Mindfulness is an important part of any leadership practice. Today, I want to share a mindfulness technique that I’ve adopted from an unusual source.
Thanks to my amazing wife and this incredible sleep training resource, our boys have been reliably good sleepers. Generally they sleep from about 6:30pm to 6:45am. While that schedule has involved some sacrifice over the years, my wife and I both feel that it has been worth it.
My younger son recently turned one and has had trouble falling asleep on his own. So I turned to the internet for help and found a method that has worked well for my son called the 5-8-1 method.
The 5-8-1 Method for Infant Sleep
The 5-8-1 Method works like this: When it’s time for my son to sleep for the night or nap, I hold him while standing and move for 5 minutes. During this time, I rock him in my arms or pace around his room. Even if he cries or fusses, I just keep moving. Then, I sit down and hold him, sometimes rocking him in our glider (which is incidentally so comfortable, we bought a second one) for 8 minutes. Finally, I stand up and put him gently in his crib. He almost always rolls over on his own and then I gently rub his back for 1 minute.
When I finish and leave the room, he is almost always sound asleep. While 5-8-1 hasn’t worked 100% of the time, it has worked close to that, around 90% of the time.
In addition to helping my son sleep, 5-8-1 has also given me 14 minutes of interrupted thought, which is hard to come by. Since I am holding my son, I can’t check my phone or respond to messages. I can’t scroll the internet. I can’t read an article.
Over time, I found that I really loved those 14 minutes. Not only do I get uninterrupted time to appreciate my son, but I also get uninterrupted time to re-set and re-center.
Adapting 5-8-1 To Busy Leaders
I’ve started experimenting with a 5-8-1 mindfulness technique for leaders to use during stressful days and have found it to be both therapeutic and helpful. After doing this adapted technique, I have found myself to be more productive and able to plan my next steps from a place of calm rather than a place of stress.
The mindfulness technique works like this:
- 5 minutes doing some physical movement
- 8 minutes of meditation
- 1 minute of deep breathing
I found the combination of physical movement along with meditation close together to be part of the secret to the positive impact of this mindfulness technique.
Mindfulness Resources for 5-8-1
In the graphic above, you can see resources for each stage of the 5-8-1 mindfulness technique. Here they are with links to make it easier for you to try 5-8-1 for yourself.
5 Minutes of Physical Movement
- Go for a walk – The benefits of walking are well documented. I have found it to be one of the best ways to clear my mind. For an added benefit, try walking in a setting with a lot of trees. Some physicians are now prescribing “Forest Bathing” to take advantage of research that proves that spending time around trees and looking at trees reduces stress, lowers blood pressure, and improves mood.
- Walk the stairs – If you work in an office building, a treelined path may not be accessible. Walking through rows of cubicles may also be frowned upon. In those cases, you can usually walk the stairs in your building in private or with minimal disruption.
- Stretch – The Mayo clinic offers a guide to stretches you can do at the office. Especially if you spend most of your day sitting, mix in some of these stretches to your 5 minute movement plan.
- Yoga Poses – The Cleveland Clinic has a resource sharing 12 yoga poses you can do in the office.
8 Minutes of Mindfulness Meditation
- Calm app – The Calm app has a daily meditation that I have been doing for the last several months called The Daily Trip with Jeff Warren. Most of them happen to run around eight minutes. The Calm app does require a subscription.
- Peloton app – Peloton is best known for its bike and treadmill. However, Peloton also offers an app that includes various workouts including 5 and 10 minute meditations. Get 60 days free use of the app with this link.
- UCLA Mindfulness app – UCLA offers a free meditation app that is quite good. You can download it from either the iOS or Android app store.
- Deepak Chopra Affirmations – This is a personal favorite. The linked album from Deepak Chopra offers affirmations for each letter of the alphabet. Listening to two in a row will also take approximately 8 minutes.
1 Minute of Deep Breathing
- Box breathing at a 4 count – This is a helpful breathing technique that works like this:
- Breathe out slowly, releasing all the air from your lungs.
- Breathe in through your nose as you slowly count to four in your head. Be conscious of how the air fills your lungs and stomach.
- Hold your breath for a count of four.
- Exhale for another count of four.
- Hold your breath again for a count of four.
- Repeat for three to four rounds.
- Calm app – The calm app has breathing exercises as well that you could do for a minute.
- Apple watch – The Apple watch has a “Mindfulness” app that includes short guided breathing exercises using the watch’s haptics so you can keep you eyes closed.
Of course, you can also use any of your own resources to meditate. These are just some resources you can use to get started. The most important thing is not which app you use but to try to 5-8-1 mindfulness technique.
The Benefits of Mindfulness for Leaders
There are an increasing number of academic studies validating the connection between mindfulness and positive leadership.
One such study, published in the journal “Mindfulness”, found that mindfulness was positively associated with employee well-being and performance. The study also found that mindfulness was mediated by emotional intelligence, which suggests that mindfulness helps leaders to better understand and regulate their emotions, which in turn leads to better employee well-being and performance.
More and more leaders are adding mindfulness to their leadership practice because of its benefits to both the leader and teams. I have meditated with my teams in the past and found the results to be positive.
The 5-8-1 Mindfulness Technique is now in your toolbox to use in your leadership practice.
Mindfulness is essential for leaders. In this post, I introduces a mindfulness technique called the 5-8-1 method. The method involves 5 minutes of physical movement, 8 minutes of meditation, and 1 minute of deep breathing.
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