According to the Global Wellness Institute, the wellness industry currently generates $4.2 trillion in revenue annually and is growing at a rate of 6.4% per year. A wellness mindset is permeating the global consumer consciousness. And as people increasingly embrace wellness, it has become a dominant part of our lifestyle profoundly influencing consumer behavior and expectations. Whether it is choice of foods, a focus on mental wellness and reducing stress, incorporating movement into daily life, or creating more purposeful and meaningful connections, Wellness, for more people, is evolving from occasional to routine, from episodic to essential, from a luxury to a every day lifestyle value.
This trend has begun to influence tourism. “Now we find guests who are choosing their hotels, specific flight times, and destinations all based on improving their fitness levels — and creating a healthier experience — while away”, says Victoria Nickle, executive director of the California Health and Longevity Institute.
“Our hectic schedules and 24/7 mobile-focused lives are driving the need for self care and escapism”, said Bill Caswell, principal and hospitality practice leader at North Highland, a consultancy. Reacting to these demands, hotels have been upgrading fitness centers, providing outdoor nature areas including gardens where meeting attendees can escape for fresh air and a break from their ever-present smartphone screens. Other properties offer quiet zones, health-focused snacks, and unique in- room amenities.
The global meetings and events industry has also taken notice of the change in consumer expectations and is introducing wellness elements into their meetings. Some cost effective elements include more frequent breaks, mindfulness lounges, morning group fitness activities such as walking and yoga sessions, health conscious menus, and meditation offerings.
“We know from talking to our delegates and from attending other industry events that personal health and well-being can take a backseat during busy days on the show floor…. however, wellness elements are increasingly being incorporated into events — often in a big way.”, says Carina Bauer, CEO of the IMEX Group.
“When we all go to industry events or conferences….we need downtime…if we provide a white space moment, that will enhance how they take in that conference.” said Karla Bauman, director of event management at Experient, the global events company.
Does providing wellness offerings at meetings and events space deliver a return on investment? To answer this question we must first define how do senior executives and planners measure ROI for meetings.
It turns out that your ROI measurement approach depends on the type of meeting.
Confusing? Absolutely. However, hidden underneath these examples is hint of the real answer.
Therefore, if meeting professionals can leverage wellness initiatives to support focus, memory, learning, connections, innovation, and a sense of well being, then a tangible ROI is in reach. So, this begs the question, what specific wellness initiatives can do this?
The best way to answer this is to explore the science of human performance. Over the past decade, the neuroscience of peak performance has been widely researched with state of the art tools leading to multiple discoveries. Scientists have found that all humans are innately designed to do their best. However, optimal performance is dependent on your state of mind. The state of mind most closely correlated with optimal performance is called the “Flow State” or “Flow” for short.
Flow can be thought of as ‘being in the zone.’ It is when your brain is supercharged, your productivity is off the charts with seemingly little effort, and you are experiencing a heightened sense of well-being. Flow is the state of consciousness where focus, memory, learning, empathy, connectivity, and innovation are all optimized. The good news is that this state of being has a specific neurobiological footprint in the brain that can be measured and even more importantly, this footprint can be reproduced on demand with certain specific interventions.
The three primary areas of intervention that can move your attendees closer to the Flow State are mindfulness, movement, and the science of recovery. The following is an overview of each.
Mindfulness - is simply living in the present moment. So what about the “now” is so powerful? In this highly distracting, overly stressed environment the average human spends 70% of their time worrying about the future or obsessing about the past. This activates the stress response, which negatively affects your mindset. Living in the present moment reduces this stress response, and therefore, improves your state of mind. If you’re looking to have your attendees operating at peak performance, mindfulness will help your attendees reach the top of your game. Below are the four main benefits of introducing mindfulness at meetings:
Movement – When your body moves your brain grooves! Brain plasticity and cognitive function are significantly improved by physical activity. The significance of this association is even greater considering the sedentary behavior of our culture. In one study, a 20-min walk was connected to significant increases in neuroplasticity, working memory, and learning. Another study demonstrated that with only a 10 minute walk there was significant improvement in cognitive abilities.
Neuroplasticity is associated with the both the actual number as well as the connection strength between neurons. It is on this basis that we can explain why it is that exercise and physical activity positively increase cognitive–motor function. Of interest is the fact with physical activity it has been observed that brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) significantly increases. BDNF supports synaptogenesis in the basal forebrain and hippocampus, functions in areas fundamental to memory, learning, and thinking.
Science of Recovery – is based on the concept that in this overly distracting and highly stressed environment our body and mind needs to recharge through smart breaks, proper nutrition, and healthy sleep. Let’s take a brief look at all three.
First, creating the space for downtime increases productivity. Subject to heavy workloads and never-ending to-do lists, it’s easy to put our heads down and charge through tasks. But driving too hard without breaks can make us less productive and less focused.
Second, employing downtime unleashes attendee creativity and innovation. Jonah Lehrer has written for The New Yorker about the virtue of daydreaming, and in his book Imagine notes the necessity of downtime for problem solving, saying, “While it’s commonly assumed that the best way to solve a difficult problem is to relentlessly focus, this clenched state of mind comes with a hidden cost: it inhibits the sort of creative connections that lead to breakthroughs.”
Thirdly, downtime can dramatically improve your attendees’ mental and physical health as well as foster stronger relationships with coworkers.
A lack of sleep at night can make you cranky the next day. And over time, skimping on sleep can mess up more than just your morning mood. Studies show getting quality sleep can benefit us in many ways.
First, when running low on sleep, you'll probably have trouble holding onto and recalling details. That's because sleep plays a big part in both learning and memory. Without enough sleep, it's tough to focus and take in new information. Your brain also doesn't have enough time to properly store memories so you can pull them up later. A proper night’s sleep helps your attendees to think clearly, remember information, and make decisions.
Second, sleep feeds creativity, synthesizes new ideas, and leads you to “ah ha” moments. Research shows that we need good sleep to feed our high-level, innovative thinking and problem solving abilities.
Third, another thing that your brain does while you sleep is process your emotions. When you cut that short, you tend to have more negative emotional reactions and fewer positive ones. Healthy sleep improves your mood, teamwork, and a sense of trust.
Forth, lack of sleep changes the way your immune cells work. They may not attack as quickly, increasing the chance of you getting sick.
Finally, a good nights rest increases your energy level and a lack of sleep keeps you from recovering leaving you with a worn-out feeling
When planners ask whether introducing “wellness” into meetings will deliver an ROI, the answer is it depends. If you choose “wellness” interventions that move the attendees’ mindset closer to the Flow State, then the answer is yes. Because when your attendee’s mindset moves toward the Flow State, they have a greater capacity for learning, collaboration, innovation, and inspiration – all the ingredients necessary for a successful meeting.
As corporations continue to invest in the well-being and development of their employees – meeting professionals interested in a true competitive advantage must start with the brain. By leveraging the neuroscience of human performance for their meetings, they will foster a growth mindset and create meaningful and memorable experiences.