Executive Vitality™: Take a Deep Breath

Executive Vitality™: Take a Deep BreathFor years, executive leaders have been told that meditation and mindfulness are the keys—not to just our health—but also to focused and creative leadership. We have heard this message from McKinsey, NYU’s Stern School of Business, Google (“Search Inside Yourself” training program), Harvard Business Review and Harvard Medical School’s newsletter – to name a few sources.

Further, we have all been told that one easy route to doing meditation and mindfulness is through deep breathing.

According to the research, deep breathing has beneficial effects on our immune systems, our blood pressure, heart rates; it helps ward off depression, anxiety, migraines, irritable bowel; it can help reverse stress, contribute to longevity, and more. (See especially references 2 and 3 below.)

It is often true that what is good for you as an executive leader is also good for your organization.

Mindfulness in the organization, particularly through controlled or deep breathing, has been shown to have beneficial effects on resilience, capacity for collaboration, ability to lead in complex conditions, regulating emotions—aka composure, (reference #5 below); listening, emotional intelligence, clarity, focus (reference # 6 below); and accurate self-assessment, crisis management, handling stress (reference #4 below).

According to a study published in Science in March 31, 2017, we may now understand the connection between deep breathing and stress and its physiological outcomes. It is all about a specific set of neurons that control BOTH breath and stress reactions (see reference #1 for a summary.) They are calling this subpopulation of neurons the “breathing pacemaker.” True, this study was done in mice. But it would not be the first time, those little rodents helped us understand the human body or mind.

Further reading

For the science of deep breathing:

  1. National Public Radio – www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2017/03/30/522033368/a-tiny-spot-in-mouse-brains-may-explain-how-breathing-calms-the-mind
  2. Wall Street Journalwww.wsj.com/articles/breathing-for-your-better-health

For the “how to:”

  1. New York Timeswww.nytimes.com/2016/11/09/well/mind/breathe-exhale-repeat-the-benefits-of-controlled-breathing

For the benefits in the organization:

  1. Harvard Business Review – hbr.org/just-6-seconds-of-mindfulness-can-make-you-more-effective
  2. Harvard Business Review – hbr.org/2016/12/how-to-bring-mindfulness-to-your-companys-leadership
  3. Harvard Business Review – hbr.org/2015/12/why-nyus-b-school-teaches-mindfulness

Breathing is simple. We all do it every day. But are we doing it to our maximal benefit? Read some of these brief articles and give it a try.

Could someone in your organization benefit from better control of their emotions or temper? Are there times when you feel overwhelmed?

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