Mediation is the buzzword of the western world at the moment. Once regarded as a religious practice of the East and for only those interested in spiritual awakening and cosmic consciousness; today, it is a mainstream activity cherished and adopted by millions of people to help them cope with the rigours of modern life.
Interestingly, meditation has also become a tool in business for increased productivity and well-being. Perhaps, its adoption in business is because science has documented a spectrum of benefits that meditation brings to our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being. Some meditation researchers have even concluded that 10,000 hours of meditation is equal to a PhD in happiness. Global companies such as Google, Apple and Nike have adopted meditation programmes for their employees. And discerning executives and professionals now see meditation as a core skill to develop.
Dr. Herbert Benson was the first scientist to establish the benefits and effectiveness of meditation through his research at Harvard University back in the 1970s. His book, Relaxation Response, demystifies meditation. Several studies that follow through the years have shown that meditation is not just a fad but a practice to be taken seriously and built into our daily lives.
What Is Meditation?
Cambridge Dictionary defines Meditation as the act of giving attention to only one thing, either as a religious activity or as a way of becoming calm and relaxed. In other words, meditation is the practice of training of the mind for attention and relaxation. The whole idea behind meditation is to free your mind from the treadmill of thoughts, emotions, sensations and images that it processes every minute of the day, and limit the constant assault that it has on your nervous system. When successful, you attain mental clarity, emotional calm, and a higher level of presence besides a host of other benefits.
How It Is Done
Look for a quiet place, either in your home or wherever you find safe and comfortable. Sit or lie with your spine straight. If you prefer the lotus position, it’s your choice as long as you don’t feel any discomfort. Choose an object for your attention. It could be a candle flame, a word or a phrase. It could as well be the inflow or outflow of your breath or even the sensations in your body.
Focus your attention on whatever object you have chosen. Whenever your thoughts stray, bring it back to the object. At first, you may not be able to keep your attention on the object for long without distractive thoughts. But as time progresses, you will find that you are able to stay focused for a long period of time, even to the point of losing consciousness of time and what is happening in your environment.
Why Should PR Professionals Meditate?
Given the unique nature and challenges of PR work, there are more than a million reasons why PR professionals should meditate. In this article we’ll be looking at five science-backed reasons that touch the very core of PR work:
1. Meditation Relieves Stress
Stress and Public Relations practice are like Siamese twins, inextricably tied to each other. Recent reports of careercast.com show that Public Relations is among the top ten most stressful jobs in the world. Fortunately, meditation has the capacity to upgrade your body’s stress response and leave you with increased energy to cope with the rigours of the work.
A 2013 report of sciencedaily.com tells us that a research project at the University of California (Sharmatha Project) revealed that focusing on the present rather than letting the mind drift away lowers the levels of the stress hormones known as cortisol.
Cortisol is associated with physical and emotional stress. It is a culprit in anxiety, high blood pressure, insomnia, inflammation and a host of other health problems. Meditation keeps cortisol at bay and reverses these negative conditions.
2. Meditation enhances creativity
Creativity, the generation of fresh and novel ideas, is the lifeblood of Public Relations. It takes creativity to break through the clutter of messages in the media to make your organization or client heard. It also takes creativity to differentiate your organization from the pack. Your ability to cope with rapid changes in the business environment, and in the PR profession, is only possible with creativity.
Dr. Roger Sperry’s split-brain theory tells us that the left hemisphere of the brain is for analysis while the right is for creativity. A new research published in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reveals that creativity is a whole-brain activity; not just a right brain function. Creative thoughts are therefore a function of how effectively the brain can communicate between different regions that usually work separately.
A study by UCLA School of Medicine in 2012 showed that during meditation, the cable of nerves that connects the left and the right hemispheres of the brain, known as the Corpus Callosum, gets stimulated and strengthened along with other brain circuitry such as the prefrontal Cortex. This harmonization of the brain yields a whole lot of benefits with creativity at the very top of the list.
3. Meditation is a recipe for a calm mind
It frees you of worries and fears and keeps your mind in the present. This is the state of mind required to effectively deal with stakeholder issues, conflicts and crisis which PR professionals are often called upon to handle.
Neuroscience tells us that meditation keeps your mind calm by deactivating the fear center of the brain known as Amygdala. Several studies have shown that this fear center, which is responsible for stress and anxiety, shows lessened activity after just a few weeks of practicing meditation.
4. Meditation enhances your ability to focus
PR work requires attention to details. A tiny error in spelling or punctuation can spell doom for a PR campaign. PR is no place for the distracted mind.
Interestingly, meditation has a surprise package for you when it comes to the level of focus you need for the job. Dr. Sara Lazar, an internationally acclaimed Harvard brain researcher, discovered that meditation can turn off the posterior cingulate cortex, a region of the brain responsible distraction. And that means that with meditation you can greatly enhance your ability to focus.
5. Meditation increases your emotional intelligence
Emotionally intelligent individuals are masters of self-awareness and empathy. They are gracious and generous by nature. And their ability to manage their own distressing emotions is second to none. PR professionals are expected to have very high levels of emotional intelligence to succeed in the industry.
Deadlines, 24/7 news cycle, the pressure to measure results, unrealistic expectations of clients and the need to work in teams and groups are factors that only emotionally intelligent individuals can cope with.
Thankfully, there are scientific proofs that you can develop emotional intelligence through the practice of meditation. In 2016, a team of Spanish and German researchers studied the brains of 13 young trainees in mindfulness, a form of meditation, and found that the Temporal Parietal Junction (TPJ), known to neuro scientists as the emotional intelligence command and control center, discovered that in just six weeks into the trainings, the internal consistency of the region of the brain had increased significantly.
This region of the brain is responsible for written and spoken language empathy, altruism, conscientiousness, self-awareness, motivation and other traits associated with emotional intelligence. It has been proven that the more you meditate, the more you strengthen these traits until they become permanent traits in you.
Public Relations is changing at a speed never before known in its history. This breeds confusion, stress and anxiety for its practitioners. To cope and remain relevant, Budha’s advice is apt, “Meditation brings wisdom; lack of meditation leaves ignorance. Know well what leads you forward, and what holds you back, and choose the path that leads to wisdom.”