“Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and non judgmentally.”
Jon Kabat-Zinn, Founder of MBSR (Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction)
What is mindfulness?
The brain or mind has an innate capacity for mindfulness. It is nothing foreign that we have to learn – it is rather something that we cultivate and bring out more.
Being mindful allows us to recognize and understand things that with a restless, inattentive mind we might miss altogether. When we engage in activities or thoughts with mindfulness, we can better see the meaning in them. Mindfulness is the basis for all higher cognitive abilities, including concentration.
This ability to maintain un-divided internal and external awareness of what is happening in each moment is a fundamental leadership skill. The results of such mindfulness skills are clear decision-making, efficient time-management, self-knowledge, and the ability to access an intuitive wisdom.
Numerous studies show that meditation has a measurable positive effect on both the mind and the body. Every aspect of our lives – family, work, health, education, recreation, art- can be positively influenced by mindfulness practice.
Insights from neurophysiological research as well as a growing body of experience from companies and organisations, that have integrated mindfulness trainings, show that mindfulness based methods are effective in working life. Research and the experience of many leaders has shown that mindfulness practice reduces stress, further happiness, improves the ability to concentrate and collaboration in working life.
Also in the fields of employee health and accident prevention mindfulness has been shown to be an effective measure to reduce stress related illness and absenteeism.
Effects of Mindfulness practice
- Lowers high blood-pressure
- Relief from chronic pain
- Strengthens our immune system
- Faster recovery from illnesses
- Reduced headaches and migraines
- Stronger concentration and attentiveness
- Development of active awareness and perception
- Improved memory
- Reduced discursiveness
- Increased ability to relax and focus
- Improved mental stamina and faster reaction times
- Stress reduction
- Prevention of and recovery from burn-out and depression
- Less sleeplessness
- Better listening skills
- Deep relaxation
- Greater openness
- More self-awareness and ability to attune to one’s own feelings and emotions
We often feel that we are so stressed because we don’t have time. But is it not actually the other way around – that we don’t have time because we are so stressed?
Because of the complexity and intensity of daily working life, our mind works at high speeds – and slowing down and coming to rest, even when we are at home is often not easy. If this pressure and intensity continue without respite, then we can become someone one-dimensional, and our tunnel vision does not really allow us to perceive much in our lives beyond our immediate to dos. We become human doings more than human beings.
Mindfulness trainings allows our mind to come to rest, to let go of constantly circling thoughts. While we usually are trapped in our habitual responses to stress, through mindfulness practice we can learn to pause, and see a range of responses to situations we face. We can allow the breath of being human to be part of our daily life.
An increasing number of neuroscientists and leaders of organisations see the cultivation of mindfulness as a key to allowing emotional intelligence, authenticity, creativity and clarity to flourish in leadership.
Numerous studies for example have shown that mindfulness meditation is an effective method for cultivating of concentration and emotional intelligence. A number of leaders are already integrating mindfulness into their leadership work to help them with internal and external balance, and to improve collaboration.
In todays economy, knowledge, innovation, collaboration, decentral structures and networks are essential components of value generation. Organisations like Google, Intel or Facebook have established company wide mindfulness programs – they have recognized that mindfulness can help cultivate an atmosphere of calmness, concentration, creativity and open minds – all so important in todays economy.