be helpful to take a short walk and check-in with yourself to evaluate your emotions. No matter what, patience is key.
This article will explore all of the ways that you can meditate at work. If you’ve been struggling to achieve some inner peace and alleviate workplace stress, these tips may help you meditate more quickly and easily—no matter where you are.
Make a Space
One of the first steps toward workplace meditation is having a calm, organized, and devoted space for meditation and mindfulness. You can use whichever space is available to you, even if you work in a shared area.
Making space can be as simple as choosing to go to consistently visit an outdoor area for a short break. It can also be as complex as setting aside a part of your private office purely for meditation purposes. Your precise decision-making when it comes to making space will likely depend on your workplace, available space, budget, and preferences.
Choosing a Space
Everyone can enjoy a dedicated meditation area without sacrificing their comfort or livelihood. If you work at a desk situated in a large open area (much like cubicles), you may want to exit the building and seek peace at an external location. If your work building has the floor designed specifically for at-work breaks and recreation, you can explore that option as well.
If you work in a private office or a smaller confined area with only a handful of coworkers, you may want to favor an outdoor location or private area. While it is possible to meditate at your desk, it’s likely to prove challenging. That’s because our minds form memory-based associations.
Associations and Mindfulness
You may spend your entire commute home thinking about all of the things you’d like to work on when you get there. However, as soon as you open the front door and kick off your shoes, it’s unlikely that you’ll clean your fridge’s water filter or dust the ceiling fans. That’s because our brains tend to associate coming home and undressing with relaxation.
It can be a challenge to change these associations, which is why it can be more helpful to become aware of your associations and behavior patterns.
Do you tend to experience a jolt of energy when you sit down at your desk in the morning? If so, then you may struggle to remove yourself from the present moment and meditate. Choosing an alternate space to perform daily meditation can help shorten the time it takes for you to relax, breathe, and let go of your worries.
The fresh air and open spaces of an outdoor area can help you clear your mind and calm down, which is why it’s often recommended. If you work in an area with a few outdoor spaces, you may want to investigate your building to see if you can find any quiet, unused conference rooms. An unused room works just as well as a walk through the park.
Of course, once you have a dedicated space or area for your daily meditation, it’s time to consider your breathing. If you haven’t been following breathing exercises, you may not be reaping the full benefits of mindful breathing and at-work mediation.
Focus on Breathing
While the majority of our breathing happens unconsciously, you can choose to take control of your breathing. Taking deep, slow breaths may help calm a racing heart or anxiety-filled mind. That’s because deep breathing counteracts the natural stress response.
When we experience stress, our bodies react by flooding our brains and veins with chemicals. One of the most significant hormones released during the “fight or flight” response is adrenaline. This handy chemical causes our hearts to race and makes us feel invincible. However, when it’s released too often, it can result in feelings of panic.
Panic and Breathing
A panic attack occurs during moments of extreme stress. A sudden tragic event can trigger a panic attack, and individuals with PTSD or anxiety disorders may experience them fairly frequently. Symptoms often include a rapid pulse, chest pains, and difficulty breathing.
Deep breathing exercises can help prevent panic attacks from occurring, and they can also help you make it through one. Just as smiling when you’re sad may help you feel happier over time, breathing deeply when you’re stressed could help you let go of that stress and embrace healthy coping mechanisms.
Fortunately, breathing is not an intrusive exercise. You can practice breathing while at your desk, at a meeting, or on your way to work. Keeping your mind and body calm is a great way to prepare yourself for quick at-work meditation, and it’s also a crucial aspect of mindfulness. It is nearly impossible to meditate while panicking, and breathing is key.
Taking Five Minutes
It only takes about five minutes to go from rapid breathing to deep, peaceful respiration. While you can practice deep breathing anywhere, it’s a good idea to get accustomed to practicing it in your designated meditation area. That way, you’ll begin to form associations between your restful breathing techniques and your space.
When you pair these deep, long breaths with a vivid imagination, there’s no limit to how tranquil your workday can become. Many people choose to visualize settings that help them to feel comfortable, relaxed, and worry-free.
Use Your Imagination
Your mind is a powerful tool. The things you think really can shape your reality, in ways that could be either helpful or destructive. When meditating, your imagination can influence your thinking patterns, helping you achieve sustained positive thinking or simply allowing your internal monologue to shut off for a while.
