August 8th, 2014
By Jayne Storey
Many of us are suffering from an unprecedented rate of transformation, information overload, noise pollution and the increasing tendency to exist on ‘auto-pilot’ that goes hand-in-hand will high levels of stress and low levels of well-being. By developing resilience (mental toughness and emotional control) business leaders are not only able to better deal with the day to day challenges but are also better positioned for unexpected and complex situations which would benefit a more mindful approach.
As a steady stream of articles in the Financial Times in recent months illustrates, interest from the business world in the art of mindfulness has been growing steadily in recent years. There are now thousands of research studies into the benefits of Mindfulness. Companies such as Google, Twitter, IBM, Transport for London and Unilever are among those working towards more ‘mindful workplaces’ in which individuals experience higher levels of employee well-being and resilience, lower levels of stress and illness-related absenteeism; more employee engagement; greater productivity; less conflict; higher levels of job satisfaction; lower levels of employee turnover; and higher levels of creativity and innovation.
In the business world, Mindfulness coaching takes the form of brain training predominantly through breath awareness, such that the practitioner gains control over their ability to focus their attention on the task in hand and to detach from negative thoughts and feelings, thus developing mental and emotional resilience to high-pressure situations.
The brain undergoes subtle changes during meditation. Contentment and a real sense of inner peace are the natural result. Regular practice can actually train and develop the mind. What scientists have discovered is that the neurons in the brain will re-shape themselves and many parts of the brain responsible for taking in information, actually slow down or go off-line altogether during meditation, enabling the practitioner to think more effectively and to detach from negative feelings and situations.
Much of my coaching is focused around helping elite athletes perform fluid, effortless and precise motion in pressure situations, as the paradigm around sport psychology is now changing from thought-based processes (Motivational Thinking and NLP) to the study of the mind/body connection and the role of the quiet mind for enabling the body to produce a championship golf swing, tennis serve, running stride, penalty kick and so forth…
As a business leader, you too can learn how to perform better under pressure by learning how to use mindfulness. Research shows daily practice of 20 minutes over 8 weeks produces the best results, so why not switch off your laptop or mobile phone right now and get started?
- Sit upright and towards the front edge of a hard-backed chair. Your feet are positioned on the ground in front of you, your palms are resting on your knees or cupped in your lap (left hand palm-up inside right palm, thumbs touching). Tuck your chin under and hold the crown of your head up, as if it were held by a thread. Keep your eyes open and simply lower your and look downwards, at a distance or approx. 3ft.
- Relax your shoulders and empty your chest.
- Allow your awareness to drop to your navel area and start to become aware of the sensation of breathing in and breathing out. Do not force your breathing, just relax and breathe naturally while focusing on the navel. Your breath will become slower and deeper.
- As you sit, thoughts will come into your mind and you may soon forget to focus on your breathing. This may take just a few moments!
- Gently bring your awareness back to your breathing and continue.
- You can practice counting your breath (1 – 10) or following your breath, i.e. feeling the sensation of air filling and emptying from the body or listening to the sound of your breath entering and exiting the nostrils.
- Continue sitting like this, bringing your thoughts gently back to your breathing, each time you get distracted and your mind starts to wander.
- Do not judge the quality of your practice session afterwards, simply continue to do your practice week by week.
- Stay present, mindful and ‘in the moment’; focused on your breathing and keeping your mind quiet.
Still sceptical? If the latest research from neuroscience and the plethora of studies from universities, medical establishments, sports facilities and some of the world’s leading corporations isn’t enough to convince you of the benefits of the quiet mind, then perhaps you could ask yourself the following questions.
Did you read the article or simply scan it on auto-pilot, thinking that it did not apply to you? Are you aware of the constant background chatter in your mind? Can you switch off from work when you’re at home? Do you sleep well? Are you performing consistently at the highest level or does your energy move in peaks and troughs? An intellectual understand of the ‘philosophy’ of Mindfulness is not the same as practising it. The challenge is in learning to master your mind, so that you can use it to your best advantage, so why not make a start today?
In the business world, her coaching helps executives and entrepreneurs achieve ‘the zone’, for developing superior performance under pressure.
Image via shutterstock.com