4 Tips to Proactively Address the Stress of COVID-19

4 Tips to Proactively Address the Stress of COVID-19

4 Tips to Proactively Address the Stress of COVID-19

Grant Ian GambleBy Grant Ian Gamble | June 3, 2020

Grant Ian Gamble is a business growth consultant, author and keynote speaker. He works in a broad array of industries helping companies build teams, navigate change and drive growth.

A good friend of mine expressed how overwhelmed she felt amid all the upheaval of the COVID-19 pandemic. Like many of us, I feel her pain.

Stress levels across the globe are rising to epidemic proportions and long after COVID-19’s debris is trailing in our wake, there’ll be residual side effects of COVID-19 from stress itself.

Well after the dust from 9/11 had settled in the Financial District of NYC, stress continued to take its toll on people affected by this event, directly and indirectly. Health officials have struggled to quantify the exact impact of stress and PTSD post 9/11, but it is a given that it’s in the hundreds of thousands of people.

When we look at the all-pervasive nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is clear that the global residual effect from stress and PTSD will be in the millions, if not the hundreds of millions. Everyone from health care workers through to the now unemployed are under unprecedented stress.

Until we find our ‘new norm,’ the impact of stress from the pandemic will continue to climb and manifest in various forms, ranging from anxiety to PTSD.

Grant Ian Gamble Business Consulting | Author | Speaker | The Affinity Formula | 4 Tips to Proactively Address the Stress of COVID-19 | Business People

We do have a choice though.

How you choose to view the potential impact of stress on your health has a synergistic relationship with the actual impact you may see from stress-related illness.

In other words, your perception of how stress will affect your health is a more reliable predictor of the actual manifestation of health-related issues from stress.

This assertion was documented in a study by the National Center for Health Statistics of almost 29,000 respondents. The survey examined levels of stress and respondents’ perception of how that stress impacted their health.

In this study, those respondents that reported a lot of stress, AND perceived that stress had a major impact on their health had a 43% increased risk of premature death. Whereas, those respondents that reported a lot of stress, BUT perceived that stress did not have a major impact on their health had similar premature death rates to those reporting low stress levels.

Based on this study, having a positive belief in your ability to control your health outcomes and taking proactive steps to reduce the impact of stress, is far more likely to lead to better health outcomes.

So, what are some of the things you can do to re-frame and reduce the stress you’re feeling around this ground shaking, mind altering, upside down universe we live in at present?

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4 Tips to Proactively Address the Stress of COVID-19

1. GO OUTSIDE

I spoke in a previous blog about getting outside, in the fresh air. That’s a great start! Get out in the woods, out on the beach, up in the mountains, down and dirty in the garden, or in your local green space. Take your shoes off and do a Richard Gere (see “Pretty Woman” – park scene). It will do you and your immune system a world of good!

2. PRACTICE MINDFUL BREATHING

I have also spoken about breathing and as critical as that is for obvious reasons, mindful breathing has been clinically proven to be able to reduce stress wherever you are. Whether it’s the Wim Hof Method, or the Navy SEAL’s Box breathing technique, breath work can have a significant and immediate impact on the Autonomic Nervous System which controls your response to stress.

3. PRACTICE MEDITATION OR TAKE QUIET TIME

Maybe take some quiet time to contemplate nothing, AKA meditation. The science around the positive impact of this ancient tradition on stress abounds. If that’s not your bag, why not take some quiet time to contemplate good things. Positive things in your life, things to be grateful for, things to look forward to. Either way, when you step back from the pressures of this abnormal state we find ourselves in, we may pull back far enough to look down on all the fuss and realize that it too shall pass.

4. PRACTICE HAVING A POSITIVE MINDSET

Based on this study, probably the most important thing we can do is to be positive about how this will ultimately impact our health. And this positive mental attitude can be underwritten by positive actions that we take, like eating well, exercising and taking good care of ourselves and our loved ones.

For most of us, the silver lining in all of this stress-induced tension is that we’re around close friends and family more than many of us have experienced in a long time.

