What is mindfulness?

‘Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.’ Jon Kabat-Zinn

On Purpose – Mindfulness involves the gentle effort to be conscious and deliberate with the direction of our attention. When we are on autopilot our attention is being swept up by a never-ending (and not always positive) current of thought processes. When we are mindful, we ‘wake up’ and begin to drop into our body and senses to live life more consciously and fully.

In The Present Moment – Our mind left to its own devices habitually wanders away from the present moment. It constantly gets caught up in replaying the past and projecting the future, taking away the present moment. Mindfulness is to completely engage in the present moment experience … the here and now. It is the ability to let go of the tension caused by wanting things to be different, the tension of constantly wanting more, and instead accepting the present moment as it is.

Non-judgmentally – When practising mindfulness, the aim is not to control, suppress or stop thoughts or feelings, nor is it to clear the mind, but to simply observe and pay attention to the experience with interest and gentleness and without judging or labelling it in any way.

Through mindfulness practice you learn to see more clearly the patterns of the mind. You learn to witness any emotions and thoughts but not to act upon them i.e. feeling that you have to suppress them, run away from them, or fight them. Instead you learn to acknowledge them, try not to judge them and let them pass. This helps break the old association between negative mood and the negative thinking it would normally trigger. With practice you develop the capacity to allow emotions, thoughts and sensations to come and go, staying in touch with the present moment, without being driven to ruminate about the past or worry about the future.

Mindfulness in the workplace

Mindfulness at work training helps to achieve a feeling of calm, clarity and concentration – a clear antidote to stress and a boost to creativity. It also has the benefit to change an individual’s reaction to stress, enhancing resilience and improving interpersonal relations and communication. It improves performance and productivity. Companies, such as Google, attest that mindfulness in the workplace decreases employees’ stress levels and improves their focus, clarity, decision-making skills, and overall happiness and well-being.

Studies by the National Institute of Health UK, the University of Massachusetts and the Mind/Body Medical Institute at Harvard University (UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School White Paper) suggest that mindfulness at work:

• Reduces employee absenteeism and turnover
• Improves cognitive functions such as concentration, memory and learning ability
• Increases employee productivity
• Enhances employer/employee and client relationships
• Improves job satisfaction
The studies also show that mindfulness can be particularly beneficial for senior leaders …

Mindfulness assists decision making because it helps leaders move beyond their familiar ways of thinking and seeing the world and become open to new ways of listening, leading, responding and innovating. Mindfulness teaches emotional intelligence, boosts resilience to stress and improves mental focus.

If you are truly present on the job, you will be a more effective leader and you will make better decisions” (William George).