The Importance of Mindfulness

Mindfulness. Every business is adopting it, from Apple to NHs and the General Mills. Even Google includes mindfulness principles in their Search Inside Yourself classes.

 

So, what is mindfulness? At the most elementary level, mindfulness means awareness. It involves being profoundly conscious of your surroundings – only observing things as they are. When we are mindful, we are alert of the present and more available to respond to others. Even though its origin is associated with the Buddhist tradition, you do not have to be Buddhist to realise its benefits.

Many people immediately associate mindfulness with insight meditation, which usually starts by focusing on breathing patterns. When your mind wanders, take note of where it goes, to a stressful conversation, for instance, then try bringing it back to your present. Do not focus on resisting your mind’s natural urge to wander, but train it to return to the present. By being one with your body, you centre yourself at the moment and learn how to be mindful at all times

Antidote vector

Interest in mindfulness is growing rapidly because people are looking for ways to cope with challenges, complications and ambiguity in their lives. With mental health problems on the rise and stress topping the list of reasons for long-term absence, people are turning to mindfulness as an antidote to all the multitasking, thinking and struggling. Mindfulness practices result in improved concentration, stress reduction, effective communication and overall health improvement.

Mindfulness at Work

In today’s economic climate, individuals operate in a perpetual work atmosphere with increasingly extra pressure to do more. At the same time, managers are striving to be principally dynamic and realistic. Organisation databases can help cultivate diverse skills, but there are some values that essentially come from the individuals. These qualities can be referred to as states of being – alertness, awareness, positivity, attentiveness or open-mindedness. One particular state of being that is being embraced by organisations, as a distinctive organisational value, is mindfulness.

Creativity ImageMindfulness is known to help people become more active, clear, imaginative and less resistant to change. It gives them the time to pause and reflect on decisions. At all times, mindfulness helps people choose to adjust and calm down so that the right action can be taken. It allows them to heed the small inner voice that is often diluted by feelings and opinions.

 

This yields self-awareness, greater empathy for self, energy management, better listening skills, strong engagement with others and adaptation to change among many other benefits. Mindfulness can improve the work environment in elegant and distinct ways making it a promising ground for positive change.

Each morning we are born again. What we do today is what matters the most.

— Buddha

How To Instill Mindfulness in the Workplace

Work Break imageAt the workplace, encouraging employees to take a break and focus on the present may seem counterproductive to organisational goals at first. However, research studies have shown that mindfulness activities boost an employee’s rational thinking ability. These benefits lead to high employee productivity and increased ability to focus on a given task. A reduction in absenteeism levels is another direct benefit of mindfulness. According to experts, the leading cause of workplace absenteeism is stress. And a high degree of stress is not a pleasant experience, so any way of managing stress is readily welcome.

Employees can learn to be mindful again instead of experiencing every moment under a stream of thoughts. They can be taught how to focus on the present to become alert moment by moment. This can be achieved through integrating purposeful breaks into their daily lives. Employers can also create a culture of mindfulness at the workplace by doing the following:

coffee-break

Encouraging employees to take periodic breaks for mindfulness activities every 2 or so hours. This may include walking or eating to relieve stress.

weightlifting

Integrating mindfulness principles into corporate initiatives, employee training, and stress management programs.

yoga

Setting aside a peaceful place where employees can go to meditate or take time off their hectic demands in the work environment.

communication

Constantly encouraging employees to do one task at a time and emphasising on the positive reimbursements of mindfulness activities at the workplace through regular communication could positively impact employee awareness and morale in the long run.

How to Use Mindfulness at Work

Your opinion mattersPeople have devised ways to manage the constant inducement to preserve the upright state of their minds at the workplace. This type of mindfulness could be better defined as a state where the brain is persistently collecting data from external and internal worlds to gain a better sense of the present. Attention is a limited reserve and every so often comes at the expense of another thing. Because there is the need to perform things consistently, we need to learn to apply our attention to doing the things that matter most first.

In the Morning

Begin the day mindfully. When you arrive at work, you can do a full meditation such as a slow stretch or a formal sitting meditation. Alternatively, you can simply sit up and feel the gentle flow of your own breath or connect with the peace of the quiet morning environment. You could also practise tuning your senses to bond with the surrounding and see what effect that has on your general awareness.

free mindDuring the Course of the Day

It can be easy to get carried away by the tough schedules at work and forget to be mindful of what you are doing. You can practise doing a mini meditation at set times or in between activities. If you are not comfortable with the rigidity of having to plan everything, just practise mindfulness whenever the thought crosses your mind.

At the End of the Day

It can sometimes be difficult to let go of work at the end of the day. You may find spending a lot of time talking touchingly about superiors or colleagues or trying to finish up on pending assignments. This has an adverse effect on energy levels and can easily be transferred to the next day. To let go successfully, try finding an activity or a hobby that enables your body to settle and allow the mindfulness to calm you down.

Surrender to what is. Let go of what was. Have faith in what will be.

