In simple terms, mindfulness is the ability to observe what’s going on in our heads without getting carried away with it. It is the capacity to feel sensations—even painful ones—without letting them control us. Mindfulness means being aware of our experiences, observing them without judgment, and responding from a place of clarity and compassion, rather than fear or insecurity.
Studies show that mindfulness strengthens our immune systems, enhances concentration, and rewires our brains. Just as lifting weights at the gym makes our muscles stronger, practicing mindfulness makes our minds stronger. One of the ways we cultivate mindfulness is through meditation.
Mindfulness meditation doesn’t require us to wear robes, chant in a foreign language, or sit with our legs folded. Instead, mindfulness meditation simply asks that we take a comfortable position, either sitting, lying down, or even standing, and observe our thoughts, emotions, and sensations.
Give it a go. Sit in an upright position and close your eyes or if you want to keep them open, look down and into the distance. Now bring your attention to the fact that you are breathing. Focus on the place where you feel your breath come in and feel your breath come out most strongly, whether that is through your nose, your chest rising and falling, or your belly expanding and contracting. Keep your focus on the feeling of your breath and whenever you find your attention has been carried elsewhere, wherever that may be, simply note it, let it go, and gently take your attention back to the breath. Don’t give yourself a hard time because your mind has wandered from the breath, simply return it to the breath. And each time you become aware of your mind wandering, note briefly what led your mind away without judging it or getting carried off into the story, and gently bring your attention back to the breath, to your belly, to your breathing.
It’s simple. But hard. When you try it, you’ll notice that your mind has a tendency to race around a lot. Even if you made a determination to be completely focused on the breath, your mind will eventually forget the breath and wander off. That is human nature. The trick is each time you notice your mind is somewhere else, gently bring it back to the breath. By doing this, you are training your mind to be less reactive and more stable, and developing your natural ability to concentrate.
Just 10 minutes of mindfulness practice can create tremendous benefits; making you more productive, more creative, less reactive, improving your communication and making you a better listener, reducing your stress levels, helping you be more positive, and helping you to take back control of your life.
Mindfulness in Business
Studies have shown that practicing mindfulness, even for just a few weeks, can bring a variety of benefits, including an increase in positive emotions while reducing negative emotions and stress. Mindfulness helps us focus. Studies suggest that mindfulness helps us tune out distractions and improves our memory and attention skills. It’s a superpower and because of this, more and more large corporations are building mindfulness programs for their employees.
At General Mills, 80% of senior executives who attended their 7-week mindfulness course, reported they had improved their decision-making process and 89% said they had become a better listener.
Employees at Intel reported enhanced creativity, well-being, and focus, decreased stress levels and stronger enthusiasm for projects and meetings.
After the first year of its mindfulness program, Aetna reported a huge $9 million saving in healthcare costs in addition to reduced stress and increased productivity. These improvements were estimated to be adding a $3,000 value per employee each year.
Companies are developing powerful leaders who use mindfulness to make sure every confrontation doesn’t escalate into a fight-or-flight event, whose communication is more effective as they are able to harness empathy and active listening skills. They have more creative, productive, stress-free employees, and they are saving a fortune.