What is Mindfulness?
The wellness industry and phenomenon was reported by the BBC to be worth a staggering $4.2 trillion a year. The practice of Mindfulness was one of those to gain more recognition from the explosion in the “self-care culture”.
But how much of it is hype and overexposure from the “too good to be true” social media posts and wellness content blogs that have brought it to the wider mainstream attention.
Long before the existence of social media influencers and meditation apps, Mindfulness and its various evolutions can be traced back as far as 2,500 years ago. Jon Kabat-Zinn’s 1990 book, Full Catastrophe Living is commonly associated for introducing Mindfulness to mainstream western society.
Mindfulness is recognised as one’s ability to provide more attention to the present moment, to their thoughts and feelings and the surroundings around them, which in turn can help in improving one’s mental wellbeing.
Many enjoy and achieve the state of Mindfulness via meditating and developing their ability to better fully engage with the here and now. Meditation helps in enabling someone to better able pay attention to their body, its sensations and returning their attention back to the present when their mind starts to wander.
But what about practicing Mindfulness in a dynamic environment such as an office where silence and minimal distractions, perhaps required for meditating, is not possible.
Mindfulness and meditation have become more interrelated in recent times. Whilst meditation is absolutely a component that can help and develop someone to live a mindful life, if necessary to provide a simple differentiation, meditation can be seen as a technique and Mindfulness can be seen as a way of living.
In recognising this, one can apply Mindfulness into their everyday lives, and over time through practice, they can find themselves using Mindfulness everyday without even realising.
In today’s hectic lives, where we seek solace and moments of calm and are recommended techniques such as meditating, it can be met with the answer, “I have no time or patience for that”. Mindfulness on the other hand can be introduced into one’s everyday ongoing life and be practiced informally. By informally it can mean to incorporate it into one’s everyday activities, such as your everyday travel to your office and being mindful of your surroundings and nature. Or it could even be being mindful when talking or eating, but with a purpose to remove judgement and fully engage in experiencing what is happening in the now.
Kabat-Zinn defined Mindfulness as “the awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally.” As we conduct our everyday lives and tasks, by being present and aware of our actions and thoughts, it can have a profound effect on our way of living.
So simple in design, but as shown by the Harvard study, 47% of us can have a wandering mind and through many years of wiring our brain to function in this way, it perhaps can be more challenging to implement into our lives than we first think. When introducing and applying Mindfulness into our lives it helps to recognise it as a consistent gradual process, as is the case for whenever we introduce new habits into our lives.
With this, how can Mindfulness be possibly applied into challenging and stressful workplace environments?
Mindfulness in the workplace
Our job is a significant part of our lives, and by applying Mindfulness during our working time, can help to develop positive mindful habits in general into our everyday lives.
Stress reduction is one of the reasons for why the likes of Google have introduced Mindfulness to their employees. Whether it is a demanding boss or client, or an important upcoming business meeting, a wandering mind can find itself imagining a negative outcome of the future, or replaying stressful situations learnt from past experiences. These thoughts can lead to increased stress, decreased productivity and stifle creativity.
Merriam-Webster Dictionary provided a definition of mindfulness as, “the practice of maintaining a non-judgmental state of heightened or complete awareness of one’s thoughts, emotions, or experiences on a moment to moment basis”. Through Mindfulness you can ask yourself from moment to moment, what you are currently experiencing and observe your feelings and thoughts. If they are stressful, with recognition and consciousness that these thoughts are only thoughts, not reality, and that they are fleeting and will pass, stress can be reduced and attention shifted to something else like your breathing. If your mind wanders again, simply be mindful and bring it back to your breathing.
Professor Mark Williams on the NHS website, comments that "Mindfulness allows us to become more aware of the stream of thoughts and feelings that we experience…Gradually, we can train ourselves to notice when our thoughts are taking over and realise that thoughts are simply 'mental events' that do not have to control us…Awareness of this kind also helps us notice signs of stress or anxiety earlier and helps us deal with them better."
By watching one’s thoughts non-judgementally and living by a moment to moment basis and not letting thoughts of the future or the past define you or your work performance, through such mindful activity, research has shown this increased self-awareness and consciousness can help regulate emotions and permit someone to be more objective and focus more on the task in hand in a more positive manner. Being more positive allows you enjoy what you are doing in the now more.
Speaking to the E-Commerce Times, Cheryl Jones from the Mindful Path mentions, "most people are overwhelmed and feel they can barely keep up with daily demands,” and often find themselves distracted or living in fight or flight mode has become the norm way of living. For stressful situations, Mindfulness practiced over time allows someone to build their resilience and be able to more appropriately regulate the natural reactive fight or flight response, thereby helping reducing anxiety, and instead experience increased enjoyment and meaning in what they are doing in the present moment.
There are many resources available online to find out more about practicing Mindfulness and importantly find what works for you. Finding a purpose for why you want to practice it can often be a good place to start. In a creative environment such as a marketing agency, it has the requirement to be able to continually evolve, to bring fresh innovative ideas and exciting campaigns to the table to connect and appeal with your target market. As part of the SEO team at Selesti, SEO is renowned to be unpredictable and ever-changing! Unpredictability can lead the mind to wander into thoughts of the future in the search for answers and control. Mindfulness helped in providing stability and clarity into the SEO task at hand, by realising you can only control and apply what the current best practices that are known now for SEO. With confidence in the present that the task in hand will help achieve optimal results for the client, it provides focus, emotional intelligence and capability to make more informed decisive decisions to navigate the dynamic world of SEO.