Mindfulness is a term that is used as one of the new buzzwords around stress management and productivity. It is also a core principle in yoga and other similar types of meditative practices, and it allows the individual to develop the ability to be mentally active, attentive and present, living in the moment and being open to see and experience the world around, both internally and externally, without judgment.
If this all sounds a bit esoteric, there is actually some very substantial research that demonstrates how learning this often difficult skill can dramatically change not only an individual but an entire workplace. Major companies such as Aetna, Nike, Google, Goldman Sachs, and General Mills have all embraced mindfulness, meditation and/or yoga training as part of their offerings to their staff.
The results from these companies show an improvement in communication, creativity, innovative solutions to challenges, and a lower stress rating by employees at all levels after mindfulness training. Author David Gelles, in his book Mindful Work: How Meditation is Changing Business from the Inside Out, reports that Aetna employees indicated almost a 30% reduction in stress after the training, with 80% of General Mills executives reporting they had a better decision making process after a 7-week program that included meditation and mindfulness.
While training in the workplace is an excellent option, mindfulness can also be practiced on an individual basis. It is the ability to stop reacting and to be present and aware of factors both external and internal, consciously focusing in on these issues and accepting your emotional and mental state.
1 Minute Mindfulness
Many people equate mindfulness with mediation, and while they can be practiced together, it is not required. A one-minute mindfulness exercise can be done any time, and no one will know you are practicing.
Simply take a breath and focus your mind on what you see, hear, smell, taste, and feel with your physical body. Do not judge or evaluate this information; just take it in and experience it. Accept it as part of the world around you and let it go. Then, check in internally. What are you feeling on an emotional level? Again, do not judge, just acknowledge the feeling and let it go.
If you feel yourself becoming anxious, mentally pressured, or under stress, trigger your body to relax through focused breathing. This is a technique that you can also do anywhere, and it is very powerful.
Sit up tall and inhale deeply through the nose, counting to five. Hold the breath for a count of 3-4, then exhale through the nostrils or the mouth for a count of 7-8. Count slowly in your head, adjusting the numbers as you practice to your comfort. Wait for 3-4 counts, then repeat the cycle with the starting inhale.
By counting and breathing, your mind lets go of everything and focuses on the body. You will feel the stress dissipating and your mind clearing, leaving you with the resources you need to make a decision that is not reactive or pressured.
While these may seem like simple exercises, they are initially difficult for anyone to do. Practicing for a few minutes each day is a great way to get started. There are also online mediation programs and free and paid apps that can assist with short guided meditation and mindfulness practices.