It is hardly a secret that the most overwhelming health issue facing people all over the world today is stress. In a concerted effort to battle the stress and anxiety ridden environments found in many of today’s workplaces, many companies have begun to turn to mindfulness and meditation.
Mindfulness is the awareness of the present moment, which is being exactly where you are and seeing reality for what it is right now without emotional attachment or judgment. Meditation practice is how mindfulness is achieved. Meditation allows for the mind to become more still, more focused on what is happening around you right now. The most important changes brought about by meditation are that it alters brain function. Meditation actually reverses the physiological damage brought on by living in such constant states of high anxiety and stress.
Bringing Mindfulness into the Company Culture
Many companies throughout the world have begun to turn to mindfulness and meditation as a determined strategy aimed at reducing (and eliminating) stress in the workplace. They are training management, as well as employees, in the art of meditation and mindfulness and are seeing increased levels of calm, cooperation, focus, and overall wellness and contentment. Here are just a few of those examples-
- Apple has had meditation programs for many years as founder Steve Jobs was dedicated toward developing mindfulness, not only in himself, but in others as well. Apple offers employees thirty minutes a day to meditate and/or take instructional classes in meditation and yoga.
- Google founded Search Inside Yourself back in 2007 and it been taken advantage of by over 1,000 of its employees. This program brings meditation and mindfulness to other high technology companies.
- Nike, eBay, AOL Time Warner, and Yahoo have all established meditation programs and have special rooms set aside at each facility where employees may go to meditate.
- Healthcare giant Aetna began offering programs in 2010 and had 3,500 employees immediately sign up. Aetna now offers meditation classes as part of the services it provides for clients.
- Leading retailer Target promotes a corporate wide meditation program and is seeing positive results as their HR department is noticing employees that are happier and more engaged.
- Other companies involved in mindfulness and meditation programs include: Facebook, IBM, Green Mountain Coffee, HBO, Deutsche Bank, Hughes Aircraft, Nokia, and too many others to continue to list.
“Mediation helps you reorient your life and it is a lot cheaper than Prozac!”
Hospitals and Schools Catching on
In addition to the corporate and business world, over 250 hospitals nationwide have incorporated mindfulness and meditation programs into their overall health strategies. It has also spread into local school systems as well thanks to award-winning actress Goldie Hawn’s MindUp program. Besides the increased focus, this program has also significantly reduced levels of anger, frustration, confrontation, and stress for students and medical employees alike.
The changes that meditation brings to the brain and the body are both noticeable and measurable. Meditation allows the body’s muscles to relax as well as decreasing the heart rate and lowering blood pressure while improving the overall function of the immune system. Perhaps most importantly, it also reduces cortisol levels in the brain while elevating the levels of serotonin and increasing the stimulation of alpha brainwaves.
General Mills- The Pioneer of Mindfulness
It is believed that the pioneer of mindfulness and meditation programs in business is the General Mills Company based in Minneapolis. With over 3,000 people at their corporate headquarters, General Mills has found their program to be highly effective and has fostered a corporate culture that is happier, more focused, and more cooperative than ever. The program has been in place for over eight years and is frequently copied by other corporations.
General Mills has found that the culture has developed employees with more clarity and sense of purpose while encouraging creativity and compassion toward themselves and their customers. The company calls it Mindful Leadership and strongly believes in the benefits it has sown over the years. Employees that are less stressed and become more productive as well as developing more highly attuned and compassionate leadership skills.
The ability to cultivate mindfulness, to be entirely focused and aware of the present moment, has seen great benefits outside of the workplace as well. General Mills’ CIO recalls that there is no more of what is known as multi-tasking since the concept really doesn’t exist. What it really encompasses is the ability to focus on different thing quickly and with full attention…which comes from being in a relaxed mental state. He has found that he is better able to listen to and better able to communicate with his wife and children as well.
What many corporations and small businesses have begun to find out is that mindfulness and meditation can make for happier and healthier employees who are more focused and have higher levels of listening skills. They also tend to be more compassionate toward themselves, their co-workers and their customers as well so there is really little downside to incorporating a program into the workplace. If nothing else, the increased productivity benefits inside a more tranquil atmosphere is reason enough to give it a try.