Get out those rose-colored glasses and see these opportunities to spend time together for what they are: opportunities. 

And while you’re at it, marvel at how your body defends itself; how it heals and rejuvenates itself; how resilient your body can be in the face of all this turmoil and upheaval.

The very knowledge that we can actually dictate the course that stress will take in our lives gives us the ability to step back, take a calming breath and realize that we are ultimately in control of our destiny, and always have been.

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Increase Your Productivity – Gain Traction Amid Endless Distractions

Increase Your Productivity – Gain Traction Amid Endless Distractions

POWERFUL TECHNIQUE:

Raise Your Productivity & Decrease Your Stress – Gain Traction Amid Endless Distractions

Grant Ian GambleBy Grant Ian Gamble | May 12, 2020

Grant Ian Gamble is a business growth consultant, author and keynote speaker. He works in a broad array of industries helping companies build teams, navigate change and drive growth.

Many of us are working from home for the first time and it’s amazing the distractions that occur throughout the day. Everything from those chores that nag at us through to kids needing help with their online studies. It can often feel like you’re trying to get a lot of things done and none of them seem to get completed as efficiently as you’d like. As we’ve personally watched our kids tackle online school, it’s been fascinating to witness the same thing happening with them.

Our kids are teenagers and they’re rarely detached from their smartphones. In fact, more often than not, they combine this attention distraction device with their laptop or a TV screen. They would argue that they’re absorbing the content while Snapping and chatting with friends simultaneously, but our observation over time is that they’re definitely paying a price for dividing their attention.

Grant Ian Gamble Business Consulting | Blog | Raise Your Productivity - Get Traction Away From Distraction | Multitasking

Even though “multimedia-ing” is the new norm, over time splitting your attention between multiple sources of stimulation, combined with the rapid change of pace that these formats provide, deteriorates your ability to carry out more sustained tasks. 

Researchers have proven that comprehension decreases and switching between tasks comes with additional costs, including loss of speed (up to 40%), decreased efficiency (as much as 4x less efficient at completing tasks), and learning does not take place while you’re multitasking. Researchers have also proven conclusively that a higher incidence of errors occurs when we’re dividing our attention between two or more tasks.

As much as we might rail against the notion that we can’t do multiple tasks simultaneously, neuroscientists have made it abundantly clear that the brain cannot process multiple comprehension tasks simultaneously. Rather, the brain switches (just like an on and off button) between tasks. Even when we’re doing very ‘different’ tasks like driving and talking on the phone, performance is impaired significantly. 

Beyond compromised performance, there are many other prices to pay for trying to do multiple tasks at once.

THE DOWNSIDES OF MULTITASKING

1. Negative impact on your short-term memory

Your brain’s “Scratchpad” is used to manage and focus on key information and when you’re multitasking and switching between tasks this short term information storage area becomes garbled and impacts your working memory.

2.  Increased stress and anxiety

Neuroscientists say that multitasking causes you to lose focus and become more anxious. This in turn drains your physical and mental resources.

3. Inhibited creative thinking

When you lose focus and become stressed, you lose your ability to think creatively. You’re taking away the opportunity for your brain to digest or come up with new ideas.

4. Stops you from getting into the flow

Flow is a state where you’re absorbed by the task you’re focusing on. Time becomes irrelevant, stress levels decrease, and productivity increases exponentially.

5. More mistakes and less productivity

Even simple tasks take longer when you’re constantly switching from one activity to another. Mistakes occur and you get less of the things you need to do done.

The key is to accept the fundamental fact that the mind can only do one thing at a time.

And ditch the device when you’re trying to complete a task or be in the moment.

Certainly, this is easier said than done. Brain research indicates that our addiction to texts, Facebook, Instagram, SnapChat, Twitter, Google and email has a physiological cause–the body’s emission of the chemical dopamine (known as the “pleasure seeking molecule”). Our brain gets pleasure when we seek and find new information, so it chemically encourages this behavior (enter dopamine).