— Sonia Ricotte

Benefits of Mindfulness at the Workplace

mirabai bush portraitMirabai Bush, a mindfulness expert famous for introducing the concept to Google, explains how installing a culture of mindfulness activities at the workplace works. She says that mindfulness cannot prevent conflict from arising, but when any difficult issue comes up, it is more likely to be handled skillfully by the group. Gradually, with mindfulness people cultivate inner resources that can help them traverse through challenging and demanding circumstances with more ease.

For one thing, mindfulness practices tap into one of the most vital resources in any organisation — attention. If employees can learn how to harness and improve the quality of their own attention, the whole team will benefit. It is, therefore, crucial for employers to inculcate a work culture that values this resource. Here arefive ways in which mindfulness can help you improve performance at the workplace.

Focus imageImproved Focus

Experts have proven that mindfulness has a huge effect on the part of the brain responsible for self-regulation. Even a short period of meditation directly affects the brain shifting it in ways that have a positive impact on attention, focus and memory. Meditation helps to increase grey matter in brain regions involved in self-referential processing, emotion regulation and learning. This enhanced capacity for self-regulation goes a long way in helping one avoid productivity robbing activities.

Emotional Intelligence

Mindfulness is the kind of ability that ripples out into one’s entire system. When you leverage enhanced awareness, you are going to be a better asset to the organisation. This is because mindfulness boosts brain functions. If you are in the habit of performing it on a regular basis, you are more likely to be productive in the workplace. Mindfulness is one of the biggest foundations to building a productive and creative workforce.

OMG StressReduced Stress

Think of mindfulness as a good filter for your mind. With mindfulness, you will be straining out all types of pressure. Stress is an addiction that is most often brought about by work. Most people do not know how to deal with stress. In fact, stress is the primary cause of truancy in most organisations. With some very simple mindfulness practices  — like closing your eyes and breathing in and out — you can successfully stop the adverse effects of stress on your body, brain and overall work performance.

Enhanced Memory

The same way stress is contagious and tends to shut down all parts of the brain, mindfulness does the exact opposite. It helps employees develop cognitive thinking ability thus enabling them to become more aware of the present and make better judgments. Mindfulness impacts the brain in ways that enhance the mind and allows people to be more precise and original. This has a positive influence on memory leading to heightened productivity levels in the workplace.

critical thinkingEmbrace Criticism

It is not every day that we see people assent criticism with elegance. Negative feedback is one of the worst experiences one can have at work. And research studies show that poorly delivered or received criticism can cripple productivity. But with a simple habit of mindfulness, you can quickly gain control of your emotions and respond positively. By mindfully listening and taking control of your response, you can overcome any undesirable counter response.

Why Companies Are Embracing Mindfulness

In the ever-changing world, innovators are increasingly turning towards mindfulness and meditation to cope with the ever-demanding work environment. Employees at firms such as Google and General Mills come together at conferences to learn about the latest mindfulness practices and techniques. Mindfulness techniques are now being adopted by many companies due to its incredible impact on employees.

There are a few reasons for why mindfulness has become popular. First, unlike ten years ago, companies now have access to an enormous body of research pointing to the practical benefits of mindfulness. Secondly, there is a loosening up of social customs in which things like yoga and meditation are not as foreign as they used to be. Finally, the ever-demanding work environment has made mindfulness more essential than ever before. Here are a few examples of companies that have instilled a culture of mindfulness at the workplace.

Google

Every year, thousands of employees take Chade Meng Tan’s Search Inside Yourself classes. Chade has been successful at convincing the techies at Google to completely embrace mindfulness practices by explaining the science behind them. This is made possible through video conference training sessions geared towards teaching mindfulness as inspired by Jon Kabat- Zinn. The enormous accomplishments of the initiative are clear – Google is now one of the highest rated employers in the world.

General Mills

After a 7-week mindfulness and meditation program at General Mills, a large percentage of employees attested to higher productivity levels while senior executives reported improved decision-making processes. The reimbursements of the practice have seen the company grow at an alarming rate. The Leadership Excellence magazine ranked General Mills the top company for developing leaders in 2011.

Apple

Steve Jobs had always been on the forefront promoting meditation practices at Apple. Jobs was always passionate about mindfulness and wanted to infuse the spirit to others in the workplace. Employees at the tech company are given 30 minutes every day to meditate and do yoga onsite. It is speculated that the mental control gained from meditation has helped Apple become so successful in creating innovative products year-on-year.

Intel

Intel is a company that has consistently battled with stress. Every single employee at the company reported high levels of stress. However, inspired by Chade Tan’s initiative at Google, they decided to do something about it. Their meditation program includes yoga and mindfulness practices. Even though the techies were skeptical about the program at first, they have since embraced it and have reported improved focus and decreased levels of stress.

Yahoo!

Yahoo is yet another tech company that has embraced meditation as a weapon against stress among its employees at the workplace. Employees at Yahoo take advantage of mindfulness practices and meditation rooms to relieve them of the tension experienced while on the job. They also interact with others who share similar interests by taking classes offered onsite to realise a more mindful environment.

The practice of Mindfulness is simply being aware of what is happening right now.