You'd have to have been living under a rock for the last few years not to have heard about the many benefits of mediation. According to a host of boosters, a mindfulness practice will boost your focus, lower stress, and even make you smarter.
But according to a new Wharton study just a little meditation has one more, impressive benefit that's desperately needed in today's world: it can also transform jerks into nice, helpful colleagues.
That might sound like a magic trick, but it's entirely possible, according to an in-depth series of studies led by Wharton management professor Lindsey Cameron. Bosses, Cameron promises in a recent interview with Knowledge@Wharton, can create kinder, gentler workplaces by investing just seven to eight minutes a day in meditation.
The best jerk-busting tool out there
Just like everyone has heard about meditation these days, everyone has also heard that it's incredibly trendy at big companies. Everyone from Google to McKinsey offers mindfulness training to employees. But these firms have deep pockets and their training programs usually involves intensive study over a period of weeks or months. That's well beyond the reach of many smaller businesses and independent professionals.
Could a smaller dose of meditation training be equally effective, Cameron and her collaborators wanted to know. To test out this idea they went to large insurance and IT companies and offered a quick intro to meditation that lasted just seven to 10 minutes a day for five days.
The results? "We did find that mindfulness made people more helpful at work. They were more generous in the amount of time and the amount of money they would give to their co-workers," Cameron reports.
In short, even a little meditation seems to transform jerks into cooperative colleagues. Subsequent studies in the lab suggested that meditation does this by nudging people to be more empathetic and improving their ability to see the world from other people's perspectives. This was true using various types of meditation training.
The takeaway for bosses couldn't be clearer, according to Cameron: "Mindfulness works, and that you don't have to invest in an intensive eight-week intervention to be able to get the benefits."
Meditation training: it's easier than you think
Cameron's team isn't the first to come to this conclusion. Another study a few years ago also showed that just three 25-minute training sessions, was enough for participants to start seeing the benefits of mediation, for instance. What makes Cameron's work unique is that her team whittled this down to even fewer minutes, and that the work focused on meditation's effects on interpersonal relationships rather than stress.
In a world as awash in blowhards and bullies as ours the ability to tame jerks might be the most impressive of all meditations benefits.
And what if you're an individual rather than a leader pondering implementing a meditation program for your team? Cameron says these results still apply. You don't need an office-wide initiative to get started with mindfulness, "There are so many apps out there -- Insight Timer, Headspace -- that you can use to set aside time to do your mindfulness practice," she notes.
Or, follow the advice of this meditation teacher and find stealth ways to slip mindfulness into your everyday routine. This new Wharton research suggests you won't just be less stressed and more focused for your efforts, you might actually end up a nicer person.