I was recently invited to speak on ‘Authentic Presence for Leaders’ at an executive conference. I was also asked to design and deliver a couple of training sessions on “Personal Presence” for the leadership team of a large organisation. Although I’ve been practising ‘presence’ (aka mindfulness) for the past 20+ years, I admit that there have been times when my thoughts and emotions convinced me that I had other ‘more important’ things to do than my regular practice.
Now, in preparing for my presentations, I am digging into some of the thousands of scientific studies which are convincing me to recommit myself to a regular practice. Researchers have measured dramatic positive impacts of mindfulness practice which is why mindfulness is fast making its way into the mainstream. Corporations, schools, prisons, healthcare settings, and even the police and military are riding the wave, wanting to experience these benefits themselves.
When you look at some of the improvements that participants in mindfulness programs are making, it’s hard to imagine why anyone wouldn’t want to at least give mindfulness a try.
Mindfulness is essentially the moment by moment non-judgmental awareness of your thoughts, feelings, body sensations, and the surrounding environment. In various studies, training programs from as short as three weeks to as long as four months, the results seem to suggest that a daily 30 minute practice of mindfulness has been shown to produce the following results:
- Decreased anxiety, depression, mood disturbances and stress response
- Increased focus, concentration, memory, cognitive control, and test scores
- Increased pro-social, generous, optimistic behaviors
- Increased emotional skillfulness and empathy
- Better sleep quality and general well-being
- Decreased absenteeism,
- Lower blood pressure
- Less tiredness and fewer aches and pains
So, if you have not tried it already, I encourage you to give mindfulness practice a go. Although it is simple, it is not easy, especially at the beginning when you first encounter your racing thoughts, your emotional reactiveness, and your nagging aches and pains. As author Annie Lamott has said “my mind is like a dangerous neighbourhood - better not to go there alone”.
Here’s a link to an article I wrote to get you started on your practice:
Leadership Presence: A Key to your Personal & Professional Success