THE BLOG

Meditate at Work: Why Not?

25/01/2015 19:08 GMT | Updated 27/03/2015 09:59 GMT

Imagine this: a busy office stops for 10 minutes in the middle of the day. Phones are silenced as, at every desk, people close their eyes and meditate.

That's going to be the Red office this Monday, 26 January. At 1 o'clock exactly, we're going to down tools (well, turn off screens), put in our headphones and turn on our meditation app (for most of us, it's Headspace Take10) and switch off from work for ten, hopefully reviving, minutes.

Monday is Red magazine's first #RedMonday, a focus on all positive things for mental health on the most trying day of the week. The idea is to make everyone in the office - along with all our Red family (readers, associates, colleagues, supporters) - to try out meditation, see if it might become our new healthy habit.

As a health journalist, it's been hard to escape the avalanche of evidence for the mental health benefits of mindfulness and meditation; that it's good for reducing anxiety and stress, boosting creativity and attention, regulating emotions and even most recently, that it may have effects on ageing. But I'd managed to avoid it personally. That is, until editor-in-chief Sarah Bailey, suggested (read: decided) the Red office should get mindful, together. It's true: we have been been suggesting to readers that meditation is a great healthy habit, so now we're going to practice what we preach.

'Red Monday is all about breaking the taboo of stopping work in the office and opening up the conversation about well-being in the corporate world,' said Sarah Bailey. Hearst's CEO Anna Jones is supporting it, and we're inviting (read: roping in) other Hearst magazines to join us: Men's Health, Women's Health and Cosmopolitan, as well as cover stars like Jools Oliver, healthy food pioneers Hemsley and Hemsley and Natasha Corrett of Honestly Healthy.

Then, at 1.10, we'll all switch back on, and tweet out pictures of us in our meditation poses wearing big round red stickers, stating 'Shhh! I'm meditating'. These pictures, which we've dubbed melfies (meditation selfies), #RedMonday, may sound silly but, there's a serious message behind our campaign: most people need to switch off during the work day.

Why do it at lunchtime? Well, we're as guilty in Red as the next office at staying plugged in, not taking a lunch break, or any break, at work. As a 2014 Bupa study showed, one in three (29%) workers don't take a proper lunch break, and two in five (43%) believe they have too much work to even pause for a few minutes. In Red, most of us eat at our desks. True, you're more likely to see a Leon Superfood salad than a Kentucky bucket (though there is a trend for Joe & The Juice cheese toasties) but people are still likely to 'work through'.

And why do it right now? Well, we thought, just as our fresh New Year resolutions begin to turn stale, isn't it a great time to adopt a healthy habit, one that's proven to underpin wellbeing?

At this point in the year, as the relaxation and sleep of the Christmas holidays wears off, I know I feel the weight of the year, all the mornings I've got to get up, all the work I've got to finish, no visible fun in sight. Just because it's part of the class, I meditate in yoga and my teacher, Nadia Narain at Triyoga, always says that savasana, the lying down bit at the end, is the most important part. I know her Tuesday night class is how I (and the rest of the Red features team) keep my perspective during the working week.

And while Blue Monday (which falls on either 19 or 26tJanuary this year) may be a non-scientific construct, you can't deny that at this time of year, any incremental increase in good mood or calm is always welcome. According to the Royal College of Psychiatrists, while three per cent of people have full blown Seasonal Affective Disorder, 'many of us will be mildly affected by the winter, with symptoms of feeling slightly tired, sleeping a bit more and perhaps gaining some weight.'

There are lots of types of meditation, of course, and the great research results we hear about just might have been done on a completely different programme to the one you try. So while we can't guarantee your #RedMonday meditation will prompt you to write the The Miniaturist or leave you looking as if you've had a facelift, it may just make you feel, well, better. According to Dr David Cox, Chief Medical Officer of Headspace.com, a research paper in the Journal of Happiness Studies, 121 people were assigned ten days of Headspace meditation, or nothing, and the meditators reported 'significantly increased well-being'. He also says people report feeling calm or more balanced after just one session, and even make healthier choices.

When we first discussed our #RedMonday meditation with the team, the main reason people gave for not meditating was, they couldn't find time. So we've made time: right in the middle of the working day. It may be that we end up finding meditation in a busy office is too hard, too distracting, too embarrassing. But it's an experiment worth trying, and one the Red team is up for. Please, do join us! Tweet @redmagdaily #RedMonday

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