Welcome to the latest guest blog by Clare Gallagher.
Mindfulness. Everyone’s talking about it. Google, Facebook and many more big players are practicing it. But what’s it all about? How can it benefit individuals and their organisations?
Mindfulness came to the west originally as a technique to manage stress. John Zabat Zinn, the founder of modern day western mindfulness, developed his practice in the 1970’s. In its simplest form, mindfulness means awareness. Practicing mindfulness offers a way to pay attention to the present moment, without judgement. Many of us are guilty of rarely being in the moment. Instead we dwell on past experiences, think about what needs doing next, or worry about what might happen in the future.
Mindfulness is brain training. With regular practice, it enables us to step back from our automatic behaviours and habitual thought patterns and see things more clearly. Research has shown that mindfulness can:
- improve the brains ability to process information
- strengthen the immune system
- lift mood and reduce stress
- relieve pain.
However, the benefits of mindfulness go much further than the individual themselves, and when encouraged at an organisation-level, the business can reap great results.
What are the benefits for individuals and leaders in the organisation?
Manage stress and increase resilience
One of the biggest impediments to workplace productivity is stress. Mindfulness meditation has been shown in many studies to decrease all the markers of stress, including cardiovascular health issues, high blood pressure, anxiety, depression and the presence of the stress hormone cortisol.
Improve focus and attention
Our attention is a trainable resource and mindfulness provides a mechanism for that training – it teaches us to notice our thoughts and emotions as they arise and not get hijacked by them. This in turn enables people to be more focused and less distracted at work.
Improve relationship skills
A recent study from Harvard Medical School shows that mindfulness increases the grey matter in your hippocampus – this is the region of the brain associated with self-awareness, compassion and introspection. These are the foundations of building productive and creative relationships.
Accept feedback more readily
By mindfully breathing, slowing down, listening, observing our response and considering the information we’re given, we can overcome the initial fight or flight response we often experience when receiving constructive feedback
Become a better listener
Through training our minds to be more present and less distracted we can start to be fully present with people, paying full attention to what they are saying.
For leaders this enables them to be fully engaged and present with their people. In terms of Leadership Presence, many of the mindfulness techniques are key. Being more aware of your own state and how it impacts on others gives you more choices, helps you to make better decisions, and to be more strategic and creative.
So why is Mindfulness so important in the businesses of today?
In the rapidly changing, chaotic business world of today – where everyone is busy reacting, reacting, reacting – rushing from one meeting to another, acting in a mindless way; mindfulness provides a way to step back from this “busyness”, staying calm, focusing on what is important and taking control.
Busyness alone is not good for business. What organisations need is for people to focus on the right things at the right time. Regular mindfulness practice helps people to achieve more by doing less.