If you want to get tasks done at a higher quality level and in less time, it pays dividends to focus on one activity at a time. This is called Single Tasking and there are some real benefits to this concept.

THE UPSIDES TO SINGLE TASKING

1. Single tasking decreases stress levels

When you expend more energy trying to multitask, you end up exhausted and behind on work. When you focus on one thing at a time, you’re more likely to actually finish what you wanted to, and in turn lower stress levels.

2. Single-tasking helps you focus on what you have to do and not all the tempting distractions

Choosing something to focus your attention on for a set period of time means saying no to other distractions. This helps you focus on the important stuff you need to get done and will rebuild your ability to focus.

3. Creativity increases when you single-task

Single-tasking actually frees up brain resources to think more creatively. This helps with idea generation and coming up with solutions to problems.

So how do we change the habit of multi-tasking to a more productive and creative single-tasking process? Here are some tips:

TIPS FOR CHANGING THE HABIT OF MULTITASKING TO MORE PRODUCTIVE AND CREATIVE SINGLE TASKING

1. To break this constant stimulation from your devices, experts say turn off the audio and visual notifications built into your devices that alert you to the presence of more information. But mostly, just draw a line in the sand and commit to one thing at a time.

2.  Another solution is to set a timer for 25 minutes and aim to work continuously for that time. Knowing that you only have to focus for that block of time will help to focus your mind. After 25 minutes, set a timer for a five or ten-minute break. Rinse and repeat. Just like building muscles you can build up the blocks of time and stay focused longer.

NOTE: When you take a break, grab a drink or a snack, get some fresh air and stretch, check your SnapChat or whatever it is you follow or like, but don’t get bogged down in another task – this is meant to be a break where your mind can wander. When your break timer goes off then come back to the task you were working on before. These breaks are important, because mental performance drops if you don’t take breaks. Decision making slows, attention levels drop, and creativity decreases.

We actually did this exercise with our 15-year-old son and his ability to complete assignments and finish work that he’d been struggling to complete went through the roof. In fact, he started completing a day’s work in just two or three single-tasking blocks of 25 minutes each.

3. One other solution is changing brain states through mindfulness meditation. This can reduce dependence on various forms of multitasking and help improve focus. 

Research has shown how mindfulness meditation improves brain function within 1 ½ to 2 months of practice

A simple breath meditation can be done anytime and anywhere. This is especially helpful if you’re stressed or frustrated. Here’s the basics: 

  1.     Take one DEEP breath in. 
  2.     One SLOW breath out. 

Start with 10 breaths to start with. The longer breath out induces the parasympathetic nervous system. This means you’re changing from a stressed state to a more relaxed and composed state. Use this whenever you feel yourself becoming overwhelmed.

Grant Ian Gamble Business Consulting | Blog | Raise Your Productivity - Get Traction Away From Distraction | Productivity

Getting focused and productive is much like fitness. You can build your performance and endurance over time. It is critical to reward yourself as you progress and not feel like the ultimate achievement is 100% productivity. Getting to a point where you can complete projects and tasks with a minimum of distractions is a powerful achievement. Remember that the rest-breaks and distractions we mindfully engage in will actually improve your productivity over time. 

The real benefit is that being present and engaged in one activity at a time will enhance your memory, decrease your stress levels, enhance your creativity and improve your efficiency and productivity.

It’s amazing what you can achieve when you can consciously focus your attention. The rewards are enormous.

Grant Ian Gamble Business Consulting | Blog | Raise Your Productivity - Get Traction Away From Distraction

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Grant Ian Gamble | The Affinity Principle | Mindful Leadership | Business Book

The Affinity Principle™ by Grant Gamble presents a formula for business success through a people-centric, mindful leadership approach.

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The Upside of the Downside – 24 Things To Do During COVID Lockdown

The Upside of the Downside – 24 Things To Do During COVID Lockdown

By Grant Ian Gamble | April 2, 2020

Grant Ian Gamble Business Consulting | The Upside of the Downside - 24 Things To Do During COVID Lockdown | Paddleboarding

On one hand, the COVID pandemic is forcing us to isolate ourselves. On the other, it is bringing families back together and getting people outside.