Visualizing a peaceful place where you feel warm, comfortable, and relaxed can lower your heart rate and blood pressure. When paired with deep breathing exercises, imaginative visualization can be a mentally and physically beneficial exercise. There are several ways that you can incorporate images into your at-work mediation.
If you find yourself plagued with repetitive thoughts and worries concerning a work-related task or duty, you could choose to focus one of your meditations on imagining yourself after completing that task. Imagine the relief you will feel, and the sense of accomplishment. When you have fully explored those positive feelings, let go of the worry attached to that experience.
Letting Go of Workplace Disputes
Frustrating workplace relations can also cause cyclical negative thinking. One way that visualization can help reduce these thoughts is by helping you have a mock conversation. It’s important to keep these silent conversations very brief and to say exactly what you mean.
Visualize your coworker and imagine telling them exactly why you feel hurt or frustrated. Keep it civil but be direct. Then imagine what their response might be. Now, dissolve the image in your mind and focus on breathing for several minutes, allowing your mind to empty any intrusive or worrisome thoughts.
While you may not immediately arrive at the perfect solution to your issue, you’ll likely feel less plagued by feelings of frustration or anger after meditating on the issue and letting it go. You could use several different meditation techniques to help you find peace and satisfaction while practicing visualization.
You can try this at any time, at any place. When you begin to notice signs and symptoms of feeling overwhelmed, you can choose to take a deep breath and imagine yourself overcoming your obstacle. Knowing that such success is possible can help you move forward past your frustration and achieve your goals.
If you work in a place that is often very noisy or crowded, it can be a challenge to imagine that you’re lying on a beach somewhere or hiking through a foggy forest. Fortunately, isolation tools can help.
Utilize Isolation Tools
You could use several products and tools to help yourself gain the right amount of isolation for at-work mediation. Individuals that work in hectic, loud environments may not have the option to walk outside into a quiet setting or find repose in a silent office. That doesn’t mean that at-work mediation is impossible. It only means you may need a few gadgets to help.
Headphones, for example, are a fine way of tuning out others and focusing inward on yourself. While this might seem counterintuitive (being an active listener is part of being a mindful person), it is often massively beneficial. When your patience is failing, and your stress levels are rising, it’s a good idea to briefly isolate yourself and regain your composure.
Over-the-ear headphones tend to be slightly better at reducing the volume of external noises, though you may choose any type of headphone you’d like. You can plug this headphone into your smartphone or stereo and listen to music if that helps you relax. Be sure to choose tracks that are calming and that contain few (if any) lyrics.
You could also choose to wear noise-isolating headphones just to have a little quiet. Be sure to check with your employer to ensure that headphone usage doesn’t violate any employee guidelines. If it does, you may still be able to enjoy them during your break or commute. But headphones aren’t the only isolation tools you can use.
Eye masks can also help you meditate at work. If you work in an environment that uses fluorescent lighting, eye masks may help decrease at-work headaches.
Meditation Eye Masks
Donning an eye mask for a couple of minutes every hour can also reduce eyestrain related to monitors, computers, and blue light.
The Dolida Sleeping Headphones is a one-stop shop for enhancing calm where you may find yourself. This product blocks out excessive light to help you achieve a more thorough meditative state, while also providing ultra-thin HD and bluetooth stereo speakers. Perfect for meditation, air travel, and obtaining a restful slumber.
Isolation tools are most beneficial to those who cannot access quiet areas at work. They can help simulate aloneness, allowing your mind to easily enter a state of meditative awareness. It can be a challenge to center yourself if you’re overwhelmed by the sounds of the office or work environment.
As such, isolation tools could become a powerful option for those who find themselves overwhelmed by their work environments.
Remote Work and Isolation Tools
If you work from home, you can use these tools to create a peaceful bubble around yourself. Not all remote workers have the luxury of working from a home office, and those with families and children to care for can quickly find themselves struggling to separate work from home. Sound-isolating headphones and a light-blocking face mask may help.
Of course, if you can safely go outside for a short walk, you should take it. Not only is walking fantastic exercise, but it can also function as a meditative experience.
