Why mindfulness matters at work
Over the last 20 years, we’ve seen an exponential growth in the number of peer-reviewed journal papers about mindfulness. Scientists all over the world have been examining the effectiveness of mindfulness in various contexts, including the workplace, healthcare, education and more. And while some might dismiss it as the ‘buzzword of the day,’ practicing mindfulness can result in an incredible amount of benefits, especially for those in high stress situations - working in the real estate industry is a prime example!
Simply put, being mindful means to invest all of our focus in the present moment, rather than distracting ourselves with thoughts of the past or worries about the future. At its essence, it is a heightened awareness of self, surroundings, and internal dialogue. This focus can be especially important given that the average worker wastes approximately 60 hours every month by distractions. Three of the top 5 distractions today are technology-based, and include cell phones and texting, the internet, and social media. Given the fast-paced, hyper-competitive, time-poor digital age we now live in, anxiety, stress and loss of general well-being are on the rise and rise.
Practicing mindfulness can be a powerful tool in combating the lure of digital and social distraction, and ultimately can provide for increased productivity, efficiency and performance.
A key benefit for busy professionals is that it dramatically sharpens decision-making skills. For example, when you are aware of your thoughts, you are empowered to pause and choose your response, rather than just making a knee-jerk reaction. As you can imagine, this small step can have profound and far-reaching effects.
As Lao Tzu once famously said: “Watch your thoughts, they become words. Watch your words, they become actions. Watch your actions, they become habits. Watch your habits, they become character. Watch your character, it becomes your destiny.”
The benefits of mindfulness cannot be understated. Short term benefits, at least, lead to lower overall stress, depression and anxiety, greater productivity and better communication skills.
In the longer term, research shows that the regular practice of mindfulness produces permanent changes in the brain: increased grey matter density, quicker action and better quality of neural connections. This leads to improved memory, cognitive functions, innovative thinking and emotional balance. All of these benefits are so valuable in a professional setting and that fact has not been missed by powerful corporates.
Many major companies today, including Apple, Google, Nike, Target, General Mills and Goldman Sachs, have built extensive corporate programs to foster mindful practices with their workers. This is no surprise really, given that high stress levels can cost organizations a great deal of money - up to $2,000 annually per employee.
So, how is mindfulness done? There are different ways to practice it but at its heart is the ancient practice of meditation, a very simple act that everyone can do.
Many people experience a sense of calm and peacefulness when they meditate, saying it is a relief to have a break from all the usual mental ‘white noise’. Meditation doesn’t have to take long, neither does it need to take place in a natural setting, it can be practiced anywhere.
Other tips for practicing mindfulness include spending a small amount of time each day focusing on your steps as you walk, repeating mantras related to your goals throughout the day, enjoying a relaxing lunch break alone, avoiding multitasking, and even writing a gratitude note at the end of each work day. These small steps incorporate mindfulness into everyday life in a manner that is not disruptive.
Mindfulness is a powerful tool to use both on a personal and professional level. Incorporating mindfulness as part of your business success strategy, and as a regular office engagement exercise, can help to build great careers within an exceptional company culture.