Mindfulness – you’ve probably heard of its application in health and wellness, but what does it really mean, and is there a benefit to introducing mindfulness in the workplace?
Simply put, mindfulness is the practice of becoming more aware and conscious of our present mental state, our feelings and bodily sensations. It’s cantered around being wholly present in the moment; noticing and actively managing our thinking patterns in order to acknowledge and accept feelings and emotions with greater ease. Being present is a hugely valuable skill that can alleviate much of the worrying we tend to attach to the past, or to things that have yet to come.
Contrary to what you may believe, practicing mindfulness is not just useful for reducing anxiety and stress. Whilst it certainly helps to decrease the consequences of our fast-paced work lives, mindfulness can also improve your overall performance, decision-making processes, resilience to change, and personal relationships. A lot of the time we operate on autopilot, thinking the same things we did yesterday, and fretting over what often feels like an endless to-do list. However, simply by taking a pause and learning to be more present in the here and now, you can become more aware of your own thoughts, emotions and pre-conceived notions, helping you identify the negative thinking patterns that might be holding you back from being your best and happiest self.
The practice of mindfulness is strongly backed-up by scientific evidence. Practicing mindfulness in your everyday has been shown to create new neural connections in your brain in the areas associated with attention, learning, memory, awareness, and emotional regulation. And additional effects have been observed on the nervous system, improving the regulation and management of cortisol – your stress inducing hormone. Perhaps most surprising of all, is that mindfulness is proving to be just as effective as medications and therapy in the treatment of mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety. Yes, that’s right - mindfulness is good for you and practicing it is easier that you think!
Just do it! Mindfulness doesn’t mean you need to spend ages meditating - you can reap all the benefits we mentioned above if you dedicate just 7 minutes of your day to being mindful.
To become more mindful in your every day, commit to these 3 mindset and behaviour shifts:
Change the way you think about stress – Your attitude to stress will shape the way it affects you. Don’t let it take a negative toll on you, instead think of stress as an opportunity to do better. The next time you feel stressed, try to note your emotions, notice how it makes your mind and body react and then change your attitude towards it. For example, tell yourself your heart rate quickening and worry overtaking your mind are your way of adopting a growth mindset. Stress is your body’s way of preparing you to bravely take on and conquer the challenges ahead of you.
Practice gratitude – Take the time every day to note all the good you have in your life, the positive experiences that have happened to you so far, and all the things you’ve already achieved. The glass is always half full! .
Accept yourself – Embrace the way you are now and acknowledge that things that are outside of your control will inevitably happen. Acceptance of who you are is a key first step to self-improvement. When we fully know who we are we are more empowered to change the things that no longer serve us and to be thankful for the parts of us that brought us along our journey so far.
We know this is easier said than done, but mindfulness starts with a small step – the decision to do better, to be better, to feel better. Take a small step towards mindfulness at work by:
·Taking brain breaks – set reminders or alarms during the day to pause what you are doing for a minute or two and reflect on the mindset shifts we talked about above.
Focusing on one thing at a time – although multitasking may make you feel like you are more productive, it does quite the opposite for you. Set a time for completing different tasks to avoid splitting your attention.
In your personal time by:
Performing a body scan – Either lying or sitting down, take several deep breaths and focus your attention slowly and deliberately on each part of your body, from head to toe. Note any sensations, emotions or thoughts associated with each part of your body. If any sounds, smells, or thoughts interrupt your scan, simply note the experience, and then return your focus to your body. Deep breathing whilst doing this exercise will help to shift negative and blocked energy.
So how do you create mindful organisations?
Now that you are equipped with some mindfulness skills, think about what mindfulness can do for an entire organisation – motivation, productivity, collaboration, creativity, and everything else that happier and more energised people can accomplish will skyrocket! So, mindfulness is definitely one to add to your talent management strategy.
Here are our top 3 tips on how to embed mindfulness in your organisation’s culture.
As with any type of organisational change, leadership plays a key role in making new habits stick. To create mindful organisations, it is important that leaders takes ownership of the initiative, inviting employees into open discussions about mindfulness, as well as role-modelling mindful behaviours and practices. Most importantly, mindful organisations are based on compassionate, authentic, and trusting leadership at their core. Implement leadership development initiatives which aim to eliminate micromanagement practices and teach leaders to empower and trust employees.
2. Mindfulness ambassadors
Recruit employees as mindfulness ambassadors who visibly endorse the mindfulness initiative and encourage their colleagues to take part. Mindfulness ambassadors could also be in charge of organising ‘taster mindfulness sessions’ for employees to explore the benefits of mindfulness in short meditation sessions.
3. Taking a holistic approach
Mindfulness requires a holistic approach to culture change – you will need a talent management strategy, workspaces, processes, and policies consistent with a culture of mindfulness. Some examples of incorporating mindfulness into your culture include:
Creating quiet spaces to allow employees to unwind and refocus- a meditation room perhaps?
Encouraging frequent breaks, including making sure everyone takes their lunch break and uses their annual leave days
Introducing mental health awareness days
Encouraging 15min gaps in between meetings
Introducing quick 5-min mindfulness sessions at the stProviding access to mindfulness guides, including mindfulness meditation apps packages
As well as the above, do take the time to ask employees what mindfulness looks like to them and what support they would like from the business. And don’t forget- there’s no time like the present!