Go for a Walk
Though you may have seen people sitting while meditating, it’s also possible to meditate while exercising. Simple exercises are an excellent opportunity to think, assess your emotions, and become a more mindful person.
If you’re able to take a short walk during your at-work break, you may find yourself pleasantly relieved by the change in surroundings. The fresh air and freedom of movement may also help you feel a sudden rush of calm and serenity. Walking meditation requires about ten minutes of your time, and it can be practiced nearly anywhere.
How to Walk at Work
To begin, you first need to find somewhere safe to walk. This area doesn’t have to be exceptionally expansive or large, but it should be peaceful. You can choose to begin your walk by simply pacing, counting your steps as you go. You could also choose to walk freely and allow your thoughts to simply explore as your feet do the same.
For at-work purposes, it is often better to start with the pacing structure. While pacing has often been associated with individuals experiencing high amounts of stress, there is some evidence to support its ability to help calm the mind and the body. Besides, walking itself is a fantastic exercise that has several associated benefits.
Benefits of Workplace Walking
Many of us work from desks or sofas, allowing us to recline for hours on end. However, staying seated for several hours can cause chronic lower back pain and discomfort in the joints. Some studies have shown that sitting for several hours may also contribute to obesity and heart disease.
Getting up and taking a brief walk every hour or two hours can help increase your circulation, strengthen your muscles, help you shed a few pounds, and improve your mental outlook and ability. Choosing to walk outdoors introduces a new setting, allowing your mind to distance itself (however briefly) from work-related issues.
Some may not be able to go outside for a walk during their daily at-work meditation. However, choosing to take a little walk around your office floor or the building’s additional rooms can also provide similar benefits. The most crucial aspect of walking to meditate is getting up onto your feet, moving about, and being conscious of your breathing and thinking.
Meditating While Moving
This is a fantastically vital point to remember. If you’re taking a walk but still stressing overdue dates, poor coworker relations, or a frustrated client, you’re not allowing yourself to truly enjoy your experience. To meditate while walking, you must remove yourself from your worries and focus on your breathing and the sensations you may be experiencing.
It’s an excellent idea to take a moment to recognize the smallest things occurring around you. Is the sun shining, is it raining? Can you feel the wind or air conditioning against your skin? Focusing on these tiny sensations can help you bring yourself to the present moment and achieve a more meaningful meditative awareness moment.
Should you ever find yourself on the verge of a panic attack, you may want to go for a short walk and incorporate the 5-4-3-2-1 method of self-calming. To do this, you only need to:
- Spot five things around you
- Find four things you can touch
- Listen for three things you can hear
- Breathe in and count two things you can smell
- Taste your tongue and think about the last thing you’ve eaten or drank
This coping mechanism can help you become more grounded and allow you to achieve calmness and clarity that would have otherwise been a struggle. Part of this exercise also allows you to re-enter the present moment and recognize your emotions.
Recognize Your Emotions
Part of overcoming negative emotions and patterns of thinking is recognizing when they begin and what triggers them. Many of us struggle to come to terms with our emotions, often choosing to simply ignore them. This habit can lead to feelings of depression, anxiety, and low self-worth.
While it can be scary to recognize your emotions, especially the truly powerful and potentially negative ones, it is entirely necessary. Once you have recognized that you do not like something, you can begin to implement changes to avoid that trigger. You can also choose to address the cause behind your negative emotion in an attempt to change your associations.
For example, you may despise the sound of your office mate’s clicking pen. Because it’s an irrational pet peeve, you may never discuss this annoyance with your coworker. Over time, the sound of the clicking pen may begin to cause you to feel extreme feelings of anger, stress, and disgust.
At this point, it is no longer the pen itself, which causes you to experience negative emotions. Instead, it is a compounded list of frustrations that may range from not being able to express yourself and feeling trapped in an uncomfortable environment. However, if you recognize that something bothers you and then take action, you won’t have to handle an unbottling of emotions.
Taking action doesn’t always mean addressing your coworkers or supervisors, especially if the issue is minimal. It simply means choosing to take steps to avoid feeling frustrated. In the pen example, you could simply put some earplugs or headphones on.
If you have a friendly relationship with your coworker, you could also choose to address the clicking with them in an amicable manner. The crucial aspect that you must maintain is being aware of how you feel and choosing to change it somehow. If you feel that several behaviors cause you to feel upset while at-work, you may want to contact your human resources manager and/or seek counsel from a therapist.
