In this complex and demanding time, stress management, for most of us, needs to become a way of life. Stress affects everything we do, including our work, relationship and health. The evidence is mounting that learning to be more mindful can go a long way towards offsetting the psychological stress that is often reported as a profoundly negative effect of our modern lifestyles.
Mindfulness has been defined as awareness that is characterised by paying full attention to the present moment, on purpose and without judgment. When being mindful you have purposeful self-awareness and are consciously aware of all the feelings and thoughts that arise in your body and mind and of your environment. It can be practised in a formal way, for example, as mindfulness meditation, yoga or Tai Chi, and it can be practised informally throughout the day, for example, by taking a mindful walk or having a mindful meal or by purposely bringing a non-judgmental awareness to whatever we are doing.
One of the benefits that many people report from practising mindfulness in our everyday life and mindfulness techniques, such as mindfulness meditation or yoga, is being less stressed. This can have a huge positive impact on so many areas of life. Mindfulness can positively impact one’s work-life, ability to learn and education outcomes, and can prevent illness and assist in the management of many health problems.
Mindfulness can also improve problem-solving and the creative process and improve interpersonal relationships, all of which positively impact work performance. The result is often increased productivity.
The return on investment (ROI) for workplaces investing in employee wellbeing is undeniable. Check out this link for more information. Specifically, the ROI for a mentally healthy workplace has been estimated in a report by Price-Waterhouse Coopers at $2.30 for every dollar spent. With mindfulness, you are addressing improving performance and employee wellbeing all at once.
Work-life balance becomes more possible. Globally some of the most successful businesses use mindfulness to improve business including Google, Facebook, Ikea, Sony and IBM.
Here in Australia companies that are using mindfulness to get the best out of their leaders and employees include Telstra, David Jones, IBM, and Origin Energy to name a few.
An alert, mindful awareness is undoubtedly beneficial when it comes to occupational health and safety. Accidents are less likely when we pay full attention, and policies and procedures are more likely to be followed when we can think clearly. Put another way, mindfulness training for employees can assist greatly in ensuring a safe environment and processes because mindful awareness decreases absentmindedness.
Mindfulness is being incorporated into many learning environments, particularly schools and universities. The education sector is at the forefront of using mindfulness across a variety of settings. The reasons are many; on the one hand to equip students with life-skills to manage stress and help students reach their potential, and of course to facilitate effective learning. And that’s just for the students; teachers are reporting huge benefits as well, with classrooms that are easier to manage and lower stress levels. Anecdotal reports are one thing, but the research results are also impressive.
Learning how to become more mindful can be very beneficial for our health and wellbeing. When you take a look at the research, it seems logical to take a mindful approach to wellbeing. In summary:
Mindfulness can improve medical conditions including diabetes and hypertension, mental health problems such as depression and anxiety and lifestyle-related conditions such as weight problems, drug and alcohol abuse and sleep disorders. Mindfulness is also protective for heart health. The neuroscience research has been able to prove that mindful meditation slows the reduction in grey matter that usually that occurs with age. It improves brain function by improving our ability to focus which of course positively impacts learning and effectiveness in whatever we might be trying to achieve at work or in our personal lives. This article summarises the neuroscience research findings in depth. In pain management using mindfulness practices, pain is not only perceived as being more tolerable, activity in the brain that is associated with pain is decreased. The use of mindfulness for injury prevention in sport and by elite athletes is well established and there is a huge amount of anecdotal evidence that it improves performance. Lastly, it has been shown to increase empathy which can improve interpersonal relationships.
Becoming more mindful naturally leads many people to lead a healthier lifestyle. By developing mental habits of paying close attention to our experience we tend to make healthier food choices, to exercise more and to cut down on activities that are bad for our health such as drinking excessively or smoking.
Increased clarity and focus mean we become better at prioritizing activities and time-management, both in the workplace and at home which in turn mean that we find we can achieve a better work-life balance.