“Pay attention to what you are doing in the present moment. Be anchored in each moment. Give your gift of attention to the person or task in front of you.”
- Do you constantly experience all, any, or a mix of the following conditions – Burnout, attention deficit, or brain fog?
- Are you generally irritable at work?
- Are you reactive rather than deliberate in response to unpleasant situations?
If your response to either of the questions above is yes, you might be running on autopilot.
In today’s fast-paced and highly competitive workplace, we are consistently in a state of ‘incessant partial attention’. Our mind is rarely focused on one task, or one person, at any given time. It is considered multitasking, but it really is micro-tasking.
Mindfulness – What Does It Really Mean?
Is it just another buzzword? Mindfulness is not a fleeting state of mind that occurs during meditation and vanishes for the rest of the day. It is a way of life, a philosophy by which we decide to take a breath and be present in every moment of everyday living. Mindfulness is Awareness.
Thus, by being aware of unpleasant thoughts and feelings that develop when we are faced with stress, conflict, or difficult situations, we gain more control over our responses and a higher chance of reacting calmly and empathetically.
In the practice of mindfulness, we can be conscious of our thoughts and feelings without becoming consumed by them.
Scientific Argument for Mindfulness
There is evidence that mindfulness increases serotonin levels in the human brain. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that regulates mood, happiness, and wellbeing. It is generally referred to by scientists as the ‘happy hormone’. Furthermore, it reduces the stress hormone, cortisol.
Indeed, research has shown that the practice of mindfulness increases mental performance, thus resulting in increased productivity at work and in every facet of life.
I invite you to join me in this mindfulness exercise. Assume a comfortable position. Breathe in and out, slowly and deeply. Allow yourself to be conscious of each breath.
As you inhale, feel your lungs slowly fill up with air. Observe how your diaphragm flattens and compresses, and your chest cavity expands. Also, pay attention to what happens as you exhale. Notice as your diaphragm relaxes, and the air is expelled out of your lungs.
You may also practice mindful listening.
Curbing the Wandering Mind
The ability to control one’s wandering mind is a skill that can be learned.
Whilst practicing the mindfulness exercise, notice when your thoughts drift from your breath or the sound you are listening to and gently lead your mind back to the exercise at hand.
Quiet the mental noise, that is the constant drifting of your mind. Rather than reacting to it, simply observe it with curiosity and then watch it fade away.
How Mindfulness Enhances Employee Performance
The practice of mindfulness:
- Encourages creativity and innovation.
- Fosters team spirit and tolerance towards differences in the workplace, as well as conflict management.
- Supports improved health and wellness of employees (Physical and Mental)
- Stimulates enhanced creativity and innovation
- Promotes improved leadership skills.
In 2015, Shawn Achor and Michelle Gielan released a study in Harvard Business Review that documented the results of an employee survey at a company that promoted mindfulness practices. According to the study, “mindfulness participants gained 62 minutes of productivity each week on average, translating to a $3,000 increase in production per employee per year.”
As you embrace mindfulness, you would experience shifts in the way you live and work and relate to others. These changes in your experience are likely to impact all aspects of your life.
A summary of my learnings from the Search Inside Yourself course on mindfulness by Gen. Tunde and Yinka Reis at Lagos Business School