Cor­po­rates see ben­e­fit of mind­ful­ness


ARE YOU present in the moment – aware of where you are, how you feel and what you are do­ing?

Are you sit­ting at your work­sta­tion at this moment trawl­ing the in­ter­net, to pro­cras­ti­nate be­fore pay­ing at­ten­tion to the pile of work on your desk? Ever tried be­ing mind­ful? Ac­cord­ing to Mind­ful, a non­profit or­gan­i­sa­tion, mind­ful­ness is “the ba­sic hu­man abil­ity to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re do­ing, and not overly re­ac­tive or over­whelmed by what’s go­ing on around us”.

And lead­er­ship ex­pert Deb­bie Good­man-Bhyat, au­thor of a best-sell­ing book on the sub­ject of mind­ful­ness, says, the world’s top com­pa­nies are in­creas­ingly in­tro­duc­ing mind­ful­ness prac­tices into their or­gan­i­sa­tions.

This is in an ef­fort to help em­ploy­ees re­duce stress and anx­i­ety, in­crease fo­cus and at­ten­tion, and ul­ti­mately en­hance pro­duc­tiv­ity – and South African com­pa­nies are start­ing to fol­low suit.

“Mind­ful­ness is no longer an opaque con­cept re­served for yoga re­treats and mo­ti­va­tional memes,” Good­man-Bhyat said.

“The con­cept and prac­tice has – not sur­pris­ingly – found grate­ful and re­cep­tive au­di­ences in many of the world’s lead­ing com­pa­nies, in­clud­ing here in South Africa.

“The idea that peo­ple who prac­tise mind­ful­ness prin­ci­ples might be on the fringes of so­ci­ety be­longs to a past era, and these days there is enough data, re­search and sci­en­tific in­for­ma­tion sup­port­ing not only the per­sonal, but also com­mer­cial ben­e­fits of a more in-tune, holis­tic ap­proach to life and work.”

Good­man-Bhyat said: “Mind­ful­ness is a re­spected, ac­knowl­edged global move­ment, pi­o­neered by PhD Pro­fes­sor of Medicine Emer­i­tus, Jon Ka­bat-Zinn. It is in­creas­ingly be­com­ing main­stream, and a grow­ing num­ber of top lead­ers are start­ing to in­cor­po­rate mind­ful­ness-based prac­tices and prin­ci­ples in their per­sonal and pro­fes­sional lives.”

Mind­ful­ness pro­grammes and prac­tices are known to have been in­tro­duced at some high-pro­file or­gan­i­sa­tions, in­clud­ing Google, In­tel, Aetna, Keurig Green Moun­tain and Tar­get.

Lo­cally, Good­man-Bhyat re­cently pub­lished In­theFlow – Tak­ing Mind­ful­ness to Work, the re­sult of her years-long re­search into the im­pact of im­ple­ment­ing mind­ful­ness prac­tices in the work­place.

It soon leaped to the busi­ness best-seller list post-publi­ca­tion, with busi­ness lead­ers en­thu­si­as­ti­cally back­ing the six-prompt for­mula that forms the ba­sis of the guide.

Al­lon Raiz, chief ex­ec­u­tive of Raiz­corp, noted that Good­manBhyat had man­aged to build the bridge be­tween the hec­tic chaos of IT’S AN age-old de­bate – do you eat three square meals a day or snack on sev­eral smaller por­tions through­out the day to lose weight?

Ac­cord­ing to Irene Labuschagne, a di­eti­tian at the Nu­tri­tion In­for­ma­tion Cen­tre, Stel­len­bosch Univer­sity, the jury is still out.

This de­spite a re­cent report from the Daily Mail UK quot­ing the head of the Na­tional Obe­sity Fo­rum in the UK, former Pro­fes­sor David Haslam, as say­ing frequent snack­ing is ideal for busy pro­fes­sion­als, and the con­cept of three meals a day is “out­dated”.

