The world is a very busy place, not that most people realize it. In fact, we're often so focused on staring down at our mobile devices or laptops that we fail to recognize much of anything happening around us. For entrepreneurs, this problem is even more pronounced.
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 day. If you told an entrepreneur to just relax, they'd probably laugh in your face. (This is doubly true for those who run their business from the chaos of their homes.)
But an increasing body of research shows that "just relaxing" is exactly what entrepreneurs need to do. The practice of mindfulness, and mindful meditation specifically, has become a staple of many modern workplaces. From Silicon Valley heavyweights like Apple and Google to the halls of the Pentagon, people everywhere are taking time to step back and simply focus on the moment.
Here's how you can incorporate mindfulness techniques into your routine and improve your health, as well as your business.
What Does Mindfulness Mean?
Since mindfulness has become a bit of a buzzword in 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 invested completely in the present moment, you can learn to direct your focus away from intrusive or random thoughts that keep you from being productive.
Apps for Mindfulness
Though the premise of mindfulness is simple, putting it into practice is much more challenging. Fortunately, there are apps that can help. You read that right. Our phones—the very thing that sucks up much our time and attention—can help us become more mindful.
Two of the more popular mindfulness programs are Calm and Headspace. Both apps provide guided meditations, breathing exercises, and other valuable tools to help you become more focused. Designed to accommodate the busy professional, both apps typically deliver content in 10-20 minute chunks so they can be incorporated seamlessly into your daily routine.
The notion of holistic wellness has been around for a long time, but was often stigmatized as a hippie philosophy that's inconsistent with modern medicine. The reality 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 onhow you treat your mind, but also how you treat your body. Naturally, that means spending some time on those two dreaded words: 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 grocery store: In most grocery stores, 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.
- Eat the colors of the rainbow: When choosing meals, try and eat as many colors of the rainbow as possible. The reason for this is remarkably simple. Foods get their colors from the phytochemicals inside them, so the greater variety of colored foods you eat, the more vitamins you'll get.
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 jog. Even the most basic physical activity can stimulate endorphins in your brain that will make you feel better and combat depression.
Keeping Things in Perspective
Ultimately, mindfulness is all about keeping things in perspective. Our minds can quickly become cluttered with thoughts of things we can't control. Being mindful helps us focus on what we can control and the positive things in our life.
One technique to help maintain perspective and focus on the positive is a gratitude journal. Basically, you write down some things you are grateful for over the course of the day. While it may seem basic, this simple action is quite profound. 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
If after reading all this you're still on the fence about the benefits of mindfulness, maybe this will help. Remember those big companies like Apple and Google that are incorporating mindfulness techniques into their employee training? They're not just doing it to make their employees feel good. It's also a huge boost to their business.
Aetna, one of the country's largest insurance companies, has been an advocate for mindfulness training for years citing its benefits on employee health. But according to the Harvard Business Review, Aetna also saw tremendous productivity benefits from this training. On average, Aetna employees who participated in the training "gained 62 minutes of productivity a week, or an estimated $3,000-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 if you don't take care of yourself first. Practicing mindfulness techniques, and committing to a healthier lifestyle overall, will give you the mental and physical strength you need to focus your attention on what matters most: growing your business.