How mindfulness apps can transform your business
MANY professionals exist in a state of perpetual distraction. We flutter from one device to another, and from various apps to an array of emails and screens. Though these devices are often crucial for the workplace, they can be a source of ultimate distraction.
As a business leader, the ability to achieve the highest performance levels is crucial; maintaining focus on important tasks and avoiding costly distractions.
But how is this possible in an increasingly digital world of interconnected devices, wearable tech accessories, buzzing notifications and blinding screens?
One way to tackle this problem is to master the art of mindfulness, which is fast becoming a billion-dollar industry. In the last few years, there has been a significant surge in the development of meditation smartphone apps. One successful example is Headspace, which has an estimated valuation of around US$250 million according to Forbes.
These apps promise to improve the user’s ability to handle daily stress, improve focus and enhance performance. This may seem slightly ironic, considering the same devices which can crush our productivity levels are being leveraged to enhance them.
But according to Julianna Raye, a mindfulness meditation trainer and co-founder of a newly-developed mindfulness app called Brightmind, these apps can actually help to improve our relationship with technology.
“You can totally reframe your relationship with this thing that you nevertheless have to use. That’s the beauty. You get to take this thing that you maybe have this addictive and shameful relationship with on some level, and you can convert it into the place where you can take care of yourself,” she told Tech Wire Asia.
“We’re not going to ever eliminate devices, but sometimes it is good to put devices aside. It can be good to be intentional around how we use devices, but the best way to become intentional around how we use them is to practice meditation and learn how to be intentional with your attention.”
Though often misconceived as some hokey thing that only hippies do in vast green fields, many individuals are now realizing the potential benefits the practice can bring to the business environment.
Brightmind is an app that seeks to expands the boundaries of human potential through tailored meditation instruction. The teaching algorithm behind the app was developed with the help of renowned mindfulness teacher and neuroscience research consultant, Shinzen Young.
His focus on the hard research, as well as his experience in a variety of traditions, is what makes Brightmind stand out from the multitude of other apps, says Raye.
“The things Shinzen has devoted his life to is connection between the hard science research and contemplative practice, that’s what really matters to him. In fact, when he was designing the system, he designed it with researchers and scientists in mind, because we really need to see what’s going on and what benefits people can get from practice in order to optimize,” she adds.
Many studies have shown that mindfulness can decrease self-reported stress levels and make people feel calmer. Certain studies have also shown that it can even have a biological impact on the body.
Now scientists in the US have shown that an eight-week course of mindfulness, which involves daily classes, can help lower inflammatory molecules and stress hormones by around 15 percent, as reported by The Telegraph. The therapy was shown to work better than a non-meditation stress management course.
“I got to have the good fortune of working on a research study last year at a digital marketing company in Ohio and I was working with David Creswell, one of the top mindfulness researchers,” Raye said.
Though she could not discuss any specific results from the unpublished research project, she told Tech Wire Asia the results were favorable.
“What we heard from the people who were engaged in the study was there was favorable effects especially around stress. They could find time and opportunities to practice that would set them up to have a better day,” she added.
The effects of mindfulness in the workplace is an area in which research seems to be lacking due to the possible sacrifices business leaders may have to make.
“There are not many studies in the workplace related to mindfulness, and there is a reason for that. It takes a lot for a CEO to be willing to turn his workplace into a research environment,” said Raye.
“If you want to do good research then you have to have some strict parameters, so a lot of CEOs, even if they get behind the idea of meditation, may not want to adhere to the strict rules that a research study will set up. I had been coaching the CEO and he had seen the value of practice in his own life and that is why he was open to having the study done.”
Stress has been shown to significantly affect the necessary skills required for successful relationships. Studies have shown it can reduce empathy and narrow your perspective and that of your team. Mindfulness meditation, on the other hand, can enhance your mood and increase your sense of connection with others.
The positive effect of mindfulness on relationships in the workplace is something Raye has noticed often when working with various CEOs. On one leader in particular, she said: “He could see how it affected his work relationships. For instance, he would report not getting burnt out, and basically finding a healthy balance in relating to people where you’re able to conserve your energy and also be available to them – as you need to as a leader.”
— Brightmind App (@Brightmind_app) December 5, 2017
As well as improving working relationships, mindfulness practice can improve your work-life balance and relationships with your family.
“People are really able to let the day’s work go when they transition to home, where they can enjoy their relationships and be able to make the shift from what’s going on at work to what’s going on at home, and being more present with their family,” said Raye.
“A common one I’ve heard is that the issue of work can tug at you when you’re at home and this can be disruptive to your ability to just enjoy being with your family.”
Help with decision-making and negotiations
Decision-making is a highly important aspect in the daily lives of many business professionals, with many of these decisions having huge impacts on the enterprise.
Mindful meditation enhances an individual’s ability to see the pros and cons of a decision, free of personal judgement, fear or excess emotions. The result of this is decisions made based on logic and sound reasoning. One particular study found that just one 15-minute focused breathing meditation can help individuals make smarter choices.
“Another consistent theme I’ve heard is being able to navigate challenging negotiations skilfully,” Raye said.
“If there’s a lot on the line in that negotiation, you want to be able to process your experience so that you lead yourself to a greater choice. If you say or do something that isn’t favourable, you can undermine the negotiation. But if you know how to process what’s coming up for you, you’re far more likely to have the kind of outcomes that you’re looking for.”
Studies have shown that our minds tend to wander about 50 percent of the time. And with interruptions such as text messages, phone calls and emails, it is not hard to see why employees find it difficult to stay focused.
However, increasing research has shown meditation training can reduce the amount of time individuals are distracted and strengthen our ability to stay focused.
The practice of meditation has even been shown to boost memory through scientific research. One study found that the regular participation in meditation can cause the brain’s cerebral cortex to thicken.
The brain’s outer cortex is responsible for higher mental functions, including concentration, memory and learning. According to this study, the thickening of this brain region is a result of the process of meditation increasing the size of blood vessels and blood flow in the region.
“We don’t realize how inefficient we are as systems, but the good news is that there is an easy way to train that efficiency into your system, to train a deeper satisfaction out of each moment and to train an ability to manage challenges even better,” she said.
“Upfront, it looks like energy and time that you don’t have, but the return it yields and the investment are radical. I can speak from my personal experience, it’s well worth the investment.”
And what is more convenient than being able to practice mindfulness on a device which is available to you pretty much at any time and place?
“The user can be in total control, you don’t have to rely on the teacher’s agenda, and you can do it wherever you feel comfortable. You get a totally personalized experience – you can tailor it to what your needs and interests are, and this is going to keep you motivated to practice,” Raye said.