He said: “Feed­ing your body lit­tle and of­ten with veg­etable-based snacks en­sures your meta­bolic sys­tem is steadily stim­u­lated and pro­vides a con­tin­u­ous sup­ply of nu­tri­ents – par­tic­u­larly im­por­tant for to­day’s busy life­styles.”

Ac­cord­ing to Labuschagne, lim­ited trial re­search does not sup­port the as­ser­tion that meal ev­ery­day busi­ness and the clar­ity and seren­ity that be­ing present and in the moment brings.

“In­theFlow takes quite an ethe­real con­cept and makes it prac­ti­cal for peo­ple to un­der­stand and, more im­por­tantly, to ap­ply,” he said.

Global stud­ies con­ducted on in­ter­na­tional or­gan­i­sa­tions (in­clud­ing Fortune 500 com­pa­nies) show a 19% de­crease in stress, 37% in­crease in pro­duc­tiv­ity, 40% in­crease in fo­cus, 34% in­crease in emo­tional con­trol and 37% de­crease in over­whelm in com­pa­nies where mind­ful­ness prac­tices have been in­tro­duced.

A re­cent study found that par­tic­i­pants in six-to-nine week mind­ful­ness cour­ses ex­pe­ri­enced a 42% stress re­duc­tion, as well as im­prove­ment in pro­duc­tiv­ity, time man­age­ment and job sat­is­fac­tion.

Good­man-Bhyat says in­tro­duc­ing mind­ful­ness prac­tices in the work­place does not take mas­sive amounts of time, strate­gis­ing or financial in­vest­ment.

“But it does take com­mit­ment and cham­pi­oning by lead­ers, who are in­vested in shift­ing per­spec­tives and chang­ing the sta­tus quo of ‘how we do things around here’. When this hap­pens, im­pact on an or­gan­i­sa­tion’s well­ness – from in­di­vid­ual level to com­pany per­for­mance, is in­dis­putable.”

Fol­low­ing the lead of their global coun­ter­parts, South African or­gan­i­sa­tions are also start­ing to pay at­ten­tion to the ben­e­fits of in­cor­po­rat­ing mind­ful­ness-based pro­grammes and prin­ci­ples in their work en­vi­ron­ments. Large cor­po­ra­tions like Wool­worths and Old Mu­tual, as well as medium-sized and en­trepreneurial busi­nesses are in­ves­ti­gat­ing op­tions for mind­ful­ness­based train­ing, lead­er­ship de­vel­op­ment or group learn­ing ses­sions. “Fur­ther, more and more ex­ec­u­tive ed­u­ca­tion, MBA and lead­er­ship de­vel­op­ment cour­ses con­ducted at SA’s top tertiary in­sti­tu­tions are of­fer­ing mind­ful­ness train­ing as an in­te­gral part of their curricula, so it’s in­evitable that the con­cepts will start trick­ling into the busi­ness en­vi­ron­ment,” said Good­man

Bhyat. fre­quency con­sis­tently im­pacts me­tab­o­lism. “No rec­om­men­da­tion can be made at this time… Many peo­ple be­lieve that eat­ing more meals leads to in­creased meta­bolic rate, so that your body burns more calo­ries over­all. It is true that the body ex­pends a cer­tain amount of en­ergy di­gest­ing and as­sim­i­lat­ing the nu­tri­ents in a meal.”

The lo­cal di­eti­tian con­tin­ued: “This is termed the ther­mic ef­fect of food and amounts to about 20-30% of calo­ries for pro­tein, 5-10% for carbs and 0-3% for fat calo­ries. The ther­mic ef­fect of food is around 10% of the to­tal calo­rie in­take. How­ever, what mat­ters here is the to­tal amount of en­ergy con­sumed, not how many meals you eat.”

So does snack­ing in­deed aid in weight loss – we asked Labuschagne? “No, not based on cur­rent ev­i­dence. But if snack­ing makes a per­son ex­pe­ri­ence fewer cravings and less likely to binge, it is prob­a­bly a good idea,” she said. –­[email protected]

Lead­er­ship ex­pert and au­thor of a bestselling book on mind­ful­ness, Deb­bie Good­man-Bhyat.

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