Last week, 12 Thai boys and their soccer coach, who had been trapped in a cave for more than two weeks, were rescued one-by-one by Thai Navy SEALs. When they were first discovered by British divers, they were reportedly meditating. The widely shared video of the moment the boys were found below went viral because so many people were shocked by how calm they were. A mother of one of the boys put it best: “Look at how calm they were sitting there waiting. No one was crying or anything. It was astonishing.” Fortunately, Ekapol Chanthawong, the team’s coach, trained in meditation as a Buddhist monk for a decade before turning to soccer. Chanthawong taught the boys, ages 11 to 16, to meditate in the cave to keep them calm and preserve their energy through their two-week ordeal. Prior to their rescue, each did an hour of meditation with the coach.
So why is this story on an employee wellness blog? Great question. As many employers are realizing, meditation is a useful practice in stressful situations. Since being trapped in a flooded cave may be one of the most stressful situations that anyone, especially children, could be exposed to, its effectiveness in this story provides a compelling argument to include the practice as part of a wholistic employee wellness program. In addition to providing a highly demanded benefit that employees want, meditation resources can directly impact the health and performance of employees.
If the heroic story of the soccer team is not enough, scientific research has shown in clinical settings that mindfulness meditation can reduce anxiety and depression as well as pain. Specifically, a study from researchers at the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality found that meditation, and in particular mindfulness, can have a role in treating depression, anxiety, and pain in adults. In fact, the study found that mindful meditation can be as effective as medications (and with no side effects).
According to the 2018 Wellness Industry Report from Wellable, 57% of employers are investing more in mindfulness and mediation programs and 30% are investing the same, highlighting the growth in demand from employee and employers for these types of wellness solutions. Large employers (1,000+ employees) are more likely to invest more, with 80% planning to do so, but stories similar to the soccer team will increase investment by small and medium employers. Although research suggests employers should invest in these types of programs, it is often stories about being trapped in a cave that bring the practice to the mainstream. Whatever the rationale, employers looking to build and support high performing teams need to add mindfulness and meditation to their wellness benefits.