Headspaceis a fantastic Mindfulness app that was founded by two very special people, Rich Pierson and Andy Puddicome. I worked with Rich at Mccann and I met Andy when Headspace was a fledgling idea. They’ve done so much for mental health and making the practice of meditation and mindfulness mainstream. This piece of writing was aimed at helping the Type A readership of the FT understand how meditation can lead to personal growth and positively influence productivity.
Copywriting: Sophie Webb
For most busy CEOs, preparing for an important meeting is yet another stress point in a packed diary. For Häagen-Dazs executives, it’s a chance to sit calmly in the yoga tree pose for 10 minutes to calmly order their thoughts. And while most employees resort to smoking, comfort eating or shouting at colleagues when the stress levels rise, General Mills workers relax in on-site meditation and yoga rooms.
Meditation, once the preserve of Buddhist monks and Sixties hippies, is increasingly becoming part of mainstream culture, including business. Amid the relentless chatter of email, Twitter, meetings and 24-hour news, everyone from financial services executives to Olympic athletes, it seems, yearns for moments of calm and reflection.
It’s no coincidence that in the UK the most common cause of long-term absence from work is stress and mental ill health. Sickness costs UK employers £9 billion and the economy £15 billion per year – people are becoming busier than they can cope with. Even if they do make it into work, they are not going to be as productive or clear thinking as they could be if they are stressed.
It was realising this that inspired my founding partner and I to set Headspace. We wanted to demystify meditation and demonstrate how far reaching the benefits can be. This led to us developing an app to help people take 10 minutes out of their hectic lives each day to meditate.
When we take a step back and become more self-aware, a sense of underlying contentment and unshakable confidence begins to grow, which enables to live in the present and become more curious, interested, productive and efficient human beings. This benefits our ability to focus on tasks and become more communicative in personal and professional relationships.
This is what it means to grow personally. Growth by nature is an evolving process and not something static that we can master once and for all. Whether it’s business, economies or relationships life is constantly evolving and we need to learn how to witness this change, to move skillfully with it. Watching and knowing the mind helps us intuitively move from one moment to the next and reveals a place of creativity and potential, it is from this place that great ideas arise. If we can focus more on the present moment, the future takes care of itself.
The science behind meditation’s impact on the brain is compelling. Dr. Judson Brewer at Yale’s Therapeutic Neuroscience Clinic, who works with Headspace, has found that meditation decreases activity in the area of the brain associated with mind wandering. Dr. Amishi Jha has observed that meditation increases activity in the area of the brain associated with cognitive control. Other studies have shown that meditation can cause parts of the brain associated with learning and memory to grow in size and those connected to stress and anxiety to shrink. There’s even evidence that meditation boosts the immune system and increase heart health.
In sport, as in business, finding that extra level of performance and clarity under pressure is vital for success. The Olympic canoeing gold medal winner, Etienne Stott says that meditating (using the Headspace app) gave him the edge, “It helped me a achieve a level of mental clarity and dexterity that is vital in intense situations. I would highly recommend Headspace to any individual or organisation that wants to get the edge.”
Similarly, those working in the financial sector also need that extra advantage, faced as they are with volatile markets, and huge profit and loss implications, all of which puts enormous pressure on individuals and teams.
Personal wellbeing, clarity of mind and the ability to stand back and observe are all vital qualities in this most competitive of environments. Meditating for just 10 minutes a day can help anyone find the inner calmness that allows these qualities to flourish.
Don’t just take my word for it. William George, a current Goldman Sachs board member and a former chief executive of the healthcare giant Medtronic has been meditating for nearly 40 years and believes it helps him stay focused on what’s important, which makes him be more effective, make better decisions, be a better leader and work better with other people.
There’s only one-way to find out if he’s right or not.