What is Mindfulness?
We describe mindfulness as an innate human capacity. This capacity enables people to focus on what they experience in the moment, internally as well as in their environment, with an attitude of openness, curiosity and care.
We are all somewhat mindful some of the time, but we can choose to develop this faculty through practice. Being mindful does not necessarily involve meditation, but for most people, this form of mind-training is required to strengthen the intention to stay present and cultivate an open and allowing quality of mind. “Mindfulness”, therefore, commonly refers to a practice that individuals and groups can do on a day-to-day basis. It is an integrative, mind-body based training that enables people to change the way they think and feel about their experiences, especially those which are stressful. It sounds simple – and it is, but it can also be difficult, especially in our modern task-focused lives.
There is enormous variety in the way mindfulness training is delivered in the workplace, from teacher-led courses through to digital delivery as a way of increasing access.
Major organisations already implementing workplace mindfulness programmes include: AOL, Apple, Astra Zeneca, BASF, BT, Comcast, Deutsche Bank, eBay, General Motors, Google, IBM, McKinsey, Nortel Networks, Procter & Gamble, Texas Instruments, Transport for London, Toyota, Unilever, Volvo, Xerox and Yahoo!.
Why is this beneficial?
In today’s business world people are more stressed and comparatively less able to make effective decisions (Dean & Webb, 2011). An increasing body of neuroscience evidence indicates that mindfulness practice, such as meditation or attention exercises, leads to desirable “neuroplasticity”: physical changes in the brain that help dampen down people’s stress. Notably, even very short periods of practicing mindfulness can be effective.
According to recent research, 15 minutes of mindfulness meditation can help debias decisions (Hafenbrack et al., 2014). After engaging in mindfulness training 4 times for 20 minutes each, individuals’ memory and executive functioning can significantly improve (Zeidan et al., 2010).