The world is a very busy place, not that most people don’t realise it. But in fact, we’re often so focused on staring down at our phones or laptops that we fail to recognise much of anything happening around us. For entrepreneurs, this is even more of a problem.
As the person ultimately responsible for the success of his or her business, the modern entrepreneur is constantly juggling responsibilities and straining to get as much work done as possible during the hours available. If you told an entrepreneur to just relax, they’d probably pretend you never spoke. (This carries increased truth for those who run their lives from the chaos of their homes.)
But an increasing body of research shows that “just relaxing” is exactly what we all need to do. The practice of mindfulness, and mindful meditation specifically, has become a staple of several modern workplaces. From Silicon Valley heavyweights like Apple and Google to the corridors of GCHQ, people everywhere are taking time to step back and simply focus on the moment they exist in.
Here’s how you can bake mindfulness techniques into your routine and improve your health, as well as your life.
What Does Mindfulness Mean?
Since mindfulness has become the buzzword of recent years, it’s useful to define it. According to the Mayo Clinic, mindfulness is simply “the act of being intensely aware of what you’re sensing and feeling at every moment—without interpretation or judgment.”
By being present completely in the moment, you can learn to direct your focus away from distracting or random thoughts that keep you from being productive.
Apps for Mindfulness
While the idea of mindfulness is simple, putting it into practice can be a real challenge. Ridiculously, there are apps that can help.
You read that right. Our phones—the very thing that sucks up our time and attention, can help us become more mindful. Technology that improves our lives – we’re big fans of that at Flex.
The best two mobile mindfulness programs are Calm and Headspace (we’ve tried both but favour Headspace). Both apps provide guided meditations, breathing exercises, and other valuable tools to help you become more focused and build a habit around repeatedly doing so. Designed to accommodate the busy professional, both apps operate in 10-20 minute chunks so that they can be plugged in seamlessly to your daily routine.
The idea of holistic wellness has been around for a long time, but can often be seen as a lofty philosophy that’s inconsistent with modern medicine. The reality though is quite the opposite. Virtually all physicians would agree that physical and mental health are paired and treating one has a direct impact on the other. That’s why it’s important to not only focus on how you treat your mind, but also how you treat your body. Of course, that means spending some time on those two dreaded words that we actually love at Flex: diet and exercise.
It can be difficult to stick to a diet (just ask the millions of people who fail to keep their New Year’s resolutions) so here are two tips to help make things simple.
- Shop around the edges of the supermarket: In most supermarkets, the edges are where the fresh food is located, which is healthier and more nutritious for you. Pre-packaged food, which is undeniably more convenient, is still going to be less healthy and should occupy less of your cart than fresh food.
- Cook meals in batches. The effort of repeatedly finding, buying and cooking healthy meals can be a motivation killer not to mention add to cognitive exhaustion (when you make too many decisions in a day the quality of the decision decreases). By cooking meals in batches on one day, fresh, healthy food is available to eat throughout the week.
When it comes to exercise, simply get up and move. It doesn’t have to be anything more dramatic than a walk around the block or a light yoga session. Even the most basic physical activity can stimulate endorphins in your brain that will make you feel better and combat depression. Flex helps build regular and fun exercise habits into your week so if you think you could move a bit more, be sure to check it out.
Keeping Things in Perspective
Ultimately, mindfulness is all about keeping things in perspective. Our minds quickly become jammed with thought traffic of things we can’t control. Being mindful allows us to focus on what we can control and the positive things that fill our lives.
One technique to help maintain perspective and focus on the positive is a gratitude journal. It’s simple, you write down some things you are grateful for over the course of the day. While it may seem basic, this simple habit can be profound. All too often we take things for granted and this exercise helps you focus on the present moment.
It Isn’t Just Good for You, it’s Good for Your Business
After reading all this if you’re still on the fence about the benefits of mindfulness, maybe these last words will help. Remember those big companies like Apple and Google that are incorporating the practise of mindfulness into their employee training? They’re not only doing it to make their employees feel good. It’s creates a huge boost to their business.
Aetna, one of the US’ largest insurance companies, has been advocating for mindfulness training for years citing its uplift on employee health.
But as highlighted in the Harvard Business Review, Aetna also saw valuable productivity boosts from this training. On average, employees who participate in the training “gained 62 minutes of productivity a week, or an estimated £2,000-per-employee increase in productivity for the company each year.”
If you could spend 15 minutes a day meditating to get an hour back in your work week, wouldn’t you take it?
The bottom line is that you can’t build a successful business, career or life if you don’t take care of yourself. Practicing mindfulness, and committing to a healthier lifestyle overall, will give you the mental and physical resilience you need to focus your attention on what matters most.
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