There’s no denying that ‘mindfulness’ is the latest buzzword in the workplace. While it might have considered a little ‘woo-woo’ a few years ago, right now everyone from HR managers to founders and CEOs are talking about it.
But what does it actually mean? And more importantly how can we look beyond the hype and incorporate it into our daily lives in a meaningful way?
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In a nutshell, being ‘mindful’ is having self-awareness and attention of our own emotions in any moment. It’s about being present, so that we’re able to respond without judgment.
Recent Western science has been able to identify five key benefits of mindfulness, that will help you as an individual and as a leader and Dan Czura from Culture & Leadership Partner Corporate Edge helps break this all down.
We live in a world today where distractions are in any given moment are seemingly unavoidable. We’re constantly being distracted by the never-ending stream of smartphone notifications, emails and phone calls, ironically designed to make us ‘more productive’.
The result? It’s easy to fall into the trap of being completely reactive. As opposed to focusing on our own work, we can spend our days ticking stuff off other people’s to do list.
In reality, the most productive people are those who are able to focus on one task for an extended period of time (without letting themselves be constantly distracted by others).
Practicing mindfulness can help improve this skill, as it stops our minds wandering out into the distance, and strengthens our ability to focus on one single task.
2. Stress Resilience
Our subconscious mind is designed to protect us from perceived threat or harm – most people understand this as the ‘fight’ or ‘flight’ mentality. While this is essential in certain dangerous or life threatening situations, day-to-day this response mechanism can actually be more harmful.
If we live in ‘flight or fight’ mode we are constantly being reactive – responding to our own feelings in any given moment, or the actions of those around us.
Practicing mindfulness allows us to calm down that fight or flight response, so that we can think more clearly and be more proactive, as opposed to reactive.
If you think about the very best manager you’ve ever had, chances are that you really felt that they cared for you and they showed kindness on a common and constant basis. They saw what was best for you in any moment, and had a genuine interest in your future.
Practicing mindfulness can help you strengthen this sense of empathy. It can give you the clarity you need to see things from other people’s point of view, and build trust with your team so they ultimately want to follow you.
A team who look forward to seeing you and coming into work every day will be far more productive than a team who wake up with dread on a monday morning, so never underestimate the power of empathy.
4. Better Problem Solving
Have you ever been running late and can’t find your phone or keys? In times of really heightened stress the part of the brain that is responsible for decisions and problem solving just doesn’t seem to work.
Or have you ever been stuck on a really difficult task, left it, perhaps gone for a walk, only to come back with new found perspective on how to solve the problem? Einstein famously said “We can’t solve our problems with the same thinking that we used to create them”
Practicing mindfulness can provide greater clarity and stimulate new alternatives to the most difficult challenging problems.
5. Increased Energy
Just like switching off all the apps you’re not using will make your phone battery last longer, the same goes for our energy levels. Being mindfully present, reduces the mindless chatter, preserving energy for what is important.
Mindfulness can increase the natural occurring “feel good” chemical serotonin to increase our motivation during the day, and also stimulate the sleep chemical melatonin that then helps provide a deeper and more effective sleep for you later that evening. And we all know how great we feel the following day after a good nights rest.
So the question remains… how you develop mindfulness? Just as when you go to the gym to build muscle, mindfulness is also a muscle that you gradually strengthen.
One simple way to start doing this is by simply taking three minutes out of each and every day to practice mindfulness.
Use this time to sit, close your eyes and focus your attention on your breath – breathing 4 seconds in and 4 seconds out. Doing so is proven to reduce stress and anxiety, leaving you more present in any moment, and enabling you to build deeper connections with the people that you work with.
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