It's a sad fact of life, but one we've grown accustomed to, that the workplace is often draining, demanding, and disruptive. At its worst, it becomes a culture that breeds toxicity, but even at its best, stress is the norm.
In our constant state of rushing from one assignment (or crisis) to another, we are too often missing out on the present. We pride ourselves on being able to do a million things at the same time, on being great multitaskers. But the time that passes as we're accomplishing those tasks, thinking our thoughts, eating our food, walking to our appointments, talking to others, even taking a shower--how much of it goes by in a haze?
For years, I have had the good fortune to be charged with creating mindfulness programs for Fortune 500 companies. At the beginning, people were wary of the word mindful, so we used names like "stress reduction techniques." But at the heart of what we were doing was mindfulness.
Mark Williams, professor of clinical psychology at the Oxford Mindfulness Centre, says mindfulness means knowing directly what is going on inside and outside ourselves, moment by moment. Studies suggest that mindfulness is a key element to our well-being and happiness.
So what does it have to do with business? Everything! It empowers team members to think better, feel better, listen better, and perform better. It's inexpensive to implement and the benefits begin immediately.
In workshops that I have conducted, 89 percent of those who practiced mindfulness on a daily basis found themselves not only thinking more clearly but working more productively.
Even more--91 percent of those who stayed with the program--reported they were experiencing significant positive changes. Google, Apple, McKinsey & Co., Deutsche Bank, Procter & Gamble, and General Mills have all implemented successful mindfulness programs.
Here is what mindfulness can do for you:
1. Stress reduction. The practice of mindfulness not only reduces stress and helps with anxiety but also brings calm and coherence. This is important every day, but especially in times of crisis or high stress.
2. Less emotional reactivity. Some experts believe that mindfulness works, in part, by helping people accept their experiences--including painful emotions--rather than responding to them with aversion and avoidance. Those who practice mindfulness find their emotional responses are not as reactive.
3. Better sleep. Those who practice mindfulness experience better sleep quality and fewer symptoms of insomnia. That translates into less depression and fatigue, and fewer accidents in the workplace.
4. Greater focus. Mindfulness is all about concentrated attention, so it's no surprise that practitioners have a better ability to focus and maintain concentration on the job.
5. Improved memory. By canceling out the constant bombardment of noise that we all have in our heads, mindfulness helps practitioners think clearly--which in turn provides better recall.
6. New insights. By enhancing self-insight, intuition, and fear modulation--all functions associated with the middle prefrontal lobe of the brain--mindfulness can help keep us trusting our intuition and on top of our game.
7. Breakdown of complex problems. Increased clarity, focus, and freedom from distraction make mindfulness a beneficial practice for anyone charged with analyzing or solving complex problems.
8. Improved quality of life. Increasing our capacity for mindfulness contributes to our quality of life. With increased enjoyment, fuller engagement, and a better ability to deal with adversity, practitioners are better prepared to handle an unpredictable workplace. What's more, they're free to form deeper connections with those around them.
Best of all, you don't have to wait for a corporate initiative to get started. There are plenty of print and online resources you can adapt to your workgroup as a professional development activity or even an optional workshop. Take the first step--for yourself and for your team--and see what rewards await.