My wife and I typically get outside whenever and wherever we can. Sometimes it’s for a mountain bike ride or run, sometimes paddle boarding, sometimes just for a walk.

Our motivation is to get some exercise, a little Vitamin D, and to diversify our microbiome.

Whenever possible, we take the kids with us and involve them. 

Since COVID restrictions have been ramping up, we’ve seen more and more families out and about with their kids. The bike trails have been more heavily populated than ever and the reservoir we paddle on has been a lot busier than usual.

I am sure many of these people and families would normally be going to the gym, or maybe doing something at home. Others may not normally do regular exercise or get outside, but as cabin fever sets in people are looking for any opportunity to get out of the house and do something.

To me, this is the upside of the downside.

This pandemic is a very real crisis for our communities and to increase our isolation in an increasingly digitally (dis)connected world is not good.

Being thrust back into our family units and rediscovering the joys of doing things together is a very real benefit.

Kids that were at school during the day are back in the household and as boredom sets in, creativity starts to blossom. There is a limit to how many movies or shows we can watch and I am starting to see and hear of creative ways people are trying to break the boredom.

Here are some assorted suggestions and thoughts: 

 

  1. Get out in the garden, pull some weeds and get set for Spring.
  2. Clear out the basement, or that junk room, it’s way overdue!
  3. Refurbish something, maybe that old chair or lamp?
  4. Redecorate, simplify, rearrange.
  5. Tackle your winter closet and get set for Spring.
  6. Go walking or hiking, off the beaten track.
  7. Do an online family yoga class in the living room.
  8. Begin that meditation practice you have been thinking about forever.
  9. Reach back out to long lost friends, maybe even write a letter or two?
  10. Do some online learning!
  11. Play video games with your kids.
  12. Phone a friend, or three (FaceTime is even better).
  13. Play music! Take turns, and listen to everyone’s music.
  14. Begin a pushup challenge with a friend. Send your pushup video daily!
  15. Read a book!
  16. Have a TED Talk afternoon.
  17. Rotate cooking responsibilities with everyone and try some new recipes.
  18. Put together your goals and wish list for post-Coronavirus!
  19. Begin journaling.
  20. Have picnics in the front yard, or backyard, or both!
  21. Go for a drive somewhere new and scenic.
  22. Get those bikes dusted off and go for a pedal.
  23. Go for a walk down memory lane with your old photos and videos.
  24. Get your paint brushes out. Paint a wall or a masterpiece.

Whatever you do, treat this as a time to reconnect with your family, friends, and Mother Nature. Try something new or get back into something you used to love and have not had time to do.

This can be a time of reflection and renewal. Opportunity abounds in the adversity our community is facing at present.

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Send an email via the form below or call to set up a free consultation. LET US KNOW IF YOU'D like to collaborate with us. MINDFUL LEADERSHIP PODCAST COMING SOON, BE OUR GUEST!

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Grant Ian Gamble | The Affinity Principle | Mindful Leadership | Business Book

The Affinity Principle™ by Grant Gamble presents a formula for business success through a people-centric, mindful leadership approach.

PEOPLE FIRST, ALWAYS™
Desperately Seeking Balance

Desperately Seeking Balance

In this fast moving and disruptive age, life is much more than a balancing act. It is a complex dance with an ever-evolving set of challenges streaming at us at an unprecedented rate.

As with all things in the universe, we seek balance. Balance between work and home; balance between the food we eat and the amount we move; balance in our finances, and our family lives; balance in the contributions and the deductions we make to this world we live in. Balance in all things.

So how do we achieve some semblance of balance in our lives when the rate of change and complexity of our world is constantly escalating?

One way is to take a breath: literally and figuratively.

In today’s tumultuous world, we exist in an almost perpetual “sympathetic nervous system state” (state of preparedness for fight or flight). Our bodies are running on adrenaline, often supplemented heavily with caffeine, which exacerbates this heightened state. Rarely do we pause to “take a breath” and shift gears back to a “parasympathetic state,” where our muscles get to relax and our heart rate decreases.

