Mindfulness is the ability to be fully aware of and focus on the task in the present. It is an ability not to be distracted or overwhelmed by whatever happens in the surroundings.
Psychologists Richard Davidson and Daniel Goleman were deeply inspired by the concept of meditation after their stay in India and believed that everyone should learn it because of all that the relaxed and focused mind can achieve.
Today, mindfulness as a concept is gaining momentum, with people finding it helpful in their lives.
We all know how people are stressed these days. And how a majority of them spend most of their day at their workplace. But we must agree that stress, anxiety, anger, are an unavoidable part of life in the 21st-century. Not to forget the endless texts, e-mails, chat messages, phone calls, social media notifications and advertisements, demanding our attention at any given time.
It can be difficult to devote our full attention to the situation, conversation, or task at hand, especially at the workplace. But being present means being more focused and productive. Mindfulness is a technique which can be learned by anyone because it allows an individual to relax and work more productively at their workplace.
The two main things fostered due to mindfulness are awareness and acceptance. To foster awareness, people are taught to expand the attention of their inner processes and experiences, to the present.
For example, if they are typing something on their computers, they are told to focus on their fingers pressing the computer keys. Then, in addition to the expanding awareness of the present experience, through acceptance, mindfulness practices teach people how to observe and accept the streams of thought that run through their mind.
Brain imaging research shows that a half hour of mindful meditation each day increases the density of grey matter in parts of the brain that are associated with memory and empathy. Finally, mindfulness is seen to increase concentration and focus.
A 2014 study at the Dow Chemical Company showed that mindfulness training increased vigour, lowered stress, and gave employees a greater sense of resilience. Preliminary studies suggest that a programme in mindfulness also can increase productivity and reduce the number of sick days that employees take.
Allen et al conducted a study in which the relationship between mindfulness and work family balance was tested. Sleep quality and vitality (being energetic and active) were the two parameters of the relationship. It was found that people who practised mindfulness had a good work-family balance with better quality sleep and greater vitality.
In 2015, a study by Loucks et al tried to explore the positive associations of mindfulness with cardiovascular health. They found that people who had high scores on the mindfulness awareness test had a lower cardiovascular risk as compared to those who had lower scores on the mindfulness awareness test. This means that people who regularly practice mindfulness are at a lower risk of getting cardiovascular diseases, which means that along with its effect on our mental health, mindfulness also positively affects our physical health.
Multitasking has become commonplace, and so has its detrimental impact. Going through our days with a partial attention span can leave us exhausted. Whether we are distracted by too many tasks or caught up in worrying about the future, meditative practices allow us to slow down the mind and become more integrated and present, which helps us to manage our demands efficiently.
An exercise in cultivating concentration is breath awareness meditation. Approximately 15-20 minutes of this daily can help employees focus and perform better.
Mindful breathing can be practiced in any relaxed, comfortable position. With your back upright, and an awareness of your sensations, try to tune into your breath. Breathe in and out, deeply and slowly. Be conscious of your thoughts, if you find yourself thinking about anything, consciously stop yourself, and bring your attention back to your breath. A few minutes of this can work wonders for your overall state of mind.
With time and practice, you’ll find that you can focus on your breath for longer durations without getting distracted.
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Did you know that Google is the first company in San Francisco to provide mindfulness training for its employees? Its benefits inspire more companies to take an interest in this area. Such initiatives must be taken in our country as well.
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)