What is Mindfulness?
What do the words, ‘empathy’, ‘resilience’, ‘awareness’, ‘presence’, ‘compassion’, ‘emotional intelligence’, and ‘wellbeing’ all have in common? They’re at the center of Mindfulness or as some have referred to it, as the Mindful Revolution – The science of finding focus in a stressed-out, multitasking culture. (Cover of Time, February 3, 2014)
What is mindfulness? Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.
While mindfulness is something we all naturally possess, it’s more readily available to us when we practice it on a daily basis.
Whenever we bring awareness to what we’re directly experiencing via our senses, or to our state of mind via our thoughts and emotions, we’re being mindful. And there’s growing research showing that when we train our brain to be mindful, we’re actually remodeling the physical structure of our brain.
Stress vs. Mindfulness
Stress appears to negatively impact mindfulness. According to a study by Joe Burton, CEO/Founder, Whil Concepts, 71% of companies report high to extreme stress, and 83% of Americans report that work is a significant source of stress. According to Harris Interactive Work Stress Survey(2013), the annual cost of stress in the form of absenteeism, medical costs, diminished productivity, and turnover, to only name a few, is $300 billion.
The APA Stress in America: The Impact of Discrimination Report, 2016, cites that three of four generations in the workplace today have reported stress levels in the danger zone, and the pace of technology is making it worse. And stressors are universal: emotional, financial, physical, and social.
Mental health symptoms, such as feeling nervous or anxious, depressed or sad, constant worrying, and irritability or anger, are growing fast.
The De-Stress Fix
Bersin by Deloitte, 2016, has found that employers are moving from wellness to wellbeing and performance.
Whil Concepts has found that traditional wellness programs aren’t covering stress, resiliency, and mental wellbeing…so they miss “performance”. They’ve found a competitive advantage from employees learning repeatable skills to make calm and focus the norm.
How do we practice mindfulness? D. Fontaine, S. Bauer-Wu, & D. Germano (2014), suggest that we consider yoga and meditation classes, reflective writing, deep breathing, and, of course, physical exercise. Studies have shown a 28% reduction in stress, 20%increase in sleep quality, and 19% decrease in pain.
Fontaine notes that the University of Virginia is integrating mindfulness into the Schools of Nursing and Medicine. They built a resilience room and a contemplative classroom, where they offer free yoga and meditation five days a week. They’ve also offered courses in resilience and mindfulness and self-care. Resilience Retreats are offered for every nursing student and those ‘in the field’. Workshops in creative arts include writing, painting, and knitting.
Fontaine recommends the use of ‘The Three C’s’. First, consider a contemplative practice. Next, carve out time for gratitude. Start a gratitude journal of just writing down three things you are grateful for every night . Do it for 21 days, and it will become a habit. And third, cultivate a practice of kindness towards yourself and others.
The American Mindfulness Research Association, 2017, has conducted studies on the health and performance benefits of mindfulness. They have found improvements in focus, memory, relationships, self-control, and creativity. Likewise, they’ve seen a reduction in stress, anxiety, depression, and pain.
Challenge yourself to take the first steps to incorporating some mindfulness actions into your routine and see what happens.