It’s becoming increasingly clear to me that many senior leaders in blue chip organisations don’t understand exactly what “Wellness” means. I admit that this is a fairly new area to businesses in the UK, and it is often used interchangeably with “health and fitness”.
My personal definition of “wellness”, and what I hope translates into the work that I do every day is simple:
Healthy mind, healthy body, healthy culture, and consequently healthy bottomline.
If people can become more mindful, more reflective and therefore less reactive, this will translate into all areas of their lives. I’m not only referring to just their psychological health, but it will have a profound impact on their physical health. There’s so much research now that supports the effect of thinking/the environment on genetics (epigenetics) and cognitive function (neuroplasticity). We were talking about it in my Psychology undergrad way back when!
I was in a meeting today with a senior leader who spoke about the current culture of executing just for the sake of executing, without pausing to think, and of course the cost ramifications and inefficiencies that result in this sort of mindless behaviour. I sat there and thought, “This is exactly why Mindfulness Meditation is needed in businesses, to train the type A personalities/high achievers to PAUSE before acting/reacting and ask a few key questions:
- "Why am I doing what I’m doing?”
- “How is it going to be effective?”
- “What is the benefit?”
- “Is this the best use of my time/my team’s time/my resources?”
Sustainable Working Practices
He then spoke of sustainable working practices as though they were separate from wellness though, not realising that Mindfulness techniques - despite not being a panacea for all work-related problems - are at the core of sustainable working, and a sustainable corporate culture.
Relating to Others and to the World
People need to think about cause and effect, and give themselves the headspace to do that, not just at work, but in their personal lives as well. Someone who is more in tune with who they are, is more likely to be more sensitive and empathic to those around them. Mindful people are not only better at relating with others, they are simply better people. They care more about their environment, they pay attention to what’s going on around them, and can therefore act rather than react.
But in order to become like this, they need to have the room to consider the impact of their actions.
Mindfulness and Wellness
Mindfulness meditation is a wonderful tool in achieving and cultivating that level of awareness. Last night I attended a wonderful talk by the father of Emotional Intelligence, Daniel Goleman, Professor Emeritus at Harvard. He spoke about Emotional Intelligence being the primary model for wellness, and that “focus” is the key to emotional intelligence. His book “Emotional Intelligence” was never on my core reading list for my Psychology degree - though it really ought to have been - but I stumbled upon it, and have never parted with it. I frequently referenced it in projects, and I refer to it still even as a working professional.
Goleman’s golden nuggets of insight into human neurology and subsequent behaviour are more relevant now than ever, particularly in our 24 hour digital world, where it is becoming increasingly challenging to switch off. Technology is constantly fighting to distract us, activating our bodies’ alarm systems so that we are in a constant state of defense, also interpreted as stress. He acknowledges and strongly advocates the practice of mindful meditation to redress the balance of our physical bodies by learning the skill of focus. Focus translates to being mindful, to paying attention, to becoming more self-aware.
If people can learn to be more aware of themselves, of how they treat their bodies, how they treat others, and how they interact with the natural environment, then aren’t we all better off?
And who doesn’t want a world with calmer, healthier, more eco-conscious, more thoughtful and considerate people? I know I certainly do!