Employers often provide fitness incentives to employees for the positive benefits of exercise and being active. Standard gyms and fitness programs often lack a critical component which can be very important in a workplace setting – mindfulness training. While certain activities such as yoga have more of a focus in this area, they still tend to come up short in improving workplace situations especially where conflict is involved.

Mindfulness can be interpreted in many ways. However, there are some key elements and focus areas which translate to soft transferable skills applicable to teams and workplaces

  1. Conflict – often exacerbated by an exchange of uncontrolled emotionally-driven responses can destroy productivity and morale. Mindfulness training helps individuals get in touch with the source of conflict in themselves, so they are able to better recognize it and understand the impacts on their emotional state. This eventually cultivates empathy and understanding, leading to better team dynamics.
  2. ‘Workplace personality’ vs ‘real personality’ – when we are subjected to external pressures and expectations we tend to focus on how people perceive us. This leads to putting up barriers shielding others of our true nature, feelings and behaviours. This internal conflict creates stress and anxiety. Mindfulness combined with fitness, especially in a group setting, can help remove these barriers by normalizing vulnerability and becoming comfortable with your true nature.
  3. Fear, Intimidation and Anger – Fear and intimidation lead to anger, which leads to conflict. Separating ‘intensity’ from ‘anger’ can help reduce fear and lead to productive debates and negotiations without risking a collapse into a ‘fight or flight’ situation. Since these are visceral feelings coming from deep within yourself, the only way to truly separate them is to feel them through physical fitness activities and use mindfulness to create that divide in your mind.
  4. Motivation – Whether working from home, or in the office it’s always a struggle to remain motivated. We often rely on external stimulation to keep us going, and that leaves us susceptible to distractions. Fitness combined with mindfulness requires an intense level of focus that helps to wean our brains off external stimulus. It teaches us how to retake control of our attention and create motivation from within, even when we don’t feel like it.
  5. Hormones, cortisol, endorphins – the ultimate downward spiral where high cortisol resulting from stress leads to more irritability, mental and physical stress, depression, weight gain, loss of energy, physical illness etc. The regulation of body systems is not purely physical and it’s not purely mental. The brain and body work together to maintain optimal health, and this means the best way to improve your well-being is through a system combining both aspects.

Mindfulness should be a major focus of any robust and holistic exercise program, especially when it comes to corporate employee programs. Mindful fitness can build up an individual from the inside out and give them a stronger foundation, allowing them more control over their emotions, more empathy and sensitivity towards others, and the ability to motivate themselves without the need for external stimulation.

There will always be conflict in the workplace, and there will always be pressure and stress. A well-functioning team is made up of people who are able to manage these effectively and in a healthy way.

Alex Senson is the founder of SparX Fitness Training Inc. and is running a two-session fitness workshop demonstrating the SparX mindful fitness approach on September 13 and 20 on Zoom, in collaboration with CMAC Dapo. You can register here

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