One of the biggest contributors to this stressful state is that we are often attempting to operate in three worlds at once.

We are constantly referencing, reflecting and roiling in the past; at the same time we’re prognosticating, predicting and stressing over the future; and simultaneously we’re trying to balance the reality we exist in, the present.

If we can stop long enough to take a breath and reflect, we’ll realize how much of our time and energy is wasted stressing about things that we can’t influence. We can’t change the past; we also can’t predict the future; at best we can be engaged in shaping our future by being present.

Eckhart Tolle has clearly illustrated the “Power of Now” in his many works, and throughout the ages, spiritually enlightened teachers have espoused the many benefits of bringing our attention into the present. Even if we accept the many benefits, given all the distractions and competition for our attention, it is little wonder we struggle to bring our reality into focus and strike a greater balance.

So here are five simple thoughts on being more present and bringing some rhythm into our daily lives.

5 Simple Thoughts On Being More Present and Bringing Some Balance Into Our Daily Lives:

1. Establish Screen Blackouts

Do you ever find yourself asking people to repeat themselves, because you were distracted by your phone? Or realize you’ve missed a chunk of a conversation or meeting because you’ve been trying to process two streams of language or word processing?

When we’re immersed in our screen, whether for work or for pleasure, we’re devoting our prefrontal cortex to that task and by default becoming disconnected from the person or people in front of us. Regardless of how ‘real time’ that post you’re reading feels, or how pressing that email seems to be, you’re not present when you’re out in the ether.

Establishing ‘blackouts’ where you stay off the screen (especially when in the company of others, or in meetings), blocking time for email (and not being available 24/7), and creating limits around screen exposure, can all help promote a healthy balance of connectedness.

Many of us place screen limits on our kids, so placing healthy screen time limits on ourselves seems reasonable? Doesn’t it?

2. Become Present While Performing Mundane Tasks

Have you ever driven a well-travelled route and wondered how you actually got to your destination? Ever done a routine task and realized that you weren’t consciously performing that activity? When we do a routine task we often let our brain focus on more cerebral issues while our body goes through practiced motor skills.

Eating is a good example, because it doesn’t create a lot of overlap with more cerebral demands. Having said that, you can miss the joy of bringing your focus onto an otherwise routine task. For example, the opportunity to truly savor the food you’re putting into your body.

When we bring our attention to our food, to the energy sources we’re fueling our body with, we become more mindful about what we’re eating and that can have some huge health benefits. Mindful eating has been shown to nourish our bodies more, as we ingest the food consciously and with gratitude. Furthermore, eating mindfully makes us realize that what we put in our mouth really matters and we are more inclined to make healthier food choices.

Becoming present during mundane tasks is a practice of really focusing in and enjoying the elegance of execution: truly seeing, feeling, and enjoying that task and not letting other thoughts get in the way.

Just try it, even just for a minute or two, and feel your body’s reaction. You might be surprised at just how good it feels to be where you are.

3. Regularly Check In With Your Body

Speaking of feeling your body’s reaction, when was the last time you truly listened to your body? I mean really tuned in? Usually we draw no attention to our body unless something is hurting, or we have a basic physiological need at that time.

Try taking a break every so often and just ‘check in’ with yourself.

Your body is an amazing machine and will run, and run, and run without much intervention. But when you check in routinely on this complex, well-oiled machine, you’ll have some amazing revelations. Not only will you be present in that moment, you’ll learn some things about preventative care and develop increased respect for this amazing vehicle we have been gifted with.

This simple mindfulness practice of checking in with our bodies has the added benefit of taking our nervous system out of the overactive “sympathetic” fight or flight danger mode, and putting it into the “parasympathetic” calm mode.

4. Pause and Become Consciously Present On a Regular Basis

Do you ever run a scene from the past over, and over, in your head? Suffer from nagging doubts about prior events? Harbor grudges, and pain, from events long ago? Contemplate the irony of fate? These are all very human things to do, however getting trapped in the past can be debilitating, especially when we’re carrying forward negative emotions.

