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Why neuroscientist Tara Swart recommends 12 minutes of mindfulness a day

Lara O'Reilly
Executive Producer

Company leaders should promote work-life balance by practising what they preach, according the renowned neuroscientist and leadership coach Dr Tara Swart.

Swart told Yahoo Finance UK’s Global Change Agents with Lianna Brinded show that a positive work-life balance had to be promoted “from the top” for it filter through to an organisation.

In a wide-ranging interview, she said it was disappointing many leaders still say they only sleep five hours a night or stay in the office until 11pm, but highlighted even small doses of mindfulness as one step to better wellbeing. (You can watch the full interview here.)

“I think people have to take stock and think about what it’s doing to their body and their emotional health, and if the price is too high, then you might need to think about doing something else,” the  leadership coach said.

Swart said people tend to be more efficient when they take breaks and even digital detoxes, rather than working relentlessly to get the job done.

She said even a short mindfulness session could make a huge difference to time-strapped leaders and their staff.

“With things like mindfulness, the science says just 12 minutes most days of the week makes a real difference,” Swart said. “So that’s one thing I highly recommend to everyone.”

Dr Tara Swart (right) appeared on Yahoo Finance UK’s Global Change Agents with Lianna Brinded. Photo: Yahoo Finance UK

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For example, psychology professor Dr Amishi Jha found 12 minutes of meditation a day helped the US marines maintain their attention and stabilise their working memory. There was no benefit if the marines practiced meditation for less than 12 minutes a day, or did none at all, the study found.

Swart said she even practises mindfulness meditation while traveling on the tube. “That’s the one you can do in your dead time and it makes such a massive difference physically to your brain and to the hormones in your body,” Swart added later on in the interview.

A body scan is one simple mindfulness exercise Swart recommends in her new book, The Source.

The technique involves sitting comfortably in a chair, closing your eyes and breathing slowly, then bringing attention to different parts of your body — starting with the feet and working your way upwards — and noticing how they feel against the chair or floor.

Global Change Agents with Lianna Brinded is a new premium video series from Yahoo Finance UK. The show explores the stories of some of the most inspirational women across business, tech, and academia. Catch up on all the latest episodes here.