For many of us, getting healthy, fit, and happy is a major priority for 2019. But, with so much attention paid to quick weight loss and fitness fads, it’s easy to forget that being healthy goes way beyond physical fitness.
In fact, according to the National Institute of Health, taking on an integrative (or holistic) approach to health is especially effective. The mind, body, spirit, and social aspects of our lives are interconnected, and each have the power to impact our wellness.
For leaders, it’s especially important to make health and well-being a priority. In recent years, we’ve heard from CEOs and business leaders who look to mindfulness and dedicated wellness rituals to help them live their best lives–and empower themselves to be the change agents needed to move their organizations forward.
Arianna Huffington, founder of the wellness site Thrive Global and HuffPost, is a serious advocate of the mid-afternoon nap, a revitalizing ritual she says makes her successful, while Jeff Weiner, CEO of LinkedIn, turns to meditation app HeadSpace to center himself.
And, what’s good for CEOs is good for everyone; companies are increasingly looking to put wellness and mindfulness front and center. At Thrive Global, employees make use of nap pods, at Zappos, teams schedule activity-based excursions like golf lessons or laser tag, and at Delos’s new headquarters in New York City, 51 sensors give real time readings of the air quality in the office.
As Danielle Lucido, Affiliate Network Director at Linkage, Inc., explains, “the last true frontier for humanity is the exploration of the mind-body connection”. We sat down with Danielle to learn more about mindfulness and how we can apply wellness best practices in the new year.
How can meditation and mindfulness help us become more effective leaders?
Effective leadership requires us to solve complex problems, maximize resources, create inspiring visions, and ignite change. However, in today’s fast-paced world, how can we possibly think clearly if we are being pulled in a myriad of directions–overstressed, overworked, and overtired?
Meditation and mindfulness are practices that allow us to calmly, compassionately, and confidently take back control over external and internal distractions. We must learn how to become the “master of our own minds,” so to speak, so it puts us back in the driver’s seat to be less reactive and more proactive.
What is the impact of increased mindfulness?
Mindfulness improves our overall cognitive function, reducing stress, anxiety, and depression–just to name a few. These changes all translate to improving our critical functions as leaders, including better decision making, being present, as well as the ability to be more innovative and creative. Being mindful even boosts our immune systems, so we don’t miss as much time away from the office.
When it comes to mastering your Inner Critic, why is focusing on wellness so important?
Well, we now know that 95% of who we are by the time we are 35 is a memorized set of behaviors, emotional reactions, unconscious habits, and hardwired attitudes that function like a computer program.
Practicing mindfulness or meditation can help us directly address our Inner Critic in powerful ways, including elevating our “self-awareness thermometer”. Through mindfulness, we can “tune” into our bodies quicker and notice the factors that could be triggering us. This level of self-awareness allows us to press pause, get curious, and re-frame how we wish to show up.
How does mindfulness help us problem solve?
Mindfulness brings us a fresh perspective. Whether you’re facing a new challenge or attempting something new or unfamiliar, we must remember that our bodies and brains are conditioned by our past experiences and are conditioned to constantly look for danger, both figuratively and literally.
Why is that a problem?
The problem is that memories or experiences from the past aren’t necessarily relevant in the now. Practicing meditation and mindfulness begins the process of breaking down the hard-wired conditioning that no longer serves us. This allows us the space to embrace new ways of thinking and, in turn, new solutions. As Albert Einstein famously said, “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”
What’s your advice for someone who has made being more mindful one of their resolutions for the new year?
Start small but be committed. Studies show just one to three minutes of mindfulness each day can have a powerful impact. Not only will you reap the benefits that mindfulness has to offer, but you will follow through with your resolution–which is a natural self-esteem booster!
Can you recommend some tools or apps to keep us on track?
My go-to app is Calm; they have a bunch of guided meditation sessions, including 7 Days of Self-Esteem, Deep Sleep Relax, and even some programs designed for children. And, they keep you motivated by infusing gamification into the process. They celebrate your activity in the app, and they present you with a motivational quote at the end of each session—which I love!
What if you struggle with meditation? Can it be learned?
Yes! Meditation can absolutely be learned. But, think of it like swimming; you can’t just learn it from a book. You need to undertake an active learning process.
How did you start meditating?
While I believe all of us could use a healthy dose of meditation, we must first be open and ready. I was first introduced to meditation in 2012, when I took an 8-week class. Once the first class ended, I didn’t go back. Why? I was far too restless and “busy”. My back hurt sitting on those little chairs and I just couldn’t sit still. (Or, so I thought.)
Now that we know the benefits, how do we move from insight to action?
Often, we have conflicting narratives that keep us from acting. For example, we may know that meditation can help us reduce stress and anxiety, but we feel guilty about taking time for ourselves. Instead, we need to re-frame the narrative.
Also explore different ways to learn. If you are someone that doesn’t enjoy classes, then consider using meditation apps at home. If you are someone that has a chaotic home life, carve out self-care time for you and dedicate yourself to taking a local class. The point is; embrace the way you like to learn.
How do you personally un-wind and re-center after a hectic day?
An important part of well-being is understanding your energy levels and all throughout the day, not just once a week or once a month. We also want to understand how our energy lines up with others. An example of this is simply understanding what fuels you and what depletes you. I’m an extrovert during the day for work, but I am a hard-wired introvert naturally, so I’ve learned to pay extra attention to my energy levels and continuously check in with myself throughout the day to carve out moments that help me re-charge myself.
As for my go to way to un-wind at the end of a hectic day? A great book, a glass of wine, and a long walk with my dog usually does the trick.
Do you practice mindfulness? Share your tips for making this meaningful practice a routine part of your week.