How Mindfulness is Transforming the Workplace and World ... One Belly Breath at a Time

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When we think of high-powered CEOs and the fast-paced world of business, mindfulness and meditation don’t usually spring to mind. The stereotype of a successful businessperson is more likely to depict a quick-thinking, ruthless type who plows through decisions like a bull rather than reflecting on their actions in the manner of say, a monk. Still, the stress and pressure of office life are leading many to reconsider this notion as they turn to meditation and mindfulness techniques to help navigate the stormy waters of business more conscientiously.

A recent article in Well and Good reports on mindfulness coach, Jeff Cannon, author of 'The Simple Truth- Meditation and Mindfulness for the Modern World', and demonstrates how we can integrate the ancient methods of "awakening to experience" and "living in the moment" into modern business practices. These methods include walking meditation to “quiet the negative self-talk” and belly breathing before a big meeting. According to the article,

Cannon teaches grounding techniques you can use before a big meeting or presentation, when you should be at the top of your game but your nerves undermine you and send you into a panic.”

As the New Age hippie stigma of meditation slowly recedes, executives from the likes of Armani, General Mills and Google are realizing that there is no need to shave your head, take a vow of silence, or embark on a pilgrimage in order to practice mindfulness. In fact, you don’t even have to leave your desk. These companies and other start-ups, schools, and even sports teams have begun offering mindfulness programs to their employees and players as a leg up and overall advantage for their business and performance standards.

Even politicians have begun to see the light when it comes to mindfulness. Congressman Tim Ryan has become a huge advocate for the practice. In his book, "A Mindful Nation," he lays out his belief that becoming aware of our inner resources has the potential to reinvigorate the American dream.

According to Amazon,

Tim Ryan connects the dots between what’s happening in the classrooms, hospitals, boardrooms, research labs, and military bases across the country. He explores the scientific findings that support the beneficial effects of mindfulness and shares powerful stories from the field, showing how this simple practice is helping schoolchildren improve their ability to learn, veterans heal from trauma, and CEOs become more effective leaders. Ryan also provides practical tips for how to incorporate mindfulness into your life today.”

But what is mindfulness, really, and how can something so quiet and simple in theory have the potential to affect an entire nation?

In an article in ,, Ryan explains that,

…mindfulness is about finding ways to slow down and pay attention to the present moment—which improves performance and reduces stress. It’s about having the time and space to attend to what’s right in front of us, even though many other forces are trying to keep us stuck in the past or inviting us to fantasize or worry about the future. It’s about a natural quality each of us possesses, and which we can further develop in just a few minutes a day.”

Talking about the benefits of mindfulness is all well and good but there is plenty of science to back it up. One Harvard study focusing on “novice meditators” found that after only an eight-week course, participants not only reported feeling less stress but also showed a reduction of gray matter density in their amygdala, the part of the brain connected to anxiety and stress. In other words, the part of the brain that stresses us out actually shrank. Not only that, but gray matter density increased in their hippocampus, which is associated with learning and memory; both very important functions in the business world.

The question then becomes: what can the average business person or worker do to become more mindful on the job? For starters, we can mark off a spot in our calendars (5 minutes will do) to focus on our thoughts and breath. It can’t hurt to buy a book about meditation but even without that, here are a few simple suggestions to get you in a more mindful frame of mind during the 9-5 grind.

Use this basic meditation formula via Upstart Business Journal to get you started:

1. Sit in a chair.   2. Close your eyes.  3. Take one breath.   4. Notice how it feels to breathe — be curious about the actual physical sensation.  5. Open your eyes.

That’s it. Give it a try and let your work stress melt away on breath at a time.  

Sources:

Read all articles by Juniper Briggs 

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