Most professionals recognize that thoughtfully planning their daily schedule is important for getting critical work done. And, those same professionals also admit they dive into their days more often than not without that strategic planning.
As soon as they walk in the door, people respond to e-mail and voice mail messages, address urgent requests and juggle meetings that are scheduled on their calendars without prior clearance. Double and triple bookings are not unusual. The pace of work, distractions and requests is relentless. What is an effective leader supposed to do?
Enter mainstream mindfulness.
My clients ask, sometimes with a tone of cynicism and concern: “What is this meditation thing? Does it really work? Sounds pretty ya-ya to me”. And while “ya-ya” is not scientifically proven, mindfulness is.
In fact, there is growing interest in the introduction and use of mindfulness practices in the workplace. Great leaders use mindfulness very intentionally to 1) reduce stress and 2) increase ones’ connectedness to others. Practitioners of mindfulness are able to slow down their thinking and open up their senses to experience what is happening around them without a need to fix, change, judge or interpret motivation or meaning.
Today, let’s focus on using mindfulness to reduce your stress. There is growing scientific evidence that mindfulness meditation has genuine health benefits, such as:
- making people both happier and healthier.
- lowering a person’s blood pressure and levels of cortisol, if practiced regularly. Cortisol is a stress hormone secreted when one is under stress or anxiety; it damages the cells in your body.)
- increasing the body’s immune response.
- improving mood and sleep quality.
- reducing symptoms of depression, when combined with cognitive therapy.
Mindfulness meditation can even change the structure of the brain. Your brain can change! Wouldn’t you love to find a way to become more stress resilient and think more clearly?
Take the Two-Minute Challenge
Recognizing many people are “too busy” to be mindful—or, they tell themselves they are—I have a challenge for you. Pull out your phone sometime in the next hour and set your timer for two minutes. (You’ve got two minutes to check this out, don’t you?) Sit tall, with both feet flat on the floor, and allow yourself two minutes to listen to and feel your breath. Just breathe. Feel your breath flow through your body, relax your shoulders. When thoughts come into your mind, let them be and flick them past, like you would when looking at photos on your phone. Don’t judge, criticize or evaluate any thoughts. Just for two minutes. If you’ve never done this before, you’ll be surprised at how hard this will be. We do not have very disciplined minds. They, like toddlers, tend to run wild without any restraints. Here’s a mobile tool you may find helpful to get started.
Let me know how your two-minute experiment goes; I’d be fascinated to hear the results. And come back to learn more about how mindfulness meditation actually works and how it helps us meaningfully connect with others.
For more information on reducing stress using mindfulness:
Jon Kabat-Zinn is one of the pioneers of mindfulness meditation. He developed the program called Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction. An MIT-educated molecular biologist, Kabat-Zinn began teaching mindfulness in the 1970s to people suffering from chronic pain and disease. What he began teaching then has perfect application today for busy professionals. The core of mindfulness is quieting the mind’s constant chattering—thoughts, anxieties, fears, judgments, questions, dreams, regrets. The practice enables people to slow down their thinking, become calm, and smoothly move beyond rumination and fear to a place of quiet calm or choice. You can access Kabat-Zinn’s YouTube videos, books and programs online.