As published in the EMA Business Plus Magazine – November 2017

The former CEO of one of the toughest industries in the world, Arianna Huffington, co-founder of The Huffington Post, suggests mindfulness can provide a competitive advantage.

To quote her: “There’s nothing touchy-feely about increased profits. This is a tough economy. … Stress-reduction and mindfulness don’t just make us happier and healthier, they’re a proven competitive advantage for any business that wants one.”

So, imagine what it can do for your clients, employees and overall business success too.

Mindfulness, in a simple description, is training the brain to pay attention on the present moment. As with fitness for the mind, it literally changes the brain and how you manage stress, productivity and resilience.

While most of us proactively invest in the physical well-being of our staff, our families and ourselves, we tend to ignore the most important asset we all have – our minds.

Taking part in an annual 5km corporate fun run is a beneficial stepping stone to health but the key is that a healthy body cannot be achieved in isolation from the mind. A well-kept exercise regime or daily kale smoothie will not alone create a healthy and robust workforce. The mind needs attention and it needs a fitness workout, which is where we welcome mindfulness to the podium.

Mindfulness has received a lot of air time in the business world recently. We have an epidemic of anxiety and depression in our chaotic, modern world and businesses are suffering from the repercussions of a stressed-out workforce. Everyone is looking for a solution to safeguard their business’ growth and success.

A unified and holistic approach to workplace wellness is paying dividends for many progressive companies.

Mindfulness is a clinically proven technique that helps:

• Improve concentration and decision making,

• Improve resilience to setbacks,

• Improve relationships,

• Reduce stress and worry,

• Reduce absenteeism,

• Reduce risk for occupational injury, and

• Reduce employers’ risk.

Achieving mindfulness

There are both formal and informal ways to practice mindfulness. Realistically, as most people are already time poor, making the practice of mindfulness easy and accessible for employees is paramount. Not only will this encourage ongoing practice and acceptance, it will instil a beneficial, new-found habit.

Diaphragmatic breathing (belly breathing) is the first step. This occurs when your belly expands on your inhale and softens on your exhale. This simple process of breathing correctly is a forgotten, innate bodily function.

After experiencing the stress response over a long-term period, people alter their breathing pattern to a short, sharp, chest breath, which becomes their new status quo. Ironically, learning to breathe naturally and negate stress must be re learnt.

When you focus on your breath, it brings you into the present moment, turns off the stress response and begins to rewire your brain.

As your brain is only able to focus on one thought at a time, it will move away from the thoughts creating stress and worry and allow you to focus on what is in front of you.

This technique can be used in any situation, such as before an important meeting as a “clean the slate approach”, or as a tool to sharpen your focus and accuracy while working on a technical project.

Every business would want to reduce risk and improve productivity and performance, while also enabling their workforce with a newfound competitive advantage.

Tarryn Bellingham provides speaking, corporate health and wellness coaching and yoga and mindfulness teaching.