Over the past few months I’ve constantly been asked by companies we consult to about mindfulness and specifically, how leaders and entire organisations can harness the benefits. Mindfulness has become the plat du jour in corporate performance.
Nearly every one of the above conversations, where we talk at length about creating sharper attention and more creative thinking, a calmer approach to work and life, reduced levels of stress and anxiety plus increased levels of wellbeing, is followed up with something like “yeah, yeah, that all sounds great – but surely there must be a quick-fix?”.
There is, and there isn’t. While there is no mindfulness pill, potion, bottle or lotion (note to self: come up with this and I will be a gazillionaire) – you don’t have to go to an ashram, wear crystals, or make the pilgrimage to a six-week silent retreat in Southern India to achieve the benefits associated with the ‘M’ word.
Martin Kiem from The Performance Clinic is a global expert in mindfulness and says adding small doses into existing activities in your life can easily be turned into mindful practice.
“Besides the long-term benefits, daily activities have immediate benefits including calmer breathing, reduced heart rate, ability to switch on the parasympathetic nervous system and greater access to cognitive function,” he says.
So, how can you start getting an ‘instant fix’ from activities you do each day? Let’s start by looking at the way you eat, the way you drive, the way you communicate and the way you rise and shine.
1. Mindful eating
“Mindful eating is beingaware of the process of eating and noticing or tasting the food you consume. It is about slowing down and savoring food,” Kiem says.
Mindful eating has also been proven to reduce overeating (binge eating) and correlates with better weight management.
2. Mindful driving
Do you arrive at your location with no recollection of how you got there? Do you plant your foot on the accelerator like you’re on pole position in a Formula 1 Grand Prix?
Mindful driving is directing your full attention to the process of driving and being fully aware of traffic and your surroundings. “Try switching off the radio and experience the silence. You can also try 3-5 mindful in-and-out breaths before you turn the ignition,” Kiem says.
Research suggests being more aware of traffic reduces the risk of accidents (statement of the bleeding obvious, yes, but worth noting nonetheless) as well as reducing speeding.
3. Mindful communication
Do you constantly finish other people’s sentences? Are you always in a rush to wrap up meetings and conversations? Have you already skipped ahead to the end of this blog?
Kiem says: “Mindful communication includes attentive or careful speaking and listening when interacting with others. This helps pick up verbal and non-verbal cues.”
Studies show it is much easier to put yourself in another person’s shoes when you slow down and become present. Relationship satisfaction is higher and emotional stress is reduced during discussions and conflicts when people communicate mindfully.
4. Mindful mornings
Do you check email, share prices and log onto a news website even before you roll out of bed? Do you rush your kids from the moment they wake until you dump them at school? Do you have hurry sickness?
Kiem suggests choosing an activity such as washing your face, having a shower, brushing your teeth or shaving, and purely focusing on what you are doing.
This provides your body and mind with an opportunity to ease into the day, a bit like a “mental warm-up” for the onslaught ahead.
Our experience shows a ‘mindfulness quickie’ increases the desire and confidence to then explore a more structured relationship with mindfulness. A little like going on a first date, really liking the person then wanting to hang out with them and learn a lot more.
This article first appeared on ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ on 16 July 2014.