Meditation isn’t just a spiritual practice. If done properly, meditation can be a practical one. Through taking more traditional meditative practices and altering them to fit my needs, I’ve found it can serve many purposes:
- Focus. Meditating can cut through distractions and focus your mind. I’ve found certain meditations to be useful to give myself an extra edge in directing my thinking.
- Imagination. Visualizing different scenes can give your creative muscles a workout.
- Introspection. Remove the noise from your surroundings and you can actually hear yourself think. I’ve used meditation to solve problems, understand situations and better explore ideas.
- Brain Reboot. Done properly, I’ve noticed an effect on my brain similar to rebooting a computer. With the right meditations I can often spend twenty minutes meditating can remove that feeling of mental fuzziness that comes with a hard day.
Use the Right Exercises
Meditating isn’t simply sitting in a chair cross legged and saying, “ommmm,” to yourself. There is no right or wrong way to meditate. However, if you want to meditate for a practical aim, say recharging your mind or enhancing your imagination, you have to focus.
When I first started meditating I’d often grow restless after a few minutes because I wasn’t sure what to do. Entering a meditation with a specific purpose will help you if your goal is practical and not spiritual.
How to Enter a Meditative State:
- Be comfortable, but don’t fall asleep. Get yourself into a position where you can be comfortable but aren’t at risk of falling asleep. Too much muscular tension or bodily pains can be distracting when trying to meditate. You don’t want to move much once you start meditating, so make sure it is a position that can last a few minutes.
- Breathe. I always start any meditation with a breathing exercise. It usually takes about five minutes to enter the meditative state and patience is key. My goal is to stop moving and focus entirely on my breathing. I generally count to ten on the inhale, and once again on the exhale. Do this for a few minutes until you can keep the breathing pattern without counting.
- Flow with Distractions. Here’s a task for you: Don’t think about polar bears. Of course, trying to accomplish that task is almost impossible. Trying not to think about polar bears causes you to think about polar bears. This paradox applies with distracting elements too. Thoughts, emotions, sounds and disruptions can hamper with your meditative efforts. Don’t force these distractions out, but simply recognize them and let them pass.
The Meditation Toolkit
The first five minutes of practical meditation are always the same. After that things get interesting. I don’t profess to having a library of meditations or being a Zen expert. But here are a couple useful exercises I’ve found and developed to meet my needs:
For Focus: Isolating Senses
Meditation can be used to enhance and practice your focus. To do that I isolate my senses, focusing on just one element at a time.
- On each exhale, pick an element to focus on.
- With the next inhale, focus on that element exclusively.
- With the exhale, release your focus and pick another element, or the same one.
Elements here can include parts of your body, sounds in the background, thoughts, visualizations or emotional states. Think of each breath like a mental rep, flexing the mental muscle until it gets released again.
For Imagination: Eating the White Apple
A recent meditation I’ve found challenging and interesting I call: eating the white apple.
- Visualize a white apple. Hold it so that you can see it, feel the sensations of touch, even smell it.
- Take a bite from the apple. Not only should you experience the sensation of eating it, but the image should adjust with where you took a bite.
- Repeat this process until the image degrades. This happens when you can’t keep track of where and how you ate the apple. I can usually go about ten bites before the mental image gets fuzzy.
This is just one of many visualizations for flexing your ability to think.
For Refreshing: Brain Reboot
All meditation is relaxing. Your breathing is slowed and you are eliminating distracting thoughts. A brain reboot goes further than other meditations in that aim. Here your goal is to enter a deep relaxation and leave feeling completely refreshed.
- Start with your normal meditations. You may want to spend a few minutes with another exercise before starting this one.
- Try to slow your breathing even more and make it smoother. I can usually go up to as much as fifteen counts per inhale and exhale. Don’t slow it so much that you start to feel uncomfortable as that defeats the purpose.
- Next your goal is to become aware of everything but detached from it. This mental alertness means that any thoughts, sounds or bodily discomforts enter your consciousness, but you simply observe them. This means holding off any reactions or instincts to inputs.
- Continue this for a few minutes before ending your meditation.
I’ve found this brain reboot works because it starts by deeply relaxing your body (slow breathing, no moving) and moves to relaxing your mind. The detachment is the mental equivalent of going completely limp. Observing what is happening but not passing any judgment, strategy or action on it.
Not sure whether meditation is right for you? I suggest you spend fifteen minutes of your day for a week trying out these and researching other meditations. Mediation can be used for spiritual quests, but you can also make it practical.
At the start of the year, if you had asked anyone if they could do their work from home, many would have said no. They would have cited the need for team meetings, a place to be able to sit down and get on with their work, the camaraderie of the office, and being able to meet customers and clients face to face.
Almost ten months later, most of us have learned that we can do our work from home and in many ways, we have discovered working from home is a lot better than doing our work in a busy, bustling office environment where we are inundated with distractions and noise.
One of the things the 2020 pandemic has reminded us is we humans are incredibly adaptable. It is one of the strengths of our kind. Yet we have been unknowingly practicing this for years. When we move house we go through enormous upheaval.
When we change jobs, we not only change our work environment but we also change the surrounding people. Humans are adaptable and this adaptability gives us strength.
So, what are the pros and cons of working from home? Below I will share some things I have discovered since I made the change to being predominantly a person who works from home.