Reliving the pain of loss or regret can be as debilitating as the original pain itself. The plain truth is you can’t change what was, you can’t even necessarily change what will be, you can only influence the present.

When you find yourself roiling in past events try and bring your consciousness back into the present moment, back into your physical body, and focus on the people around you and the wonder of being alive.

Anxiety and stress cannot exist in the present moment, which is why meditation (the practice of keeping your mind at ease and focused on the present moment) is a great tool for dissipating anxiety. Next time you feel anxious, try pausing and spending just 60 seconds focusing your mind on your breath. Meditation has a cumulative effect, so the more you do it, the more powerful it becomes. That’s why it’s called a “meditation practice.” Even a few  consecutive “conscious breaths” count as mediatation.

5. Practice

Being present does require practice. Much like Mindful Meditation, the practice of being present requires refocusing when you drift off. Just that very ability to refocus, in and of itself, is a great tool that will help in all arenas of your life, including improving your physical health.

A few practices that lend themselves to this focus on the now include yoga, Mindful Meditation and Mindful Breathing Techniques.

Mindful Breathing is an activity you can engage in at a moment’s notice. Simply bring your attention to your breath and create rhythm by counting your breaths in, and breaths out. Try longer breaths out, and hold your breath for a few seconds after your inhale and exhale. The simple act of bringing your attention to your breath is sufficient to shift your state quickly and seamlessly and bring your nervous system into the parasympathetic mode.

Focusing our attention on the now can have monumental benefits in bringing balance back into our lives, as we divest ourselves of the additional weight of worry about reruns and pilots in our episodic lives. It is enough to contend with the barrage of information and demands the brings present without adding to the clutter of past and future.

So take a breath, adjust your focus, bring yourself into the present, and bring some much needed balance back into your busy life.

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Three Foundations & the First Step Toward Mindful Leadership

Three Foundations & the First Step Toward Mindful Leadership

Grant Gamble Business Consulting | Blog | Mindful Leadership Practice InfographicBeing a Mindful Leader is not about having a yoga or meditation practice. Truly mindful leaders imbibe intentionality, awareness and an abiding presence. Exhibiting these characteristics, consistently, is incredibly hard amidst the cacophony of competing interests for your time and focus.

Being present requires discipline, which is a central thread in building mindful leadership practices.

The essential elements of your mindfulness practice can vary. Like many things, what suits one person may not suit another. I use the example of exercise: When you find an exercise activity that works for you, and that you enjoy, exercising becomes less of a chore and more of a joy. The same is true for establishing and preserving a mindful leadership practice.

Additionally, your practice needs to be built on strong fundamentals. Quality sleep, good nutrition and exercise are just three foundational elements that help accelerate a mindful leadership practice. I want to at least begin with an overview of those foundational elements.

THREE FOUNDATIONS FOR MINDFUL LEADERSHIP

 

Grant Gamble Business Consulting | Blog | Mindful Leadership Practice | SleepSleep

Sleep touches every facet of out lives, but is critical to mindfulness.

Researchers at UC Berkeley have recently shown that sleep deprivation negatively impacts the regions of the brain that help you understand people’s underlying motivations and intentions.

As one of my mentors taught me many years ago, understanding a person’s motivation and intentions provides important reference points when seeking to understand someone’s actions. These reference points can give you insights and perspective, and importantly promote empathy. Empathy is critical for the mindful leader.

So what does good sleep look like?

As the science of sleep has evolved, researchers have determined that a cumulative total of 49 to 56 hours a week is optimal. In other words 7-8 hours of sleep a night, on average, and if you miss some sleep try and supplement with a little extra when you can.

Short naps of 15 to 20 minutes can help ‘top up the tank’, but longer naps can create a ‘sleep hangover’ you don’t want.

Other fundamentals like avoiding caffeine later in the day, and watching screens (especially falling asleep to a screen) can inhibit falling sleep and achieving good quality ‘deep sleep’.

