Mindfulness at Work

Jul 20, 2016

Mindfulness at Work

Back in the 1970s, Professor of Medicine Jon Kabat-Zinn pioneered the concept of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR). Developed to relive the discomfort of chronic pain, it actively trains the mind to progressively acquire what critics describe as a “mindful awareness, of mindfulness."

It reimagined perceptions within the medical sphere, but can the same concept be applied to the workplace? Sub chronic pain with chronic stress, and the incorporation of mindfulness into daily routines can have a hugely positive impact. So much so that several years ago, Google invited Jon Kabat-Zinn to speak to its employees about the power of mindfulness, and the impact it can have on the workplace experience.

Whether you’re the CEO of a blue-chip company or a retail professional, developing an intentional awareness of your own personal psyche can be a powerful executive tool.

What is mindfulness, and why does it matter?

While mindfulness has roots as a Buddhist tradition, you don’t have to be a pacifist to reap its benefits. The basic philosophy describes the existence of moment-to-moment awareness, and an active development of both yourself, and your surroundings. The benefits are profound, with mindfulness shown to enhance emotional intelligence, heighten self-awareness and improve the ability to manage distressing emotions.

The power to observe

A keynote element of mindfulness is the foresight to simply observe things as they are. Rather than react to events and circumstances as though on autopilot, mindfulness frees the mind from its habits. This means that instead of reacting spontaneously and often irrationally, you observe an event, acknowledge your emotions and facilitate a calculated reaction.

Recognising toxic emotions

Toxic emotions are contagious, with neuroscience researchers asserting that in as little as two minutes, the mood of an emotionally expressive individual can influence the mood of a less emotionally expressive counterpart, without uttering a word. An active awareness of toxic emotions will empower you with the knowledge to reassess your outlook, and ensure that your negative attitude isn’t rubbing off on your colleagues.

Reprogramming the mind

While mindfulness spotlights a conscious awareness of emotions, it also reprograms the brain to think in healthier, less stressful patterns. This means eventually, you should be able to leverage the benefits of a psyche that’s intrinsically programmed to hone in on the positives, as opposed to the negatives. When it comes to upping your corporate game, research proves that a positive outlook can heighten problem solving abilities.

While it’s all too easy to dismiss mindfulness as yet another intangible corporate leadership fad, the reality is that it’s an immensely powerful executive tool that has unquestionably earned its place in the C-suite.


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