Pro #1: A More Relaxed Start to the Day
This one I love. When I had to be at a place of work in the past, I would always set my alarm to give me just enough time to make coffee, take a shower, and change. Mornings always felt like a rush.
Now, I can wake up a little later, make coffee and instead of rushing to get out of the door at a specific time, I can spend ten minutes writing in my journal, reviewing my plan for the day, and start the day in a more relaxed frame of mind.
When you start the day in a relaxed state, you begin more positively. You find you have more clarity and more focus and you are not wasting energy worrying about whether you will be late.
Pro #2: More Quiet, Focused Time = Increased Productivity
One of the biggest difficulties of working in an office is the noise and distractions. If a colleague or boss can see you sat at your desk, you are more approachable. It is easier for them to ask you questions or engage you in meaningless conversations.
Working from home allows you to shut the door and get on with an hour or two of quiet focused work. If you close down your Slack and Email, you avoid the risk of being disturbed and it is amazing how much work you can get done.
An experiment conducted in 2012 found that working from home increased a person’s productivity by 13%, and more recent studies also find significant increases in productivity.
When our productivity increases, the amount of time we need to perform our work decreases, and this means we can spend more time on activities that can bring us closer to our family and friends as well as improve our mental health.
Pro #3: More Control Over Your Day
Without bosses and colleagues watching over us all day, we have a lot more control over what we do. While some work will inevitably be more urgent than others, we still get a lot more choice about what we work on.
We also get more control over where we work. I remember when working in an office, we were given a fixed workstation. Some of these workstations were pleasant with a lot of natural sunlight, but other areas were less pleasant. It was often the luck of the draw whether we find ourselves in a good place to work or not.
By working from home we can choose what work to work on and whether we want to face a window or not. We can get up and move to another place, and we can move from room to room. And if you have a garden, on nice days you could spend a few hours working outside.
Pro #4: You Get to Choose Your Office Environment
While many companies will provide you with a laptop or other equipment to do your work, others will give you an allowance to purchase your equipment. But with furniture such as your chair and desk, you have a lot of freedom.
I have seen a lot of amazing home working spaces with wonderful sets up—better chairs, laptop stands that make working from a laptop much more ergonomic and therefore, better for your neck.
You can also choose your wall art and the little nick-nacks on your desk or table. With all this freedom, you can create a very personal and excellent working environment that is a pleasure to work in. When you are happy doing your work, you will inevitably do better work.
Con #1: We Move a Lot Less
When we commute to a place of work, there is movement involved. Many people commute using public transport, which means walking to the bus stop or train station. Then, there is the movement at lunchtime when we go out to buy our lunch. Working in a place of work requires us to move more.
Unfortunately, working from home naturally causes us to move less and this means we are not burning as many calories as we need to.
Moving is essential to our health and if you are working from home you need to become much more aware of your movement. To ensure you are moving enough, make sure you take your lunch breaks. Get up from your desk and move. Go outside, if you can, and take a walk. And, of course, refrain from regular trips to the refrigerator.
Con #2: Less Human Interaction
One of the nicest things about bringing a group of people together to work is the camaraderie and relationships that are built over time. Working from home takes us away from that human interaction and for many, this can cause a feeling of loss.
Humans are a social species—we need to be with other people. Without that connection, we start to feel lonely and that can lead to mental health issues.
Zoom and Microsoft Teams meeting cannot replace that interaction. Often, the interactions we get at our workplaces are spontaneous. But with video calls, there is nothing spontaneous—most of these calls are prearranged and that’s not spontaneous.
This lack of spontaneous interaction can also reduce a team’s ability to develop creative solutions—there’s just something about a group of incredibly creative people coming together in a room to thrash out ideas together that lends itself to creativity.
While video calls can be useful, they don’t match the connection between a group of people working on a solution together.
Con #3: The Cost of Buying Home Office Equipment
Not all companies are going to provide you with a nice allowance to buy expensive home office equipment. 100% remote companies such as Doist (the creators of Todoist and Twist) provide a $2,000 allowance to all their staff every two years to buy office equipment. Others are not so generous.
This can prove to be expensive for many people to create their ideal work-from-home workspace. Many people must make do with what they already have, and that could mean unsuitable chairs that damage backs and necks.
For a future that will likely involve more flexible working arrangements, companies will need to support their staff in ways that will add additional costs to an already reduced bottom line.
Con #4: Unique Distractions
Not all people have the benefit of being able to afford childcare for young children, and this means they need to balance working and taking care of their kids.
For many parents, being able to go to a workplace gives them time away from the noise and demands of a young family, so they could get on with their work. Working from home removes this and can make doing video calls almost impossible.
To overcome this, where possible, you need to set some boundaries. I know this is not always possible, but it is something you need to try. You should do whatever you can to make sure you have some boundaries between your work life and home life.
Working from home can be hugely beneficial for many people, but it can also bring serious challenges to others.
We are moving towards a new way of working. Therefore, companies need to look at both the pros and cons of working from home and be prepared to support their staff in making this transition. It will not be impossible, but a lot of thought will need to go into it.
More About Working From Home
- 10 Tips to Help You Be More Efficient Working From Home
- 7 Ways To Supercharge Your Productivity When You Work From Home
- 10 Work from Home Desks to Boost Your Productivity