And the basics of a great mattress, quality pillow, the ability to create a dark and cool sleeping environment are obviously essential. I go deeper into these factors in a separate article, “Improve Your Life by 1/3 Today”.

Grant Gamble Business Consulting | Blog | Mindful Leadership Practice | NutritionGood Nutrition

Science and anecdotal evidence exist to support many different diets and nutritional philosophies. I have known people who have pursued a vegan diet and their health and vitality have deteriorated. I have similarly known people who have gone vegan and flourished. Much like exercise, what works for one person may not work for another.

Amidst all the cacophony around diet and nutrition, I believe there are a few basic tenets.

The first tenet of healthy eating is to try and eat the least processed food possible. The more food is processed, and refined; the more additives and ingredients it has; the more of those ingredients you don’t recognize, or can’t pronounce; the less value that food typically has for you.

In other words, an apple is better than apple sauce, apple sauce is better than apple juice, apple juice with fiber is better than apple juice without fiber, and so on. What other ingredients get added to that apple sauce or juice also significantly impact the overall value. That can include sugar, preservatives, emulsifiers and much more.

The second tenet is eating as cleanly as possible. This includes trying to eat organic, non-GMO food where possible. Given the amount of food we do not prepare ourselves this can be difficult to control, but if you have the option to eat cleaner, try and make this positive choice where possible.

This leads to the third tenet, and that is preparing more of your own meals. Not only do you control what goes in to that meal, but you control how it’s prepared.

Not to mention that cooking can be great quality time with your partner or other family members. And what a joy to make and enjoy good food with and for your family or friends.

The third tenet of good nutrition is mindful eating. This means eating consciously (ideally not while watching TV or being on your phone), taking your time to truly chew and appreciate your food and paying attention to when you eat.

Just the act of slowing down and being conscious in your eating will lead to you eating less food and becoming more aware of what you’re eating.

The other aspects of mindful eating are when and where you eat. Your body has natural rhythms and eating within its active cycles makes sense. Eating late at night when your body is slowing down and looking to focus on rejuvenation, and not digestion, makes good sense and is supported by substantial science. With respect to where to eat, eating in front of the TV is obviously not as conducive to conversation and mindful eating as eating at the dinner table.

I am barely scratching the surface here. In a series of articles called “The Food Dilemma”, I attempt to address some of the conflicting nutritional advice we are besieged with on a daily basis, and make some sense of the multitude of strategies out there to help you get the most out of your food.

Exercise

The scientific and medical communities generally align on the benefits of regular exercise. This alignment is based on the insurmountable body of evidence supporting the case for moving your body regularly, with some degree of intensity. So if you’re a regular exerciser and feel you are gleaning the many benefits of an established fitness regime, you may want to skip this part. For those of you that struggle, or consider regular exercise elusive, here are a few of my thoughts.

Regardless of the undeniable benefits of exercise, they don’t make it any easier to subscribe to exercise if you haven’t found a form of exercise you enjoy or can sustain.

Having spent much of my career in the fitness and wellness industry, I have gained some insights from many successes and failures I have both championed and witnessed.

The best advice I can give anyone trying to begin an exercise routine is to keep it simple. The foundation of a sustainable exercise routine is finding activities you enjoy, or at least don’t hate; activities that are conveniently located and fit into your schedule.

For example, regardless of the touted benefits of running if you truly despise running, don’t run. Get creative and explore activities that you think might be fun, or that you could do with a friend. To me, walking is one of the simplest and most accessible forms of exercise, but doing it with a friend (or ‘man’s best friend’) will likely make it more fun and help you keep it up. Our daughter is not an ‘exerciser’, but she loves taking our dogs for a walk up our laneway and gets a great workout (they’re not particularly well behaved) in the process.

Again, I go deeper into exercise in a set of articles entitled “Baby Steps”.

The First Step Toward Mindful Leadership

These three foundational elements can help energize your mindfulness practice, set a great example for your team, and influence the way you lead. Caring and connecting with your team members also magnifies your ability to impact the growth and performance of your company as a mindful leader.

