It's primarily developed through meditation, something often thought of as an activity requiring hours of silence--this isn't the case. I remember when I stumbled into mindfulness, and the timing couldn't have been better. It was 2014, and I was doing what I'm sure we've all done while building a business: working 12 hour days, sleeping little, and eating poorly.
I was stressed and approaching burnout. Something could be happening across the country with one of my marketing agency's clients that was independent from us, and I'd be a wreck thinking about it.
This wasn't healthy.
But then things changed. I was sitting in a boardroom of a Fortune 500 company we were working with when someone told the CEO earnings were going to miss. The CEO didn't fret or react negatively, instead he said, "We can't cry over spilled milk. How are we going to improve moving forward?"
That's when it hit me. You should only worry about controlling the controllables. It's a waste of energy to be concerned about the many things outside your immediate control.
I started listening to podcasts and reading books on leadership, marketing, and empathy. Many of them suggested meditation and mindfulness.
I figured it couldn't hurt to try it out. Four years later, I'm be seeing these four positive effects daily:
1. You ruminate less.
Constant worry and manifestation of negative thoughts can have concerning effects on mental health. A 2013 study in BMC Psychiatry showed that ruminating can lead to increased rates of anxiety and depression--and that people who practiced mindfulness were less likely to have negative thoughts.
It's important to account for worst-case scenarios, but it's not alright to obsess over them. When I launched my marketing agency, I was battling imposter syndrome, thinking constantly that I wasn't qualified to run a business. The funny thing is, no one has everything figured out.
Every CEO has a laundry list of operational and strategy fixes their company should make. Once you realize these stresses are part of running any business--not your just your business--they become a lot easier to face.
As a leader, your emotions and mood will rub off on your team members and ultimately affect your business and personal health.
2. It can decrease stress levels.
Increased stress has been linked to several health risks, poor cognitive function and sub-optimal decision making--things all you want to avoid. According to a study published in Psychiatry Research, people who practiced mindfulness were able to react to stressful situations more positively than those that didn't practice mindfulness.
Stressful situations are inevitable in business. How you deal with them can vary quite widely. If you can recognize the situation will pass and the stress is only short-term, you'll remain calmer. Your actions are contagious--if you start unraveling at the seams at the first sign of shaky water, your team will start jumping ship.
I realized I was less stressed at work when I started leaving the office at regular hours and not worrying or working on the weekends. I now know two things to be true:
- My business will be fine if I step away for a couple of days.
- My business is part of my life, not my entire life.
Finding this clarity has allowed me to work on projects with much less self-imposed pressure and ultimately create better work for my clients.
3. You make less reactive decisions.
According to a study in the Frontiers of Human Neuroscience, practicing mindfulness can make you less reactive in your decision making.
Earlier this year, a client asked us if we could redo part of a marketing campaign because they didn't like a design we made. Instead of quickly reacting, I examined the cost to redo the designs against our potential future earnings from this client--and it was a no-brainer to redo the work.
As a leader, you'll be faced with tough decisions along the way. Not acting impulsively will be crucial to your success.
4. It can help increase your focus and overall function of your memory.
Having a better functioning memory and overall ability to focus is something all leaders should want--and a study from the University of California, Santa Barbara found a positive link between meditation and improved cognitive function. By practicing mindfulness, you'll increase your ability to recall important information, mitigate stressful situations and become more mentally healthy.
How do you get started?
There are numerous apps such as Headspace or Calm which provide free guided meditation. If you're just starting out, I recommend doing 5-10 minutes of guided meditation a couple of times per week.