The Importance of Mindfulness in Leadership for Self-Care and Growth

This post is brought to you by RoundGlass, a proud sponsor of the WPO

One mindful pause, or breathing exercise a day can have a meaningful impact on each work day. Brief moments of mindful awareness and paced breathing exercises that take only a few minutes per day are gaining traction in peer-reviewed research studies as an effective way to short-circuit your autopilot mind, provide much needed relief from an overactive mind, and enhance clarity with what matters most in times of stress.

Try this deep-breathing exercise by Rebecca Acabchuk, RoundGlass senior scientist, for relaxation and stress management now, and before your next meeting.

  1. Posture: Sit tall, with a sense of dignity in your posture. Allow your collarbones to spread, and your face and shoulders to soften.
  2. Breathe: Expand deep into the lower belly like a balloon as you inhale, and soften as you exhale. Breath in and out through your nose to facilitate breath efficiency and oxygen circulation.
  3. Count: Closing your eyes, or gently gazing at an object, begin counting backward from 5 to 1, saying each number slowly in your head on each exhale.
  4. Savor: Notice how you feel. Take a moment to savor any positive sensations you feel in this moment before returning to your day.

Mindfulness is a critical skill for mental health, wellbeing, and optimizing performance. It’s also vastly becoming an important part of any leader's toolkit. Simple exercises like daily mindful moments and breathing exercises throughout one’s day can be a great influence on self-growth, as well as leadership empowerment in a team setting. Our mission at RoundGlass is to help everyone embrace a regular wellbeing practice, including mindfulness in everyday life, meditation, and create opportunities to bring the practices of wholistic wellbeing to the world.

According to Dr. David Vago, RoundGlass research lead and cognitive neuroscientist, there are a few models for mindfulness in leadership that are at the core of an evidence-based wellbeing program. Each practice can be built into the fibers of the company, improving retention, focus, and foundational leadership skills.

  1. Self-awareness – learning to become aware of our own mental habits and behaviors, and how it translates to stability and control in work settings.
  2. Self-regulation – how to navigate emotional triggers and difficult emotions or negatively-oriented thoughts to fuel better habits, strong integrity, and behavior change.
  3. Motivation – finding alignment with work life and core values, engaging with work with purpose and meaning.
  4. Prosocial skills – building people awareness and empathic skills; building trust in teams through prosocial habits, and enhancing social connection through compassion training.
  5. Leadership skills – learning emotional intelligence, compassionate communications, and building self-confidence and listening skills with teams; empowering others through a shared mission and vision, strategies for problem-solving, collaboration and teamwork, and providing direction.
  6. Science-informed practice – focusing on evidence-based practices, informing the leadership of the latest clinical and neuroscientific research supporting these practices.

Research shows that a regular practice of meditation has the potential to impact virtually every aspect of your life – helping to reduce stress and anxiety, increase focus, and promote healthy sleep patterns. Self-care for leaders is an important step towards personal wellbeing. Daily stressors can start to compound if they aren’t responded to with mindful care. Consider taking a look at your current wellbeing practices, and what aspects could use more care and attention.

The Science-Backed Benefits of Meditation

Although meditation has been around for centuries, it's only recently that we've measured how it affects the mind and the body.

Less Stress

Researchers reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association that there are some promising results linking meditation to a reduction in both psychological and physiological impacts of stress. A 2019 study in the journal of Psychoneuroendocrinology studied the stress-response of long-term meditators by measuring their cortisol level and heart rate, and found that meditation seemed to allow people to bounce back faster from stressful events. Interestingly, they also seemed to experience less self-blaming thoughts about the experience, explaining "… long-term meditation practitioners had faster cortisol recovery from stress, and experienced less shame and higher self-esteem after the exposure to social-evaluative threat …These results suggest that a regular meditation practice is associated with a faster recovery from stress." Rapid recovery from a stressor, also referr3ed to as equanimity, is suggested to be a key mechanism for healthy self regulation, optimized performance, and improved longevity.

Improved Focus

Meditation can be beneficial for people who find themselves easily distracted, as studies indicate that it seems to improve concentration, reduce rumination, and help the mind wander less. This may strike you as ironic, especially if you've ever given up on meditating after being distracted by your busy mind one too many times. However, based on the research, if you struggle to focus during meditation, you probably have a lot to gain from establishing a regular practice, especially a focused-attention meditation with a breath focus. This type of practice is one of the most effective in terms of strengthening attention engagement, and decreasing distraction both in the workplace and at home.

Improved Sleep

Studies have shown that meditation can help support healthy sleep patterns by reducing the time it takes to fall asleep and, in some cases, improving the quality and duration of sleep as much as a sleeping pill.

New research is being conducted at Vanderbilt University to determine if meditation may also help facilitate the cleansing process that occurs in the brain during sleep, via the glymphatic system. RoundGlass research lead, Dr. David Vago, is involved in this ongoing study to explore the effects of meditation on glymphatic flow, a system that functions to eliminate waste and metabolic products that build up in response to inflammation in the brain. If hypotheses are true, this may reveal a mechanism through which meditation can help reduce the risk of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s disease, that are marked by accumulation of abnormal proteins in the brain.

Starting Your Meditation Practice

All of the benefits of a regular meditation practice are at your fingertips. To help improve your sleep, reduce stress and anxiety, and boost focus at work, try starting with one guided meditation each day with a focus on the breath.

Then, use your growing capacity for mindfulness to become aware of how meditation benefits you, as well as your team. How does meditating make you feel? Have you tried a mindfulness exercise before a meeting, or with your team? What do you notice after a day, a week, or a month? Being conscious of how a regular meditation practice supports your wholistic wellbeing is a great way to motivate yourself to continue.

About RoundGlass

At RoundGlass, we believe Wholistic Wellbeing has the power to change the world for the better.

We provide solutions that cover everything from meditation resources, end of life tools, nutrition education, workplace wellbeing, and healthcare management to raising environmental awareness and enabling the development of young talent through team sports.

By thoughtfully using technology, expert-driven content, and immersive experiences, our goal at RoundGlass is to make having a happier, healthier life more accessible than ever.