Mindfulness is a hot topic at the moment. It seems to be plastered all over the newspapers and has the business world all of a flutter. It has been prescribed by the NHS for depression since 2004, but recently mindfulness has spawned a whole industry of evening classes and smartphone apps. Big businesses such as Google, Twitter and Facebook are introducing it into their organisations as a key development tool for their employees and many more are jumping on the bandwagon.
So what is it and, more importantly, does it work?
We live in an increasingly busy and technological world where we are quite often multi-tasking as if our lives depended on it. We put the washing on whilst helping the kids with their homework and answer work e-mails – all at the same time!! Life is a constant juggling act to ensure we get everything done. How many times have you done something on autopilot? Or driven down a stretch of road without remembering how you got there?
Very rarely are we aware of the present moment as we become lost in our efforts to juggle balls and spin the plates of our conflicting demands. We are often “not present” in our own lives. We often fail to notice the good things about our lives, fail to hear what our bodies are telling us and get easily distracted.
Mindfulness is a way of paying attention to, and seeing clearly whatever is happening in our lives. It will not eliminate life’s pressures, but it can help us respond to them in a more positive way. Kabat-Zinn calls it “paying attention on purpose, moment by moment, without judging”. In a nutshell, you stop thinking about the past or the future and concentrate on what is happening right now, in the present. In this exact moment.
Mindfulness often starts by learning to focus on our breathing. Every time we notice that we are distracted and not thinking about our breathing we accept it, dismiss the thought, and return our attention to our breath. This process is very simple and easy to do anywhere. It isn’t about emptying the mind or filling the head with peaceful thoughts, rather being aware of physical sensations of the body and simply to notice what the mind does. When the mind wanders, simply notice it and acknowledge it. Don’t try to surpress it or make the thoughts go away.
The Science Bit!
Neuroscience informs us that the brain can change and rewire itself. Studies show that practicing mindfulness leads to structural as well as functional changes in the brain as measured by MRI’s, SPECT scans, and EEG studies.MRI scans of the grey matter of the brain’s hippocampus, the area of the brain associated with learning, memory, compassion, introspection and self-awareness, have been shown it to increase in participants of Mindfulness programs. Conversely, the grey matter of the Amygdala, which is known to play an important part in stress and anxiety, has been shown to decrease.
Does it work?
Studies repeatedly show that practicing mindfulness helps reduce stress, improve work/life balance, increase creative thought and help people think more clearly.
From a business perspective, people who practice mindfulness at work report an improved ability to communicate clearly and more appropriate reactions to stressful situations. They also report a better ability to handle workplace conflict, improved teamwork and a better ability to “think out of the box”.
So, what have you got to lose by giving it a go? The very worst that can happen is you lose 20 minutes of your life by focusing on your breathing. The best that can happen is it opens up a whole new world of dealing with stress and making the most out of your life.
If you are interested in finding out more about mindfulness and how it can help you and your business, please come along to my workshop “An introduction to mindfulness” on Monday 30 June (9.30am -12pm) at Cantley House Hotel in Wokingham, Berks.
Contact me at: Katie@krccoaching.co.uk for further details.