Many people, especially those in the business world, see the word mindfulness or meditation and immediately freak out. It's hard to blame them. The terms have been thrust in front of the modern psyche. But we need to set aside our biases to see the truth.
Mindfulness and meditation are not just a fad or fiction created by some new age gurus to sell you their latest book on self-discovery. Actually, mindfulness is increasingly backed by hard science. And this is where it gets very interesting.
According to a new scientific study published in Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging, subjects who meditated for about 30 minutes a day for eight weeks had measurable changes in gray-matter density in parts of the brain associated with memory, sense of self, empathy, and stress.
In fact, Harvard Business Review has recently published a short collection of essays on the subject in a new book called Mindfulness: Emotional Intelligence. It's a quick read, and I highly recommend picking up a copy.
In life, as in business, every little edge counts. That's why you absolutely must consider adding these mindfulness strategies to your daily routine.
1. Wake Up Well
How we start the day is so important. Upon awakening, many of us immediately reach for our phones. We scroll through unread emails, Tweets, and Instagram feeds, building anxiety and playing out worst-case scenarios for the day ahead.
Our minds are often most focused and creative in the morning, so make valuable use of this time. Wait at least 30 minutes to an hour before checking your emails and social media feeds. Let your mind and body have a fresh, positive start that will stand you in good stead throughout the day.
2. Mindfulness in Movement
Many people claim they're "too busy" to find time to meditate. But you don't need to sit in the lotus position on a beach to become more mindful. If you're constantly moving, find time that works for you. Many of us commute to work via public transport. If you have 30 minutes on the train every morning, why not use that time to close your eyes, slow your breathing, declutter your mind, and become mentally prepared for the day ahead.
3. Before and After Meetings
A number of progressive companies are instituting short, one-minute group meditations before and after meetings. Focusing on your breathing helps relieve stress, and unifies the team on clear, achievable objectives. Ending a meeting in the same way can help wrap up your thoughts and clear your head for the next task ahead.
It's a simple way of reducing stress and keeping employees focused on one thing at a time.
4. Stop Multitasking
We're all taught that multitasking is a useful skill, and in some sense it is, but success in business comes when you're hyperfocused on one mission. To achieve your goals, you need to segment your workload and focus on one thing at a time.
When you're first starting a business, you're probably wearing many hats. Stress can easily build and become all-consuming. You can stop this by setting a clear schedule for yourself; remember, when we channel our energy into one thing, we're more likely to see results.
5. Notice the Now
So many of us live in regret of the past or fear of the future. This paralyzes us and inhibits growth. Living in our heads stops us from recognizing that life is merely a stream of present moments. To become more aware, really notice your surroundings; what can you see? Do you hear people talking? Maybe you can smell coffee brewing in the office kitchen.
Take time throughout the day to center yourself and become aware of your surroundings. It will make you a more empathetic listener, and allow you to properly formulate thoughts and new ideas.
6. Daily Meditation
Setting aside consistent time to meditate can have a profound impact on your clarity of thought and level of action. Start small: five to 10 minutes a day. Many of you will find your mind wanders, but mindfulness is like anything -- it takes practice and repetition. Soon you can work your way up to 15-, 20-, and 30-minute sessions.
Do what feels right for you and what fits within your schedule.
What? Didn't realize that the treadmill could make you more mindful? Well, it can. In fact, daily exercise should be an absolute must for any prospective entrepreneur or business leader. Exercise pumps up your body's endorphins and drastically reduces levels of cortisol (stress hormones) in the body. You'll often find the day's irritations drift away, as you become less trapped in your thoughts and experience a heightened awareness of your physical surroundings.
What you do when you're ready to go to sleep is extremely important. The average adult needs seven to nine hours of sleep per night, yet most of us fail to reach even the lower end of that scale. Bright lights from smartphones, laptops, and TV screens can impair our body's natural ability to sleep. So drop the phone and pick up a book. Reading brings you into the present moment and won't interrupt your body's sleep patterns.