Mindfulness is simply being able to intentionally pay attention to the present moment. Viewing a situation with curiosity and non-judgement while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations can lead to many advantages. Mindfulness involves specially developed meditation practices and movements, which allow us to be fully present in our life and work, and improve our quality of life.
Though it has its roots in Buddhist meditation, the non-spiritual practice of mindfulness has entered the mainstream in recent years. There is an increasing body of evidence from psychological research and neuroscience that demonstrate the physical and mental health benefits of mindfulness.
In 2015 The Mindfulness Initiative published ‘Building the case for mindfulness in the workplace‘ which provides an extensive review of the research, evidence base and practical application in some of the worlds largest companies.
6 Benefits of Mindfulness at work
Fewer sick days
Although predominantly associated with stress reduction and treatment of anxiety, Mindfulness has also been shown to have a range of other health benefits including the treatment of heart disease, lower blood pressure, reduction in chronic pain and improved sleep to strengthen the immune system. Along with reductions in absence for stress, mindfulness in the workplace can help reduce other causes of sickness absence.
Regular mindfulness practice increases activity in a specific part of the brain, the left prefrontal cortex, which has been associated with higher brain function and emotional intelligence. Increased emotional intelligence enables people to recognise and understand their own emotions and be better at reading the emotions of others. Demonstrating empathy and understanding enables managers to support, guide, motivate and provide effective feedback to staff. Staff feel valued and motivated leading to increased productivity.
Improved decision making
Research from INSEAD Business School found that doing just 15 minutes of mindfulness meditation such as concentrating on your breathing can lead to more rational thinking when making business decisions. The study found that mindfulness meditation helps reduce what economists call ‘sunk cost bias’ more commonly referred to as ‘flogging a dead horse’ or ‘throwing good money after bad’.
Participants used meditation to focus on information known in the present moment and draw attention away from past experience. Focussing and noticing the actual circumstances in the present improves confidence in decision-making and the effectiveness of the decision. Not only are better decisions made, but also after the decision is made there is less time wasted worrying about whether it was the best decision.
Mindfulness meditation is sometimes referred to as ‘insight meditation’. Mindfulness trains our mind to look inwardly with curiosity and non-judgement, making us notice more and allowing us to see the bigger picture This can promote divergent thinking which allows new ideas to be generated.
Mindfulness meditation helps us to temporarily draw attention away from past experience. The tendency for people to rely overly on past experience leads to what psychologists refer to as ‘cognitive rigidity’. Obviously past experience is valuable and should not be discounted, however, drawing attention away from past experience frees the mind to think more creatively and generate new ideas. In today’s business world things are constantly changing, yesterday’s circumstances were different, as are today’s solutions.
Increased staff retention
High employee turnover is expensive for business; recruitment and training costs or use of agency staff can put a significant drain on budgets. Retaining your best staff and maintaining their loyalty and motivation saves money and time as well as maintaining quality, consistency and continuity of service. Regular Mindfulness practice increases levels of happiness and wellbeing – a happy workforce not only stays but also stays motivated.
Bring mindfulness to your workplace
Mindful Impact offer a range of practical ways to incorporate mindfulness at work, check out our new services brochure here.