Software development is a job that can demand long hours of concentration, impeccable problem-solving skills and untiring perseverance. All such qualities naturally requires one’s mind to be clear and resilient. In this article we will specifically look at the benefits a regular meditation practise can have on someone pursuing software development as a career.
“Why won’t the damn thing work?”
It’s 4pm and you’re the update was due at midday.
The QA tester, project manager and end-client are waiting.
Despite Googling for countless hours, you just cannot figure out what’s causing this bug.
__“What the heck do I do now?“ __
In the words of the Vim Hoff, The Ice Man, you need to “Breathe MotherF*cker”.
Why should coders meditate?
Meditation helps you to take a step back and see the bigger picture.
A healthy state of mind and coding go hand in hand. It is not unusual for a code to break for both new as well as experienced developers alike. Spending hours on end troubleshooting bugs is nothing alien to software developers. While bugs are inevitable and not under your control, the attitude in which you look at it and the approach you take into solving them definitely is.
Bugs and intense problem solving can be particularly frustrating to programmers just starting out and can discourage them from seeing software development as a promising, long-term career option.
Hence, paying attention to and maintaining one’s mental health is imperative, when you are a programmer.
Enhanced Clarity, Concentration and Creative Thinking
A regular practise of meditation is commonly known to help individuals with gaining clarity and retain concentration for longer periods of time. Sitting down in silence for a few minutes can help one to approach their thoughts and emotions from a different perspective, so they are able to give attention to only what is relevant.
Meditation can be a great tool to help one maintain a healthy distance from negative mental chatter, to in turn be aware of the present moment and tackle habits of procrastination appropriately.
This helps develop to develop a positive mindset that can be useful when dealing with long hours of troubleshooting a piece of code.
Mindfulness meditation is said to have positive influences on creative thinking too. Software development is a skill that demands for a good amount of creativity. It better equips a skilful software developer to find the most effective variation of code that is least redundant and tedious.
129 participants, all of whom were students, were studied on their creativity and its correlation with meditation. It was set up at the Erasmus University in Rotterdam, Netherlands (Harvard Business Review, 2017). The students were asked to generate business ideas that could use drones. The students were grouped into 3 groups. Thereby, one group was made to take part in a 10-minute guided meditation session, the other was made to participate in an equally long, fake meditation exercise (requesting them to think freely) and the remaining group was made to brainstorm immediately. The observations at the end of the study revealed that while all groups generated a similar number of ideas with similar lengths of descriptions for each, the meditator group generated a wider variety of ideas in comparison to the rest.
Better Problem-Solving Skills
Through the decluttering of thoughts, meditation can also help enhance problem solving skills. The ability to think clearly can help an individual to truly analyse the best possible solutions to a problem.
A recent study was done on the impact of mindfulness meditation on a group of high school students and their performance in assessments (Justh, M 2019). A group of students were tested with time restrictions, on their ability to solve problems via assessments. They were tested on three types of problems;
- A pattern recognition-based IQ test
- Verbal problem solving where participants were asked to make words out of meaningless anagrams
- Insight problems.
The students were tested two times, on the second time students were made to meditate for 5 minutes prior to the assessment. A reasonable increase in reasoning abilities in the students were seen in all three types of tests.
Meditation to Relinquish Stress and Exhaustion
Meditation is also a proven method of relieving stress. Sometimes, after a long day of coding at work, it can get difficult to leave the work day behind. Perhaps a certain issue you could not manage to resolve on the day is still lurking around in your mind. Maybe this is too common of an occurrence for you and is possibly starting to compromise your peace of mind. There can also be the pressures of having to impress and meeting the needs of your work colleagues, management and clients. Perhaps the long hours of eye-straining, computer screen staring is affecting your sleep too.
Testimonials from all around the globe attest to the effectiveness of meditation in these areas. As a software developer, if you find your work to be somewhat stressful and mentally straining, meditation could be an effective reliever of tension in your mind. Many people starting out with programming may find the work involved to be overly strenuous and get discouraged too early, enough to the point they lose sight of the best aspects of the profession.
Software development is an interesting, dynamic field of work, that can be enjoyed by anyone who is up for a challenge. A daily practise of meditation could be what helps you refresh your mind and help you present yourself to work with a clean mental slate. It could also be what prevents you from feeling burnt out, or help you manage effects of exhaustion before it is too late.
Developing a habit of meditating after work every day or right before sleeping every night for 15- 20 minutes could help make a significant difference in how you feel. There are a number of apps available (such as Headspace or Calm), used and loved by many people that can be extremely useful.
Tips for Meditating
Meditation is an extremely convenient practise that can easily be incorporated into almost anyone’s life and essentially costs you no money. All you need is a few undisturbed minutes, a quiet place to sit in and something to focus on (as simple as your breath even).
Taking a course or downloading an app that helps you set daily reminders and provides you with guided meditation sessions can come in very handy. This can be especially beneficial to someone who is somewhat inexperienced with meditating. It also helps to set aside a particular time of the day exclusively for meditation, whether it be just after waking up or before you begin work for the day, to help you form a sustainable habit.
Meditation can be extremely helpful in overseeing and recognising feelings, as opposed to reacting to or judging them. The famous Vietnamese Thiền Buddhist monk and peace activist, Thich Nhat Hanh spoke the following about mindfulness:
“Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor.”
A regular practise of mindfulness can also help you focus on what is important without been distracted by the irrelevant. Moreover, it can help overcome any anxieties involved with your work and relieve the stresses of self-criticism and unrealistic expectations.
While meditation is a powerful tool from which anyone could benefit, it is especially so for programmers. This explains the efforts of corporate businesses to incorporate meditation into their HR practices, to help their IT workers to reap its benefits to continue doing their best work. Given it basically costs you nothing, you too may want to give it a try. You are sure to be impressed by its effects.
Michael Justh -https://www.berkeleycarroll.org/uploaded/Publications/SRD_Journals/BC_SRD_2019_8th.pdf#page=76 Harvard Busiess Review - https://hbr.org/2017/08/can-10-minutes-of-meditation-make-you-more-creative Thich Nhat Hanh - https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/119040-feelings-come-and-go-like-clouds-in-a-windy-sky