Mindfulness – just a fad or a new way of life?
Does being Mindful at work really boost your wellbeing?
Mindfulness has grown in prominence, understanding and popularity, following its successful transition from personal pursuit to credible workplace practise. Many key principles are adopted as part of employee development programmes and appear within employee health and wellbeing strategies.
What is being mindful?
Fundamentally, mindfulness means
Paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally
- Jon Kabot‐Zinn
The emphasis being the ability to focus your attention on thoughts, emotions and body sensations as they arise and allow them to drift away like clouds passing your line of sight without judgement. When you navigate back over related practices, mindfulness has its roots firmly in Buddhism and associated meditative practices.
What’s in it for me?
For some, mindfulness is already a method to increase both physical and emotional well-being and becoming a regular participant can bring a whole host of associated benefits. Research papers from disciplines such as psychology, neuroscience and medicine all state that being more mindful positively impacts human functioning overall. It improves attention, reasoning, emotions, interpersonal relationships, physiology and reduces levels of stress and anxiety.
Interestingly, mindfulness has been proven to improve our ability to pay attention for longer. A real tangible benefit since it is estimated that our mind wanders off around half of the working day.
What’s in for the employer?
Employees are being asked to do more with less, working longer hours with increasingly heavy workloads, coupled with the speed of technological advance and continuous change, workplace stress continues to impact on wellbeing.
The total number of working days lost due to stress and anxiety in 2014/15 was 9.9 million days. In 2014/15 stress accounted for 35% of all work related ill health cases and 43% of all working days lost due to ill health. With statistics like this, its not surprising that employers have seen the business case and benefits of developing a more mindful workforce as a method to increase health and well-being, employee engagement and reduce stress.
Introducing mindfulness into the workplace does not prevent conflict from arising or difficult issues from coming up. But when difficult issues do arise... they are more likely to be skillfully acknowledged, held, and responded to by the group. Over time with mindfulness, we learn to develop the inner resources that will help us navigate through difficult, trying, and stressful situations with more ease, comfort, and grace
- Mirabai Bush
Furthermore, employees who have completed mindfulness programmes are shown to remain attentive for longer in both visual and listening tasks, whilst teamwork and leadership behaviours improved thanks to greater empathy and compassion.
Is mindfulness for me?
When trying to decide whether you are mindful, consider the following –
- Forgetting a name the very minute after they have been introduced to you.
- Unable to remember what others have said during a conversation.
- No recollection of how you got to work.
- Eating at your desk without tasting your food.
- Paying more attention to your iPhone, iPad than family, partners and friends.
- Dwelling on past events or dreading what the future holds.
If you recognise one or more of these statements, the chances are your mind is frequently wandering and you are spending at least some of your time sleep walking through daylight hours.
With many of us, rushing from home to work, from meeting to meeting, lunch on the go, keeping up with social media, emails, juggling constantly changing priorities and deadlines. Suddenly a mindfulness approach becomes a very attractive and welcome part of the daily routine.