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Over the last few years, mindfulness has been big news. Entrepreneurs such as the CEO Tony Schwartz and businesswoman Arianna Huffington have used the practice to hone their leadership skills and improve their productivity, and it seems that the benefits of mindfulness are being felt across the corporate world.

With such great results for these inspirational characters, it’s no surprise that aspiring business leaders want to tap into the potential of mindfulness to improve their productivity and reduce their stress.

However, while it can be a very effective method of meditation for some people, for others mindfulness feels inaccessible. If you’re having difficulty engaging with this approach it can put you off the idea of “corporate wellbeing” altogether – which would be a shame considering meditation’s proven benefits.

The working world can be a stressful place, and when choosing to strike out on your own with business it becomes even more so. Furthermore, if you lead a team of staff, you may have looked into corporate mindfulness programs as a way of improving stress levels, avoiding burnout and reducing sick days within your company – especially as more young people than ever are living with anxiety or other mental health problems.

As mindfulness has dominated the conversation around meditation for a while now, many people think that “mindfulness” and “meditation” are one and the same thing. Yet there’s actually a wide variety of meditative techniques, and if you find mindfulness too challenging there are other options you can try.

So, what is mindfulness?

Mindfulness teaches people to pay attention to the present moment, usually through attempts to increase awareness of our thoughts, feelings and breathing. For example, you may be encouraged to concentrate on the things you usually take for granted, such as the touch of clothes on your skin and sensation of drawing breath into your lungs. This should quieten your mind and help you live in the moment, rather than worrying about a bad decision you made yesterday, or the deadline you have next week.

Why do some of us find it difficult?

Mindfulness can be a challenge because our minds really just don’t want to stop chatting. The part of our brain which is associated with mind wandering and spontaneous thought has been shown in scans to never switch off – and as imagining worst-case scenarios was advantageous in our evolutionary history, we are unfortunately skewed towards negativity. If we have nothing to worry about, our brains will invent something, so directing our attention to just being “present and aware” is something many people find incredibly difficult.

Much of mindfulness depends on a conscious, concerted effort, and as a particularly freeform method of meditation, there’s little structure or plan for the future. Although it can be a great way to introduce people to meditation, they often don’t know where to go from there. What should you do if, after a couple of months, you aren’t feeling the benefit? Is there something else you can suggest should your staff not be responding well to the technique?

For some mindfulness is the perfect meditative practice, and it transforms their lives. But this doesn’t mean that if you – or your business – can’t get on with mindfulness that you need to give up on meditation altogether; there are plenty of alternatives out there.

What to do if mindfulness hasn’t worked

The most important thing, if mindfulness hasn’t worked for your business, is not to reject the idea of corporate wellbeing entirely. It doesn’t mean that you are locked out of meditation and all its benefits forever; you just need to find something that suits you better.

The first step is doing plenty of research. Look into yoga, Loving Kindness meditation, Transcendental Meditation, Vedic, and any number of meditative practices. They all have their own advantages (for example, you may prefer Yogic methods if you are a generally active person, or your business is in the fitness sphere), and one is bound to appeal to you.

If you find out what meditation centers are near you, you can pop along to as many beginners classes/talks as you can manage. You may prefer the teacher in one, or the atmosphere in another. You should also look into the teachers you find – some are vastly more experienced than others, and their experience with meditation in a corporate setting can vary significantly.

If you’re having trouble engaging with mindfulness, it may be that it’s “open-monitoring” techniques like mindfulness that don’t work for you, or members of your staff. You may get on much better with “focused-attention” meditation, where you have something defined to concentrate on – such as a mantra. If you find the right fit with meditation, it could become an important part of your life and business, and something that helps your organisation immeasurably.

How meditation helps startups

There’s plenty of reasons why entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs, Oprah and even Rupert Murdoch extol the virtues of meditation. Meditation has been shown in self-reported assessments, brain scans and hormone analysis to profoundly reduce stress, which in large doses impedes our creativity, suppresses our immune systems and leaves us vulnerable to burnout.

This means that even if meditation hadn’t also been shown to boost our levels of productivity, improve our focus and concentration, and give us a better memory, its influence on our wellbeing alone makes it worth pursuing. Take the time to do your research and introduce meditation into your business, and it may well contribute to your future success and happiness – both in and out of work.