Mindfulness Exercises For Professionals, Leadership & Motivation
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Mindfulness for Professionals, Leadership, and Motivation
Mindfulness in the Workplace
The applications of mindfulness are infinite, reaching even the more traditional and organized corners of our lives like the workplace. As interest in how we relate to others and to the world around us is growing, mindfulness is beginning to influence how we conduct ourselves in business settings. We are now beginning to explore how mindfulness influences the way we work, lead, and manage, and how it might impact our sense of contentment and balance within work environments.
The timing is right as burnout and stress in the workplace is growing. One study in particular found that in just three decades, stress levels have risen by almost 20%. In a world that is changing faster than we know what to make of it, it is becoming increasingly challenging to effectively manage all the different pressures we are facing. However, as we come to embrace mindfulness, we start to understand the wide range of benefits it is capable of offering the workplace.
Leadership & Motivation in the Workplace
With technology now continually available at our fingertips, leaving work at work is becoming harder than it’s ever been. We are connected to work in numerous ways even after we leave the office – through social networking with coworkers and managers, through work emails coming through to our personal devices, and of course through the continual pressure and worry that lives inside the mind. When the mind is left unexamined, the day’s activities follow us all the way home – and even into those quiet moments before sleep.
We are also travelling further to work than generations before us did. With a global trend of human movement from rural communities to city landscapes, transit times are skyrocketing and the stress of the morning (and evening) commute now mounts. We are spending a significantly greater amount of time in transit to places that are stressing us out to larger degrees than before.
But the modern workplace is changing not only in these more challenging ways. Positive shifts are occurring as well, providing opportunities for growth and mindful awareness in the modern workplace. Some of the trends we are seeing include:
- Greater flexibility – Technology is allowing people to work remotely and to work on a schedule that suits their needs.
- Growth of the gig economy – There are now countless avenues for individuals to work for themselves, and to work remotely in many instances.
- Greater collaboration – Though still challenging to get just right, increased communication is enabling us to collaborate more effectively, and to incorporate the opinions and ideas of those who work remotely.
- Growing awareness of the need for work-life balance – Millennials and many others are pushing for work-life balance in their workplaces. One study found that work-life balance is now the most important factor for millennials when choosing a job.
- Greater support for social initiatives – More workplaces are looking for ways to give back to the global community and to support the environment.
These trends are only just a few of the numerous shifts we are seeing in the workplace. In order to effectively embrace the changes that are taking place and the varying needs of those in any organization, mindfulness is fundamental. Any kind of change in an organization places stress on the foundations that support it; however, if we are able to incorporate mindfulness into our communications and actions, we are more likely to end up with positive results that benefit all.
Effective Stress Management
It cannot be understated that stress is a crucial element to consider in the modern workplace. Even though there is a push for greater work-life balance, we are still falling short on a global embrace of workplace conditions that promote holistic wellbeing of employees. Studies have been conducted to help understand if and how mindfulness can help promote stress reduction amongst employees, and the results are encouraging. One study in particular was conducted to gain insight into how Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) might be able to support the mental health and wellbeing of employees in a workplace. While none of the studies focused solely on MBCT, the potential benefits of MBSR were made apparent. The study found that MBSR helped to:
- Reduce emotional exhaustion
- Lower stress levels
- Reduce psychological distress
- Reduce depression and anxiety
- Lower occupational stress
- Increase occupational self-compassion
- Improve sleep quality
- Increase relaxation
MBSR is a program that was founded by Job Kabat-Zinn in 1979. With numerous applications, the potential benefits are all-encompassing. MBSR programs implemented into the workplace have shown:
- 29% decrease in the symptoms of perceived stress
- 26.5% increase in actions based in self-awareness
- 25% increase in non-reactivity
- 22% increase in non-judgment
- 32% reduction of medical symptoms
As stress is experienced by individuals across all industries, and because it negatively affects humans in numerous ways, mindfully managing stress has widespread positive implications. From reducing pain to improving mental health, mindfulness-based stress management approaches benefit both worker and workplace profoundly.
How Mindfulness Benefits Professionals
While stress reduction plays a key role in improving wellbeing amongst employees, it is not the only way that mindfulness contributes to a healthy workplace (and to the health of the individuals within that workplace). Mindfulness reaches and improves upon numerous areas that are important to professionals and their employers, including:
Mindfulness makes for better leadership skills as it naturally encourages leaders to reduce their own tendency for bias and judgment and improves their ability to satisfy the needs of those they manage in a workplace. When disagreements arise, mindfulness helps leaders to pay greater attention to what is at the core of any issue and provides them with the clear seeing and listening that is required to bridge the gap between all the parties involved.
