I attended my first yoga course in 12th grade but never came back. The average age of participants was around 60 – 70 and everyone was falling asleep at the end. I didn’t understand the purpose of this exercise. 20 years later, I have been converted into a big fan of mindfulness, meditation, and self-growth. But I realized something else as well. There is something deeper to mindfulness because it influences the way you show up in the world.
Studies show that mindfulness training was helpful for reducing stress or enhancing well-being. Companies reported a significant increase in employee engagement, performance, improved client outcomes and significantly greater job satisfaction among employees.
The increasing growth of corporate mindfulness programs is not surprising. More and more companies like Google but also the humanitarian sector in which I work in, implement mindfulness trainings as studies have repeatedly shown the positive effects that they have on reducing stress, enhancing well-being, lowering heart rate, increasing employee engagement, enhancing performance, improving client outcomes, enhancing sleep quality, and promoting job satisfaction. In this way, mindfulness has wide ranging positive effects for employees and leaders to improve their engagement, mental health, and productivity in their work life.
Meditation can help you produce alpha waves that are known to be relaxing and calming. No wonder this works. But I also question what environment we live in that makes us run in a hamster wheel for companies to introduce such trainings in the first place? Are we really addressing the root causes or are we only finding new ways to deal with the increasing stress and pressure?
According to data, we never had so much time on our hands. With major inventions that occurred in the 19th century, our economy fundamentally changed and our way of working with it. Compared to my grandparents who worked day in and day out on the field as farmers, we have vacation, and clear working hours. We were never as insured as today and can balance between our private and professional lives. Yet, the trend is everywhere: we are all stressed and exhausted and longing for a new life. We complain about how busy we are. When was the last time I complained about having nothing to do? Its part of our culture to say we are busy and whoever is not, must do something wrong.
Yesterday, I joined a call with friends from all over the world to do breathe work. It sounds fancy but basically we lied down for 30 minutes and just breathed in and out. This exercise brought me much closer to the truth. I got the strongest urge to get up and do something. I became so restless. After maybe 20 minutes my mind calmed down, and I deeply enjoyed just lying there in the moment, having nothing to do, nothing to think about. I believe the latter is the trick why mindfulness has reached mainstream society and why it does benefit all of us from feeling less stressed. Our thoughts are powerful. They allowed us to fly to the moon and back.
What we truly suffer from are our thoughts about stress. That doesn’t mean that a working mother during Covid-19, with three children at home, doing home schooling and household chores cannot be stressed and overwhelmed. But when you are less stressed and overwhelmed, maybe you do ask your husband to step up and help? Maybe you do ask your colleague to help? Maybe you say no to your boss for a new project because you know it will be overwhelming and you are keen on keeping a true balance in your life. Mindfulness is much more than calming your thoughts down. It keeps you grounded and focused on what feels good to you and allows you to tap into your inner needs.