Politicians occasionally feel compelled to tell us how hard they're working (and how little they're sleeping), but is that a lifestyle that really positions them to make the wisest decisions and best represent their constituents? As practices like yoga and meditation are increasingly embraced by everyone from business leaders to pro athletes, many politicians are also reaping the benefits -- and some have been doing so quietly for many years.
That includes mayors, who are generally more popular and considered more effective than national representatives in Congress. Gallup polls reveal that for the past decade, Americans consistently have had a greater trust and confidence in their local government than their state or federal governments.
Here, four mayors from across the country share the wellness habits they’ve built and maintained in order to reduce stress, live healthier, become more effective leaders, and, especially, make better decisions in their high-pressure jobs.
Tom Henry, Mayor of Fort Wayne, Indiana
“I was going into the locker room at the local YMCA a few years ago, and a friend of mine who was coming out was about to go into yoga class. He convinced me to attend and I was hooked,” Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry told The Huffington Post. Henry now practices for half an hour every evening, although his movements have become somewhat limited since injuring his right thigh last year.
When asked if he has noticed a difference in his work mentality since starting the practice, Henry responded, “Undoubtedly, no question about it. The whole idea is to relax and go through these flowing movements, which helped relieve my stress. Before I had been very impatient. Now I approach things in a calmer fashion.”
Finding peace is especially necessary for a Democrat in Indiana. “After the fiasco with the state’s religious freedom law earlier this month, I needed a whole lot of positions to relax after that,” Henry said.
Betsy Price, Mayor of Fort Worth, Texas
“I do Pilates every Monday night, which is a great way for me to de-stress since the teacher doesn’t allow any talking. [It's] a nice break from a job that primarily involves talking,” Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price told HuffPost.
She says her practice helps her manage relationships better, citing as an example the main local issue when she was first elected in 2011: an overhaul of public pensions. “It was very contentious, and having been in meetings all day Monday, it was difficult to go to Pilates that night,” said Price. “Tuesday was the vote on the pensions themselves, which made it much easier to talk to and negotiate with council members to get something done.”
It’s easier on the family too. “When you go home, you’re not as likely to lash out at them,” explained Price, who will “sometimes close the door to my office and do yoga poses for a few minutes.” She added that she always does breathing exercises to calm down before her State of the City address every year, which takes place in front of several thousand people.
“It’s amazing what downward dog can do,” Price said.
Buddy Dyer, Mayor of Orlando, Florida
“I struggled with my weight for the better part of my adult life. It was a constant battle for me,” Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer told HuffPost. “Then a few years ago I led a trade mission to Israel. They eat well there and at the first dinner, we started with an appetizer which people thought was the entire meal. By the time I got back, I could not button my pants.” Over the course of the next several months, he lost and kept off 35 pounds by changing his diet and exercising. He added yoga and stretching to his daily routine.
“If you’re in public life, you go to two receptions and a dinner every night. It’s hard physically,” Dyer said, noting the importance of treating your body right. “For example, getting a good night’s rest. I’m 56 now. I recognize the importance of that far more than when I was 21.”
Ed Murray, Mayor of Seattle, Washington
“In college [at the University of Portland] in Oregon, I would regularly visit a Trappist monastery. I became very involved in using Zen meditation technique, Catholic prayer and the combination of the two,” Murray told The Huffington Post. He said he also was very influenced by the writings of Thomas Merton, an author who advocated interfaith dialogue, especially with Buddhism. “Now I meditate 20 to 25 minutes each day before work," he said.
“Never meditate expecting some benefit. It just exists for itself,” Murray said. He added that it gives him perspective in his day-to-day busy schedule. “When I’m [meditating] regularly, I feel far more centered. I’m calmer, I’m clearer, less frustrated.”