We are all used to operating in “automatic mode”. It allows us to be fast, to project ourselves as efficient, productive and seemingly flexible. This reality, however, tends to make us inattentive, losing ourselves in judgments and reflections that abstract us from the world around us, limiting the way we react. It makes us rigid and not emotionally involved in our actions. When we function in automatic mode, we avoid thoughts, feelings and situations that bring us sensations and emotions that we don't want to deal with. We feel that these thoughts and feelings are undesirable or that confronting them would be too intense. And so we move away from the state of mindfulness.
This experiential and emotional avoidance is a socially accepted adaptive strategy, but it is a major flaw: the more the person tries to suppress such aversive contents, the more they will feel them. These contents become more persistent and intense, since, involuntarily, we focus our attention on them, ending up dominating us. At the same time, these negative sensations and feelings do not cause harm in themselves. They are just signs of conditions that should be addressed.
How do I simply accept a thought or emotion that consumes me?
Although mindfulness practices and principles emerge from contemplative and philosophical traditions, anyone can effectively put them into practice without training or the proper knowledge of the topic. This concept is increasingly being taken into account, as it has been proving significant increases in the general well-being of those who practice it, reducing the consequences of “living in automatic mode” and establishing relationships with the work environment itself. .
What is Mindfulness?
It is possible to define mindfulness as a specific form of full attention or, in other words, concentration in the present moment, intentional, and non-judgmental (Kabat-Zinn, 1990). With “current moment” the author refers to being in touch with the present without the mind wandering to past thoughts, future thoughts, or other matters not involved in the “now”. It is intentional, since being in this state of attention is a choice of the subject who strives for it.
The purpose of these practices is precisely to bring the focus of our attention to the present moment and with this to accept thoughts and emotions simply as they present themselves, not being positive or negative – without judgment. Thus, adopting an observer position, we see as legitimate what we feel and think, reducing its persistence and magnitude. Non-judgment and acceptance are in contrast to the automatic tendency that we have to invest in a fight against these aversive experiences, failing to live the rest of their reality: feeling sadness, anger or disgust is just as legitimate as feeling joy or love. The practitioner stops judging his thoughts and sensations because, in fact, fighting emotions and thoughts that we consider aversive only brings us closer to them.
Accepting these often undesirable feelings and emotions makes it easier to live in a world that is not under our control. It allows us to actively engage in it, rather than living it out in our minds. In this perspective, the person learns to recognize that all the contents that occupy his mind are transient, without merging with them, not letting them dominate him.
Thus, the mindfulness practitioner has the opportunity to experience its contents as they really are, without categorizing them or attributing concepts and meanings, learning to respect positive and negative thoughts and feelings, accepting them for what they are - nothing more than thoughts - even if they are unpleasant.
Why is mindfulness important in the workplace?
Mindfulness practices, in addition to the benefits associated with mental health such as reducing stress, anxiety and increasing well-being, have shown to develop skills such as curiosity, openness to experience, acceptance and emotional intelligence. (Learn more about how to develop these traits and their potential on our website)
Mindfulness and Well Being
There is vast evidence of how the role of leaders play a fundamental role in the engagement and well-being of their employees and, consequently, in their productivity. For example, less autonomous work environments or where organizational support is little perceived, frustrate the basic psychological needs of those who work, providing less adjustment in the exercise of their function. The whole environment we surround ourselves with can be a trigger for stress, discomfort or feelings that disturb us.
Recent studies indicate that, on average, a working adult spends at least a quarter to a third of their life working (Schultz et. al, 2015). At the same time, 69% of workers refer to work as an important source of stress and 41% report being stressed or tense while working, leading to the fact that the number of workers who miss work due to stress-related causes exceeds the number of workers absent due to injury or illness. Coincidentally, burnout is one of the most recurrent health issues among Europeans and Americans.
On the other hand, the same investigations reveal that people with higher levels of mindfulness are less likely to experience frustration, even in environments with lower perceived organizational support (Schultz et. al, 2015). Thus, this concept is a protective and regulating factor of well-being and autonomy in these contexts. Emotional regulation has been proving to be the key element of mindfulness, as these people are more likely to see stressful events as less threatening, knowing how to respond to them more appropriately.
Mindfulness and Performance
Recent experiences also demonstrate a positive relationship between mindfulness in the workplace and professional performance or performance. Directing attention and situating the mind in the “now”, no matter how much pressure there is not to do so, makes us aware of a series of stimuli and events and, as a result, we are more effective.
Even though the usefulness of our intuitions in the workplace depends on the nature of the task and the level of expertise of the person doing it, mindfulness leads people to be more connected with their tasks, which can facilitate their performance. (Hogarth, 2001; Kahneman & Klein, 2009; Klein, 1998).
Mindfulness and Leadership
To connect is to mind (Weick and Roberts, 1993: 374)
Given the importance of emotional intelligence, emotional regulation, attention and empathy in matters of leadership and interpersonal relationships, mindfulness has been proving to be very useful in these topics - all these aspects are central elements in the mind of a leader, since it requires a wide and deep cognitive and emotional awareness of oneself, others and the context that surrounds it.
