Is Meditation Really Good for Students & Employees, or is it just a Trend?

Generally speaking: yes, meditation is good for you. Let’s take a closer look, shall we?

a seated child meditating

Those who practice meditation already know the benefits it brings to their lives.  But is meditation good for the workplace?  What about the classroom?  

In this article, we’ll look at:

  • Meditation vs. Mindfulness
  • Benefits for Students
  • Benefits for Employees
  • Bonus Cheat Sheet
Know the difference between meditation and mindfulness-- they are not the same thing.  

Meditation vs. Mindfulness

There seems to be some confusion over the difference between “meditation” and “mindfulness,” as the two words are often used interchangeably and in close proximity to the other.  

“Meditation” is a practice of creating relaxation by using various techniques to achieve mastery over their minds-- the list includes mantras, visualizations (guided or solo), concentration, and breathwork, but there are many other types of meditation as well.

“Mindfulness” is a mental state of awareness achieved by focusing on the present moment.  

Both mindfulness and meditation offer similar benefits:

  • Stress relief
  • Anxiety relief
  • Better focus
  • Improved memory

Think of it this way: meditation can be used to achieve mindfulness, but mindfulness is not in and of itself a meditation.  There are meditations that use mindfulness techniques, but it’s ultimately a state of mind.  

So the question is… what can meditation do for students and employees?  

In today’s pressurized society, students need meditation to help them reduce stress and improve school performance.

Meditation in the Classroom

As the popularity of meditation and mindfulness grows, more and more schools are implementing them into their curriculum.  Students are reporting overall positive feedback-- less anxiety, stress is easier to manage, creativity is up, and students are less fearful or withdrawn socially.  

As it turns out, the evidence here is a tad bit murky, mostly because the research methodology isn’t cohesive throughout the studies and it’s hard to control for the placebo effect.  As Vox writer Brian Resnick points out: “... You can’t have the control group do nothing.”  

Some students really should not engage in meditation due to a trauma or a mental illness that causes delusions-- it can tear down the mental protection walls around the trauma too soon, and spending too much time with delusional thoughts isn’t healthy either.  If meditation and mindfulness is to be made part of a school’s curriculum, teachers and staff must be carefully trained to watch out for these kids and make appropriate accommodations for them.  

However, the benefits can’t be ignored, either.  How much of these benefits is from the break in the everyday routine versus actual meditation can be hard to account for, but do we really need scientific evidence to back this up if the effects are tracked and apparent?

If a student feels more in control of their feelings, stress/anxiety, and concentration-- and can demonstrate it with behavior and cognitive changes-- then perhaps not.  In addition to the benefits already listed, meditation is also proving to be an effective treatment for substance abuse and addictive behavior-- which is present in all levels of school.  

Meditation has also been clinically proven that regular meditation practice is an effective treatment for insomnia and produces a better quality sleep.  Sleep is essential for cognitive function and behavioral control-- which everyone needs!  But students are at an age where they are still need around 9 hours of sleep every night in order to be healthy, and they’re only averaging 7 hours.  Loss of sleep is due to many factors-- stress and anxiety, which are also reduced by meditation-- including a start time that the CDC says is too early.  

Whether the science is truly behind meditation in the classroom, the evidence of its benefits cannot be ignored.  Talk to your children’s school about where meditation is being incorporated and how-- or help them get a program started!  

Meditating at work can boost your performance and overall job satisfaction.  Image courtesy of Healthy Life Insider.  

Meditation in the Workplace

Just as many schools are recognizing that there are benefits to student meditation programs, employers are realizing that their employees and businesses benefit from them too.  

In addition to the same experience in stress and anxiety reduction, employers also noticed that meditation program boosted employee wellness and productivity.  They also saw higher attendance rates-- stress reduces the immune system-- and found that they could use the meditation program to encourage healthy work relationships between coworkers and employers alike.  

Since meditation and mindfulness also increase focus while decreasing stress-- and boosting the ability to deal with stress healthfully-- employees’ decision-making skills are sharper.  And of course, the increased memory and overall cognition helps too.  

Here’s something else to consider-- employers who lead by example and participate in the workplace meditation program may also find that their leadership skills improve.  Workplace moral will also rise, as employees see that not only does the program benefit them-- they also see that their employer believes in leading by example.  

And by demonstrating care coupled with action in regards to employee wellness, businesses will see less turnover as well.  

It’s also interesting to note that meditation is often considered a spiritual practice, which many may argue doesn’t belong in a school or-- most especially-- a workplace.  However, many people confuse spirituality and religion-- religion is a faith with a set of core beliefs, and has no place in business (unless the business is entirely faith-based, such as a Christian bookstore).  

Spirituality in the workplace has its benefits, and meditation can be a medium through which this is accomplished.  Spiritual practices help a person achieve a deeper understanding and connection with themselves, life, and each other-- it fosters happier and empathetic people who are motivated to see their work as meaningful contributions.  When employees feel that their work is meaningful, they are driven to do it better and more collaboratively (especially with aggression reduced).  

If your workplace doesn’t offer a meditation program, consider starting one.  Talk to your manager and start small-- suggest it as a group engagement or teambuilding activity at your next meeting.  Have a few suggestions for office-appropriate meditations printed up, along with some helpful guidelines.  

If the offer is rejected, try to create an office meditation practice yourself.  Consider inviting others to join you informally after a while-- you may be surprised at who says yes!  

Bonus Mini-Mediation Cheat Sheet

Here’s a list of suggestions for a lunch-break meditation practice!  Try to find a quiet place like the library or an unused conference room, but if you can’t, use noise-cancelling headphones.  

  • Take off your shoes (but keep your socks on-- you don’t know what people walked in)
  • Use an app for guided meditations
  • Keep it to 5-10 minutes (you want to eat, after all!)
  • Do it before eating, unless you’re so hungry it’s a distraction
  • Breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth, for a slow count of three each way
  • Hydrate afterwards
  • Avoid caffeine, or at the very least, sip your caffeine slowly-- don’t guzzle it all at once
Dallas school children learned to meditate-- and the school was impressed with the results!  Image courtesy of KERA News.  

The bottom line in all of this is that meditation does have benefits for both educational and workplace institutions.  While the studies in younger people may not be quite as clear as those on adults, the results are similar and consistently positive.  It’s generally proven that-- at the very least-- meditation reduces stress and anxiety and improves sleep.  Those things alone are the core from which all other issues spring-- weak immune systems, inattentiveness, compassion fatigue, aggression, addictions, etc.-- that affect students, employees and employers negatively.  

It takes commitment, and a bit of training.  But the benefits are there, and the results are all positive.  

So why aren’t more schools and businesses incorporating it?  

Sound off below: Do you think it’s appropriate to incorporate meditation in schools and workplaces?  Why or why not?  

Jean Linder

Jean Linder is a writer and photographer from Pittsburgh, PA.
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