This article was first published in the November edition of Media Pulse – Omnicom Media Group’s monthly highlights on relevant media insights, intelligence and trends.
It’s a mark of pride to multitask these days: checking email and brushing your teeth, scheduling appointments while on the road listening to radio, reading the news in between cooking dinner and talking to a friend. Multitasking—a mostly self-imposed effort to keep up with increased information flow—is a fact of life these days, as technology affords us unlimited access to data in real-time. But many studies argue that, because the brain cannot fully focus when multitasking, people take longer to complete tasks and are therefore predisposed to error, rapidly toggling between attention-grabbing tasks instead of simultaneously processing information. This results in a marked decrease in overall productivity—and an increase in stress.
That’s where Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) comes into play: MBSR is a health regimen developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center, which uses a combination of mindfulness meditation, body awareness, and yoga to help people become more mindful. Lest you think this sounds like a course on incense-burning, sweat-lodge-building, deep-chakra-breathing, know that The National Institutes of Health’s National Center for Alternative Medicine has provided a number of grants to research the efficacy of the MBSR program in promoting healing. Mindfulness even made the cover of a recent issue of Time Magazine, with a featured article titled, “The Mindful Revolution: The science of Finding Focus in a Stressed-Out, Multitasking Culture.”
Results of studies mentioned in the article indicated that MBSR was associated with improvements in mindful attention, emotion and wellbeing. Meditation practice was directly associated with greater improvement in mindful attention. Two-month follow-up results showed that MBSR resulted in improvements in moral reasoning and ethical decision-making, mindful attention, emotion, and well-being. So far, the research has proven meditation to be an effective, low-cost, side effect-free intervention that can reduce anxiety and depression, as well as lowering stress levels and boosting emotional well-being. Mindfulness has even been used in addiction treatment and has been shown to help smokers kick the habit; it’s also been incorporated into schools to spur scholastic achievement and used to assist with elderly patients undergoing palliative care.
Perhaps of most interest to marketers, however, is the MBSR’s prominence in the corporate world, including enhancements to workplace design, products and purchase power. Companies are now wielding a holistic approach to their office culture, with increased focus on the balancing of work and play. Look at Google’s on-the-job-perks, or at companies who have furnished their offices with amenities like sleep pods: these brands seamlessly blend private time and office duties. A recent Life At Home study has also commended Londoners as the most relaxed (and creative!) people out there because they accomplish more personal tasks in the morning prior to going to work at around 10am. As workers navigate increasingly entrepreneurial positions, they’re often given the opportunity to design their own schedules, and that customized leisure time in turn allows for enhanced productivity and creativity. So grab a pillow and start napping—it might just lead you to your next big breakthrough.