Did you know that one-quarter of American businesses currently utilize some form of stress-reduction initiative, such as mindfulness or meditation practices? Why? Because it is one of the least expensive ways to influence a company’s bottom line. So, yes, it is becoming more and more mainstream because when you start to talk money, people listen.
In addition, mindfulness also helps minimize other “little” challenges like stress, high blood pressure, depression, to name only a few. And, I’m not just throwing those words out there. There is a beautiful backlog of scientific studies that didn’t even exist two years ago. For example, I’m preparing to interview a pioneer in this arena, neurologist Dr. Rick Hanson. This page alone on his website has 29 pieces (see his scientific papers, as well). Now, let’s name some companies who do it: Google, Apple, Proctor and Gamble, General Mills, Harpo Studios and The Huffington Post.
All right — so maybe your company isn’t there yet. Below are three ideas you can take to work.
1. If you are conducting a meeting, give all of your participants “transition time.” Transition time allows space between one activity to the next. Two different ways to facilitate: (A) When all attendees have arrived, have them slowly stand from their chairs. As they do this, instruct them to be mindful of their bodies and the space around them (how does it feel to stand, how do they feel in the room, is any part of their body tight/stressed, etc.). Begin calm breaths (if everyone can do this in sync, even better). And, if you can ask them to really get into it (loud breaths in and out), even better yet. Finally, when breathing is complete, ask attendees to sit again with awareness. Allow everyone another moment to relax and regroup. Calmly bring their attention back to you and begin. (B) Have some silent time. At the start of the meeting, ask your participants to close their eyes and take two to five minutes to just breathe. During this time they are asked to let unneeded thoughts go and to bring themselves completely into the meeting room. They can count their breath… 1, 2, 3, inhale, pause, 1, 2, exhale, 1, 2, 3, repeat. When complete, gently instruct them to open their eyes. Again, provide a minute for people to regroup. Gently bring them to your attention and begin the meeting.
What this does: Both forms of this exercise allow attendees time to catch their breath. They are then given the bandwidth to focus on the present and what is necessary right now. It also allows their bodies/minds a chance to breathe, regroup, recharge. As the leader of the meeting, you are also showcasing your understanding and care that your attendees are important and worth a bit of down time.
2. Stop three to five times per day while at work and bring complete awareness to your body and thoughts. Wherever you are, close your eyes and take a deep breath — pull everything inward. Then, open your eyes and reconnect outward. A couple of seconds is all you need. As you are doing this ask yourself: How is my body feeling? Am I tense anywhere? If so, can I relax? What is my mind doing? Is it calm, stressed, whirling? Am I in the moment or somewhere else?
What this does: This quick exercise allows you to regroup. It increases body, mind and environmental awareness. It also gives you a chance to refocus on your work when complete. Is what I’m doing the most important thing right now? How can I do it more efficiently? Or you may realize, “I really need to step away and take a break.”
3. Ask yourself, what is the most favorite part of your job? Then, what are two key components — people? Management? Creativity? Strategy? When you have clarified this — when you are doing this favorite aspect — notice how it makes you feel. Is your mind sharp? Do you feel like you are doing something worthwhile? Do you feel like you are helping people? One note: If your favorite aspect is making money, go deeper — do this for anything that seems “superficial.” We are looking for the bottom line. For example, “I like to make money to give my family a good life.” And, if you don’t have a favorite part, again, dig — why are you doing this job?
What this does: The more you connect to what makes you tick, the more you want to do other things that make you feel the same way. This connects you to your sense of purpose and to your strengths. The greater awareness you have of where your talents flourish, the better you also become at communicating them. And, finally, the more you notice, feel and experience them with awareness, the more it allows others to also take note — from customers to supervisors.
To sum up (and this is an incredible statement), a company is only as healthy as its employees. Mindfulness creates healthier and happier workers, healthier and happier people. As I state in my seminars, mindfulness at work isn’t just a work skill or a life skill — it is a new way of existing. Wow, I love that.
By Eden Kozlowski.