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Dr. Steven Laureys is an award-winning neurologist, scientist and author. He is known worldwide for his pioneering research into human consciousness. He has authored more than 600 scientific papers, heads the GIGA Consciousness Research Unit at the University of Liège and is co-founder of the Mind Care International Foundation. He currently lives part of the time in Canada where he is a professor at the CERVO Brain Centre.
Dr. Laureys is undoubtedly a promoter of complementary medicine and sustainable mental well-being. In his international bestseller, ‘The no-nonsense meditation book’, he gives a unique insight into his research with monks. In addition, together with his wife Vanessa, a psychologist and mindfulness coach, he wrote ‘Zacht’, the no-nonsense meditation book for children. As a keynote speaker at HRtech, he will give his scientific view on the power of meditation and the power of our mind.
Dr. Laureys, from where does your fascination with complementary medicine and, more specifically, meditation, come from?
In today’s hyper-connected society, a tremendous amount of things fall on us. We are busy doing 101 things at once and often opt for a quick fix, even when we feel down. The challenge for doctors today, therefore, is not just to prescribe medication, but also to get patients to connect with their emotional needs and the needs of others.
Today, neurotechnology allows us to better understand the power of the human brain. Thanks to brain scans and the latest technologies to measure brain activity, we are able to collect a lot of information. We then try to translate that knowledge into a personal and professional context. Not only for medicine, but also for every individual, it is interesting to better understand techniques like meditation.
In fact, the impact of our lifestyle habits cannot be underestimated when we talk about our mental well-being. Meditation, adequate sleep, healthy eating, regular physical activity and so on are important in order to feel happy. It is common sense and it is about time companies embrace it as a valuable practice to boost the employee experience.
What does meditation mean to you?
Meditation is an ancient practice often mentioned in the same breath as Eastern culture. Although it is more than that. It is a universal practice where, simply put, you pay attention to what is happening between your two ears. What am I thinking? What am I feeling? What am I experiencing? It is a simple and effective way of being in the moment and dealing with our permanent stream of thoughts.
Contrary to what a lot of people think, you do not have to sit on a cushion for twenty minutes. There are lots of informal ways to get started with meditation. Often we set the bar high and expect quick results while you can also meditate perfectly during daily activities such as emptying the dishwasher, waiting for the lift or while exercising.
Moreover, technology is helping us discover meditation today. Apps like Headspace and Petit Bambou help you get started.
How can meditation be applied in a business environment?
Each individual employee has his or her specific challenges and needs, and meditation makes it possible to respond to these. Although it is important that this is supported from above. In other words: lead by example. You cannot promote meditation as CEO if you yourself are running around like a headless chicken.
As an employer, you need to believe in the power of the mind and encourage a culture where time for yourself is accepted. Often, employees only start meditating when it is too late. As a company, you can take your responsibility by investing in a qualitative work environment where there is room for mindful moments. Think, for example, of spaces where employees can meditate, exercise or practise yoga.
What are the benefits of those mindful moments for employers?
Mindful moments are a win-win. Studies show that employees become more assertive and indicate their boundaries more clearly. This helps them to sound the alarm when necessary, and that allows employers to better anticipate employee retention and promote internal mobility. Not unimportant in today’s tight labour market.
Moreover, meditation improves focus and a happier mindset, stimulates creativity and empathy and helps you reconnect to your emotional needs and ethical values. All of these go hand in hand with higher productivity and bring a host of other benefits. So, there is definitely a return on investment. Both for the employee and the employer. Studies show the benefits of meditation in writing, and the signs from the business community regarding starting this practice are promising