Behavioral workplace violations typically fall into the realm of human resources and should be addressed appropriately within the workplace. However, overwhelming feelings of stress associated with work or coworkers may require counseling or therapy. A behavior specialist can help you identify triggers that may be causing you to experience heightened anxiety.
It is perfectly normal to need to vent or complain about workplace situations. However, while you’re at work, it’s important to simply take stock of how you’re feeling, breathe deeply, and release that worry. You can address long-lasting concerns with a counselor, HR representative, family member, or friend.
Still, while you’re working hard to recognize and work through your emotions, you must be patient. Changing your thinking habits and adopting at-work meditation requires time, repetitions, and quite a lot of patience.
Patience is a virtue, but it’s not the easiest one to practice. The average American spends more than 40 hours working each week, and with encroaching deadlines and task lists to organize and complete, life can be extremely hectic. The need to constantly go and do is symptomatic of our society’s values. As a whole, we value productivity and hard work.
However, while these values do have several positive connotations, they can also be somewhat destructive. If you come home and find that you cannot seem to get work off of your mind, you’ll likely feel far more drained and tired when you return to work the next day.
You also won’t be able to fully enjoy time spent with your partner or children if you’re worrying about work. The desire to provide for ourselves and our families often outweighs our self-care needs. This can make us feel overwhelmed, burdened, and exceptionally impatient. That’s why patience is crucial to at-work meditation.
At the height of a stressful episode or event, it can be frustrating to turn to meditation and find that it does not help. Often, this can be remedied by incorporating patience. Having patience with others is a relatively normalized idea, but having patience with yourself is not as popular.
Still, it’s vital to appreciate that you cannot do everything all at once and that that does not make you a lesser person or employee. If you are feeling overwhelmed with your current work tasks or with a work-related relationship, remember to have patience with yourself.
You may have followed all of the correct protocol and formed a plan of action but still feel angry, confused, or depressed. This is normal. It often takes our bodies and minds time to adjust to new stimuli or upcoming stressors.
You could employ many different methods to increase your sense of patience. Making yourself wait for small things is a great place to start. However, breathing deeply and slowly can also help you relax and practice self-patience. Whenever you feel upset with yourself, try closing your eyes for a moment and focusing on your breathing.
Once your body has calmed slightly, you can begin to address your thoughts. Are you blaming yourself? Are you repeating negative sentiments to yourself? These kinds of thoughts are often far more harmful than they are helpful. Our thoughts can influence how we see ourselves and the world around us, so try to recognize negative thinking and immediately put an end to it.
The next time you falter at work and begin to panic, take a moment to breathe. And remember, no matter how badly you feel about making a mistake, it is not the end of the world. Accept the mistake, form a plan to remedy the mistake, and move on. Beating yourself up over failures does not help you become more successful.
Learning to be patient with yourself can help you grow a sense of self-pride that runs deeper than your daily paperwork or to-do list.
Now you’re familiar with seven helpful ways to meditate at work. While choosing a meditation space is a great place to start, it’s also important to use your imagination and develop sound breathing techniques. You could also choose to utilize isolation tools or go for a quick walk.
Of course, recognizing your emotions and practicing self-patience are also crucial to easy at-work meditation. By incorporating all of these tips and tricks, you could enjoy more fulfilling meditative moments, no matter how stressful your job is.
Richard A. Lehman, LMT, CSCS
- Amazon: OriHea Eye Mask for Sleeping
- American Addiction Centers: The Art of Pacing – Live Long and Prosper
- CNBC: A brief history of the 8-hour workday, which changed how Americans work
- Gaiam: Meditation and Visualization
- Greater Good Science Center: Mindful Breathing
- Greater Good Science Center: Walking Meditation
- : 4 Tips to Help You Be a More Patient Person, Science Says You Will be Happier
- Mayo Clinic: Meditation: A simple, fast way to reduce stress
- Mindful: A 5-Minute Breathing Meditation To Cultivate Mindfulness
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- Science Daily: Psychologists find smiling really can make people happier
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- University of Rochester Medical Center: Behavioral Health Partners: 5-4-3-2-1 Coping Technique for Anxiety