In this perspective, the focus is no longer exclusive to individual development and becomes, simultaneously, collective development. By being committed to the “now”, capturing what is happening and being reflective and sensitive to the context, the person takes into account relational capacities and not only individual ones. Thus, it becomes an organizational and social attribute (Vogus and Sutcliffe, 2012: 724).
When relational, focusing on interpersonal relationships, mindfulness stands out for its association with themes of adaptive and relational leadership (Cunliffe and Eriksen, 2011; Reitz, 2014; Reitz and Chaskalson, 2016; Reitz et al., 2016), and in organizational processes and emotional intelligence. Being sensitive and knowing how to respond to interpersonal relationships allows you to deal with emotions and dynamics that are felt in transformational and adaptive environments, based on dialogue, active listening and connection with the other.
While some people may be more mindful than others, whether as a result of specific experiences or a predisposition, we can learn to focus our mind more consciously through practice.
When you decide to start or continue to practice mindfulness, there are some things to consider:
1. It's free
You don't need to buy anything. Mindfulness practice requires no material other than yourself.
2. It is impossible to silence the mind
The goal is not to have a blank mind, thinking about absolutely nothing. The goal is, yes, to bring you to the now, which is the focus of your attention.
3. Your mind will wander from focus
It is normal for intrusive thoughts to arise when you are practicing mindfulness. Don't get frustrated or give up if this happens, just be aware of them and try to redirect your mind back to what you were doing.
4. Bring your mind back, as often as it takes
When your attention wanders or you start thinking about something that doesn't interest you in the practice, always bring your mind back.
4 mindfulness exercises
Here are some examples of how you can practice mindfulness on a daily basis, without requiring a lot of training:
1. Focus on your breathing.
Take a few minutes out of your day (they don't have to be many) and focus on your breathing.
One of the most common exercises is to count to 10: Inhale for 4 seconds through the nose and exhale for 6 seconds through the mouth. Do this over and over until you feel it makes sense.
If you feel like you need a more intense workout, turn to "chaotic breathing", the name says it all: you'll be so focused on what you're feeling that you won't have room to think about anything else. What happens in this exercise is precisely to induce the body to hyperventilate (don't be scared, it's safe to do it for a few minutes). To do this, take a deep breath through your nose and expel all your air through your mouth at an accelerated pace, around one second in each inspiration and expiration. You may experience dizziness or other symptoms, this is normal. When you feel enough, stop and relax a bit.
In all breathing exercises, when exhaling through your mouth, try to keep it as open as possible, so that there is a greater amount of air circulating.
2. The 5 senses exercise
- Notice 5 things you can see. Try to pick 5 things you don't normally notice.
- Notice 4 things you can feel. Textures, the wind on your skin, etc.
- Notice 3 things you can hear. Whether it's an animal, the sound of an appliance or a car, focus on what you hear.
- Notice two things you can smell. Good or bad, try now to focus on a few smells that don't normally get your attention.
- Fix a flavor. Concentrate on one thing that you can taste or savor right now. It can even induce tastes like sipping a drink, eating a piece of gum, or even the current taste in your mouth.
3. Notice your feelings
When you are taking a shower, close your eyes and notice how you feel when the water slides down your body. This is also a way of diverting your mind to your bodily sensations.
In another situation, try to visualize the shape your body takes when you sit in a chair, thus shifting your awareness to whatever physical sensations you are experiencing.
4. Name your emotions
In everyday life, when you feel uncomfortable or unwanted emotions, give them a name: “This is anger”, “this is anxiety”, etc. of the same. To recognize emotion for what it is is to recognize it as different from you. In fact, emotion is nothing more than a response to a stimulus, and it is fleeting. See your emotions as visits to your body, give them permission to come in and out of you.
Organizations that have embraced mindfulness practices
Knowing the benefits that the practice of mindfulness brings to organizations, there are several companies that resort to its practice. Here are some examples:
In one of the largest technology companies, mindfulness exercises are practiced minutes before meetings or in the Search Inside Yourself (SIY) course - a practical course on mindfulness and emotional intelligence developed by the company for its employees. Currently, Search Inside Yourself has been expanded to allow other people and organizations to access it.
Offering meditation classes to its employees, the founder of the social network, Mark Zuckerberg, also meets with other founders of technology companies at the Wisdom 2.0 conference, which discusses the benefits of meditation in the digital age.
Steve Jobs was a practitioner of mindfulness meditation. According to him, these practices helped him to clarify his ideas and thoughts.
Start your practice today
Practicing mindfulness is useful for anyone. Being a relatively simple practice, it exerts an influence on your brain that is only beneficial to you, increasing your quality of life. Try to take a few minutes out of each day to practice and you will surely notice that something has changed for the better.
Learn more about mindfulness practice
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José Pedro Cabral | Trainne Bright Concept
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