Gosia Kierc used to operate in a near-constant state of impatience. When commercials would interrupt videos playing on her laptop, she’d check Pinterest on her phone. When she’d go out for a power walk and get stuck at a stoplight, she’d think, Ugh, I have to wait here for a minute!
These days, Gosia finds peace at stoplights and stays “fully present” in meetings, rather than allaying her antsiness with instant messenger. “People don’t have to repeat things anymore,” she says, “so I’m able to help my team more quickly.”
What changed? Gosia now practices mindfulness meditation.
After work, she slips into an empty conference room overlooking the Seattle waterfront, sits in a comfortable chair, and for 5 to 10 minutes focuses on her breathing. She observes her chest rising and falling, and when thoughts pop into her head, she says, “I imagine them flying away into the universe.”
Increased patience is just one of the benefits of this ancient Buddhist practice, which is proving well suited to the iPhone age. Working more productively, feeling less anxious, acting with more compassion, tuning in more acutely to your body — these, too, are among the payoffs of a daily meditation practice.
“Mindfulness meditation helps you slow down and become more aware of your thoughts, so you can make more conscious choices about how to respond to them,” says Samara Serotkin, PsyD, Mazlo’s director of meditation and mindfulness programs.
“There are so many demands for our time and attention that it’s getting hard to feel connected to what really matters,” Samara adds. “We get swept up in our habitual ways of thinking and acting and miss the opportunity for change.”
Meditating for even 5 to 10 minutes a day can transform your life in small but powerful ways. Here are 4 more noticeable benefits:
Better Focus and Productivity on the Job
As a registered nurse who reviews disability cases for an attorney, Judy Smith has to summarize hundreds of pages of documents in a sharp, objective manner. She also has to proofread her summaries, her least favorite part of the job.
“I used to be hasty about proofreading, and since I’m a perfectionist, that made me second-guess my accuracy, so I had to proofread multiple times,” says Judy, 60, who lives in Atlanta.
Meditating gives her the focus to gather the information more accurately in the first place, she says, so she no longer feels the need to proofread multiple times.
A Greater Tendency to Act With Compassion
Before she took up meditation, Kendra Perez would spend her 20-minute bus commute glued to her smartphone, switching between social media and email. When she began using 7 or 8 minutes of that time to meditate, she found her personal interactions changed in unexpected ways.
“One day I was washing dishes at my church when a woman walked in, distraught over a violent interaction she’d just witnessed,” Kendra recalls. “I noticed my inner voice saying, I need to get other chores done, but because of my mindfulness practice, I was able to come back to the present moment.”
She told herself, I need to put down these dishes and pay attention to this woman. This is more important right now.
Keener Body Awareness
Not long ago, Judy Smith began to notice a slight dip in her energy level and a minor scalp itch, and she was waking up later than usual. “It was all very subtle and could have been passed off as signs of aging,” Judy says.
But Judy, who takes a low dose of thyroid medication, sensed something more was off. Tests confirmed her suspicions: she needed her medication adjusted. “If I hadn’t been so in tune with my body,” she says, “I don’t know that I would have paid attention to those changes as early as I did.”
Reduced Stress and Anxiety
Kendra Perez calls meditation on the bus ride to work “preventive care for my anxiety”; it helps her start each day with a sense of calm. For Gosia Kierc, meditating after work smoothes her transition to the rest of her day. “It helps me leave all the chaos at work,” she says.
Judy Smith, too, has found that meditation calms her in stressful situations. Before undergoing a recent MRI, Judy considered taking anti-anxiety medication — “I’m a bit on the claustrophobic side,” she says — but instead practiced the focused breathing she’d learned from her mindfulness meditation practice.
“I know I would not have been able to endure the entire procedure without applying the meditation,” says Judy. “It absolutely kept me from wigging out.”
Interested in giving mindfulness a try? Get started with our free Mindfulness Meditation e-book.