Creating that sense of caring and connection fundamentally requires you to be truly present in your interactions with your team and stakeholders.

Your presence in a conversation, meeting, or exchange, is palpable.

When you’re truly present in the interaction, connected visually and listening intently, you are far more capable of seeing the nuance, interpret the body language, and pick up on the subtle cues being projected.

Also people appreciate your true presence. They intrinsically, and cognitively, appreciate that you are listening, hearing and being present for them.

Often times I find myself getting distracted in an interaction with a team member and just like in meditation I need to bring my focus back. What has popped up on your screen, or that nagging thought about an outstanding task, pulls your attention away from the interaction. Like many driven leaders, I had selfishly convinced myself that I can split my attention between competing activities, but science would counter that notion.

Obviously, we are capable of doing two tasks at once; one of my favorite examples is ‘walking meetings’. But this involves two very different cognitive resources. When we are trying to simultaneously process words, for example in a conversation and on a screen, a bottleneck occurs and either or both areas of focus suffer.

Maintaining focus, or presence, is much like a muscle. You need to exercise it to make it stronger.

This is why Mindful Meditation is a foundational element of the mindful leader’s toolbox. Mindful Meditation involves having your thoughts focused on the present moment.

You can place your attention on your breath, or an object of thought. The critical thing to acknowledge is that you will lose focus, but when you drift off you need to bring your focus back to your breath, or the object of your attention, and build your ability to maintain this focus. Mindful Meditation is very different from Transcendental Meditation, which involves being aware, without an object of thought.

Cultivating this ability to focus will benefit you in your role as a leader and in your relationships with friends and family. As I have developed my meditation practice

I have found many benefits beyond the increased ability to focus. Meditation can also help you reduce stress and anxiety, improve your quality of sleep, improve memory, increase the regulation of emotion, and improve the ability to get perspective1.

Personally it has taken me a long time to fully appreciate the many benefits of a Mindful Meditation. With all the competing forces for our time, creating the discipline to establish a practice is tough. I have found the key is taking baby steps.

Grant Gamble Business Consulting | Blog | Mindful Leadership Practice | MeditationFind a time, first thing in the morning, or after the kids have gone to bed, or even on your lunch break, where you can take just a few minutes to shift your focus inward. You can build on those smaller increments of time and ideally increase your practice to ten, fifteen, or more minutes daily as your mindful muscle builds.

When developing your practice, you need a space where you won’t be interrupted and that’s free of distractions. Get comfortable, ideally sitting up, and focus initially on your posture. Good posture is fundamental to a solid practice. Imagine a force drawing your body up into its fullest height. Your shoulders are relaxed and eyes are soft, or closed.

I started my practice focusing on my breathing. It was an easy thing I could bring my attention to and I found that it helped dissolve stress when I breathed consciously and rhythmically. I have played with various lengths of breath in and out, for example a steady breath in for four slow counts, then a steady breath out for four slow counts. I have also tried breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth and varying the breath length.

There is no perfect formula, but I have benefited most from using Ujjayi Breath, which is used in Ashtanga and Vinyasa yoga practices. Ujjayi means “to conquer” or “to be victorious”.

I certainly feel it helps me conquer my restless mind. Ujjayi Breath is where you breathe through your nose and contract your throat to create resistance to the breath. Ujjayi Breath is often called “Ocean Breath” and when I feel I am doing it well it sounds like the rise and retreat of waves on a beach.

I believe starting with a Mindful Meditation practice is a great way to move towards more Mindful Leadership, while simultaneously improving your health and performance in many aspects of your life.

Mindful Leadership doesn’t necessarily start with Mindful Meditation, but this is one common denominator I have come to see as a foundation stone of the Mindful Leader.

Note: Read more on the journey toward Mindful Leadership in Grant’s eBook, “Next Steps Toward Mindful Leadership.”

1 “Mindfulness practice leads to increases in regional brain gray matter density.” Britta K. Hölzel: Psychiatry Res. 2011 Jan 30; 191(1): 36–43

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