How practising mindfulness benefits your brain and your business

mindfulness business

Smiling Mind CEO Dr Addie Wootten. Source: Supplied.

A regular mindfulness practice has big benefits for business owners. For one, it actually changes our brains, stimulating new connections and cell growth in areas related to memory and decision-making.

It also quietens down the stress area of the brain while firing up emotion-regulating areas, making it easier for us to manage difficult emotions, such as frustration, anger and fear.

Over time, our sleep improves, along with our immune systems, productivity, and relationships at home and in the workplace. So, why aren’t we all practising mindfulness already?

The case for proactively managing our mental health

According to Dr Addie Wootten, CEO of Smiling Mind, most people wait until they’re experiencing signs or symptoms of mental health challenges before taking action to support their mental wellbeing. This could be really high levels of stress, disturbed sleeping, or relationship issues.

As a small business owner, you’ve probably experienced at least one of the three. In fact, in the MYOB Mental Health in Small Business Report, 56% of small business operators said running their business has directly impacted feelings of anxiety or depression. A further 65% said thinking about their business sometimes disrupts their sleep. And 27% said business stress has a large to extreme impact on other aspects of their life and relationships.

“For anything health related, if we wait until the symptoms get worse — well, we suffer, but it also makes it harder for us to turn things around,” Dr Wootten says. 

“The earlier that we can start to develop proactive mental health habits, the better our overall mental health will be and the less likely those symptoms will get really difficult to manage.”

Register now for Making mental health your business: Coping skills for resilient SMEs, Wednesday, October 27, 11am-12pm.

Take your brain to the gym

If you think of mindfulness as the outcome you’re trying to achieve, meditation is the tool that helps you get there, Dr Wootten explains.

“Meditation is gym for your mind,” she says, “and the more you do it, the more mindful you become, and the more it becomes second nature to be mindful in everyday life.”

Unfortunately, some common myths about meditation may be standing in the way of our practice. 

Myth 1: “I don’t have time”

This mindset is flawed on two counts.

First, you can practice meditation very briefly, in as little as 30 seconds. Simply tune your mind into your senses — they’re your anchor to the present moment — and take some conscious breaths. Mindfulness practised. 

“The more time you can give it the better, but you can get benefits from those 30-second ‘mind breaks’,” Dr Wootten says. 

Second, regular meditation can make you more efficient and productive. 

“By spending, say, ten minutes a day doing a meditation practice, you’ll probably find you become more efficient in other areas of your life,” Dr Wootten says. 

“People actually get better at doing their job, they get less distracted, things are easier for them to work through, and they become more productive.”

Myth 2: “It’s too woo-woo”

There’s a heap of science to back up the benefits of mindfulness, and none of it says you need to wear a robe or chant. 

“Another really common myth is that meditation is too alternative or a bit ‘woo-woo’, but the truth is meditation and mindfulness can be practised in whatever way works for you,” Dr Wootten says. 

“There are executives at the biggest organisations that practice mindfulness, as well as people working on farms, in banks, and running their family business.”

Myth 3: “I’m not good at it”

A lot of inexperienced meditators get thrown off when they sit down, close their eyes, and find their head is a disco.  

“Often people misinterpret that as not being able to meditate, or not being good at meditation, which is absolutely a myth because everyone experiences that,” Dr Wootten says. “Our brain is a thinking machine and it doesn’t stop because we tell it to stop, we have to train it to be calm.” 

In fact, that process of noticing your mind has wandered and then bringing your attention back to what you’re focusing on is meditation, she explains. 

The more you practise, the better you get, and the more you start to notice those broad benefits that mindfulness brings. Better still, you should start feeling more relaxed almost instantly — and you probably need that.

“If you’re running a small business, you’re often carrying a lot of stress, and it can be really challenging for your mental health,” Dr Wootten says. “So don’t wait until you are experiencing problems before starting to look after your mental health. It’s so important that we’re proactive.”

Smiling Mind and MYOB

This article is brought to you by the MYOB and Smiling Mind Small Business Program. With mindfulness meditations for navigating stress, building resilience and finding balance, it’s here to help business owners thrive. So, let’s make mental health everyone’s business. Try the free Small Business Program under the ‘At Work’ section in the Smiling Mind app today.

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