It is not uncommon for employees to experience burnout due to workplace demands. When we reach this final state of ultimate fatigue, physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion is the result. Studies have found that mindfulness intervention helps to reduce emotional exhaustion in the workplace. When emotions come into balance, both the employee and the organization are able to effectively work towards solutions to whatever challenges are at hand.
When it comes to communication, mindfulness helps us to remain present and attentive to those we converse with, helps us to maintain a non-judgmental approach to any situation, and helps us to respond to things that stir us in a calm manner. Within the workplace, this type of communication is crucial at all levels. Leaders benefit by being able to calmly handle any situation they are required to manage. All employees benefit by being able to move closer towards the center of any polarity. This individual shift encourages others to move towards middle ground as well, a place where innovative and mutually-beneficial solutions can come to fruition.
Focus and Attention
Mindfulness is present moment awareness, so it comes as no surprise that studies have found the practice helps to increase our capacity for focus and attention. More specifically however, mindfulness has shown to enhance three qualities that contribute to attention – that is, stability, efficiency, and control. When these qualities are enhanced, attention on visual and listening tasks improve.
Cognition and Memory
Research has found that mindfulness intervention helps to improve working memory and cognition, even after just brief periods of training. When memory, cognition, and attention is improved, tasks are completed more efficiently.
Creativity and Innovation
Numerous studies have found that mindfulness helps to boost creativity. One theory suggests that mindful attention to the task or challenge at hand lowers our tendency to gravitate towards our habitual beliefs and responses. Therefore, when a challenge arises, we are able to access creative solutions to whatever we are working on. This boost in creativity helps to spark innovation by providing insights and alternative ways to go about business.
Job Satisfaction and Motivation
Mindfulness interventions contribute to a healthy and positive work environment that makes employees value their workplace, helping to boost motivation throughout the day. Job performance also improves when mindfulness is present and employee turnover intention is reduced.
Professionals in numerous industries benefit from mindfulness practice as mindfulness helps us to reach harmony, union, and understanding. Many different professionals are now offering mindfulness workshops and trainings to their employees after taking a mindfulness teacher training course themselves. By helping employees to better understand the world within them, the outer world follows suit and countless factors that make for a positive workplace are boosted.
Mindfulness Practices for the Workplace Achieves Leadership & Motivation
There are numerous mindfulness exercises that can be implemented into the workplace, either on a personal level or throughout the organization. The following practices are just a selection of ways that mindfulness can be incorporated into professional settings. Various industries and work environments will have different needs, but as the only prerequisite for mindfulness practice is the present moment, most practices are suitable for use in any workplace.
1. Gratitude Practice
When aspects of work life become challenging, the mind begins to brew on all the negatives. While there may very well be challenges that need to be discussed with co-workers and managers, taking a few moments to consciously bring to mind all of the positives that exist can help to develop a clear perspective on any situation. We can ask ourselves: What opportunities exist in light of this challenging situation? Take some time to sit with this, and then quietly bring the mind into check by balancing the perceived negatives with the positives. Note five things you are grateful for in the present moment, and then note five things about the workplace as a whole that you are grateful for. This can help to bring about a broader perspective and lead to more innovative solutions.
2. 10-Minute Time Out
Taking a 10-minute break in the morning and afternoon while at work can help to reset the mind, the body, and our emotions. While there may be a tendency to accomplish something during these ten minutes, see if it is possible to simply rest in the environment you are in (you might wish to sit in a nearby park or observe the world through a window). Tune into your physical body, observing whatever is present. Tune into the mind and your emotions, without judgment, allowing all energy waves to come and to go. Observe the world around you, allowing each appropriate sense to revel in the world as it is. Notice the way the body and mind shifts from start to finish.
During times of stress, the breath becomes shallow and we unwittingly activate the body’s fight-or-flight response. Stress hormones are secreted and we find ourselves subtly (or not so subtly) anxious and on edge. Take two to three minutes to mindfully draw the breath back down to the belly to help bring the body back into balance. When we breathe into the stomach, we activate the relaxation response and the stressful symptoms we once felt begin to lessen. Repeat this as many times as is necessary throughout the day. Both body and mind will thank you for it.