Mindfulness is a way of paying attention to the present moment, using techniques like meditation, breathing and yoga. It helps us become more aware of our thoughts and feelings so that instead of being overwhelmed by them, we are able to manage them better.
The focus on mindfulness in business has grown exponentially as organisations recognise that rapid changes in technology, the marketplace and the global playing field have caused chaos and uncertainty. These realities create stressful conditions for the people within the organisations and thus calls for a change.
Practising mindfulness can give people more insight into their emotions, boost their attention and concentration and improve relationships. It’s proven to help with stress, anxiety, depression and addictive behaviours, and can even have a positive effect on physical problems like hypertension, heart disease and chronic pain.
How you can be mindful
Reminding yourself to take notice of your thoughts, feelings, body sensations and the world around you is the first step to mindfulness.
As we go about our daily lives we can almost sometimes go into an ‘autopilot’ mode which causes us to block out all kinds of things that are going off around us, everyday things like the food we have, the sound of the birds singing or even just the feel of the breeze moving around us. Taking the time to notice these seemly small observations can have a huge impact and knock us out of autopilot and give us a new perspective on life.
It can be helpful to pick a time – the morning journey to work or a walk at lunchtime – during which you decide to be aware of the sensations created by the world around you. Trying new things, such as sitting in a different seat in meetings or going somewhere new for lunch, can also help you notice the world in a new way.
Also, take notice of all the different things that goes off in your mind. Take a step back and watch them go round in your head, imagine they’re like leaves swirling round on the ground when it’s windy. There is no need to try to change the thoughts, or argue with them, or judge them: just observe. This takes practice. It’s about putting the mind in a different mode, in which we see each thought as simply another mental event and not an objective reality that has control over us.
You can practise this anywhere, but it can be especially helpful to take a mindful approach if you realise that, for several minutes, you have been “trapped” in reliving past problems or “pre-living” future worries.
As well as practising mindfulness in daily life, it can be helpful to set aside time for a more formal mindfulness practice.
There are several practices that can help create a new awareness of body sensations, thoughts and feelings. The most commonly known are:
- Meditation – where participants sit silently and pay attention to the sensations of breathing or other regions of the body, bringing the attention back whenever the mind wanders.
- Yoga – where participants often move through a series of postures that stretch and flex the body, with emphasis on awareness of the breath.
- Tai-chi – where participants perform a series of slow movements, with emphasis on awareness of breathing.