NEW YORK -- For today's high-powered, high-stressed professionals, short moments of "purposeful pause" can lead to a more balanced, healthier life, a panel of experts told the audience at "The Third Metric: Redefining Success Beyond Money & Power," conference Thursday.
Speaking during a discussion on the "mind/body connection" moderated by television talk show host Katie Couric, a panel including a physician, a former corporate lawyer-turned-mindfulness teacher, and a psychologist and celebrity mental health scholar, explained how well-being, stress and emotion regulation, and physical health are connected
"Simply notice that you are breathing," Janice Marturano, founder and executive director of the Institute for Mindful Leadership, told audience members, guiding them in a short meditation exercise to explain how being "in the moment" can reduce stress and create better workplace relationships. "Simply notice the place in your body where you feel the sensation ... as the breath enters and leaves the body."
Simple acts like meditative breathing exercises, which can be traced to Vipassana Buddhist practice, don't only reduce stress, but have proven physiological benefits, said Mark Hyman, a physician who founded the UltraWellness Center in Lenox, Mass.
"If you really knew what was happening to you when you're stressed, you would freak out. It's not pretty," said Hyman, noting that increased stress leads to weight gain, decreased testosterone in men and more "bad" cholesterol.
Meditation and mindfulness techniques, meanwhile, have been proven to lead to decreased stress and better health, Hyman and other panelists noted. "Stress, it's automatic, it finds you, you don't have to go find it," Hyman said. "The problem with relaxation and mindfulness is that it's hard work."
Donna Rockwell, psychologist and celebrity mental health expert, said one reason meditation is effective is because it rewires the mind.
"What mindfulness practice does is it trains the mind ... to return to the present moment," Rockwell said. Without effort, though, "it's impossible to stay in the present moment."
While each panelist first encountered meditation through Buddhism or Hinduism, Rockwell cautioned that understanding the mind/body connection doesn't mean practicing a new faith.
"It doesn't really have to do anything with religion. It just has to do with quieting the busy mind," she said.
The panelists agreed that the immense growth of mindfulness practices in the workplace, including breathing, meditation and yoga classes and in-house trainings like those offered by Marturano's organization, is a sign of a wider cultural acceptance of what was rare in America not long ago.
General Mills, where Marturano formerly worked, has been recognized for using yoga and meditation at its headquarters in Minneapolis. (Marturano founded the wellness programs when she was an employee). She said developing "mindful leadership," an area in which the company focuses, is also good for the bottom line; happier, less-stressed executives lead healthier and more productive workers.
Couric, who is a single parent to two children, said she has been interested in trying to meditate, but can't find the time. After the conference, though, she said she felt more optimistic about giving it a try.
She also had some advice for the audience, learned from her own experiences: "If we took a little more time to be in the moment and talk about real things, our life would be so much better," she said.
"If you don't think it impacts work and entertainment and media, then you are kidding yourself."
"If you don't have an introspective practice, I don't know how you'll be a successful leader."
"It does take bravery. It takes courage."
"It's about humbling myself and asking what can I learn from others."
"What is your internal drive to have change? Why are you asking permission?"
"As a recovering celebrity, I was for a long time pursuing what the American dream embodied ... that make it seem like you have it all."
Adrian Grenier describes himself as a "recovering celebrity." #thirdmetric— Lori Leibovich (@lorileibovich) June 6, 2013
Mika: Ever heard a guy called a "working man" (like "working woman")? Genders in this together, but dealing with diff. probs. #thirdmetric— Pilar Gerasimo(@pgerasimo) June 6, 2013
"I would like to know how many women in this room work for CEOs that are this advanced?"
"Look, we need to make a new world, a new world that works for all of us."
"The men I know are just as concerned about being caught up in money and life... We want the same opportunities to define a life of meaning and service."
"We men want in so thank you for inviting us to this conference."
NEW YORK -- Sallie Krawcheck was one of the most powerful women on Wall Street until she became a casualty of the post-financial crisis shakeup at Bank of America. But Krawcheck doesn’t lament her fall. Instead she was “grateful,” the former executive told the audience Thursday at the Third Metric Conference hosted by Arianna Huffington and Mika Brzezinski.
“I got grateful when I got fired,” Krawcheck said. “I said ‘how many people get to get fired and it’s on the front page of The Wall Street Journal?’”
"I'm actually looking for a wife."
Moderated by Mika Brzezinski, this discussion will feature artist and writer Brian Andreas, Harvard Business School professor Bill George, actor Adrian Grenier, Rep. Tim Ryan, "Morning Joe" host Joe Scarborough, and Mediabrands CEO Matt Seiler.
"My mom taught me to have standards but not expectations."
"I'm such a believer that the world sees you the way you see yourself."
"I know now that I can't go out into the world and help someone else unless I'm taking care of myself."