It comes without saying that mindfulness, or the act of “knowing directly what is going on inside and outside ourselves, moment by moment,” has become a very popular practice. “One who masters their own mind moves joyfully through life and makes an art of just being,” and being mindful can help you do just that.
It might seem to some that mindfulness is just another new age trend, but the potential benefits that it represents, both personally and professionally, are backed by solid, verifiable science. So since we spend the equivalent of a solid 11 years of our life at work on average, and “a stressful workplace could take 33 years off your life expectancy,” should more of us be making an active effort to keep ourselves mindful at work?
According to recent research, mindfulness has been shown to reduce stress, increase charisma, and improve sales at work, so the implications of mindfulness in the workplace are enormous according to Ellen Langer, a Psychology professor at Harvard University. In fact, the Harvard Business Review went so far as to say that:
“Mindfulness should no longer be considered a “nice-to-have” for executives. It’s a “must-have”: a way to keep our brains healthy, to support self-regulation and effective decision-making capabilities, and to protect ourselves from toxic stress.”
According to the NHS, “Becoming more aware of the present moment can help us enjoy the world around us more and understand ourselves better.” Neuroscientists have also taken a great deal of interest in the effects of mindfulness on the brain, and found that practicing mindfulness affects brain areas related to perception, body awareness, pain tolerance, emotion regulation, introspection, complex thinking, and sense of self. Studies have also shown that mindfulness can be an effective treatment for depression.
So are there any downsides to mindfulness?
Dr Florian Ruths, a consultant psychologist, has said “Mindfulness is delivered to potentially vulnerable people with mental illnesses, including depression and anxiety, so the practice needs to be taught by people who know the basics about those illnesses. Unfortunately, the rising hype surrounding mindfulness and its benefits has begun to cause those in the industry to worry that the standard of training for mindfulness coaches is slipping, while the demand for them is climbing.
But mindfulness should not be treated as a cure-all magic formula for work woes and mental health issues. The same practices and therapies don’t necessarily work for everyone, and mindfulness has it’s own share of potential drawbacks. An important thing to remember when dealing with stress and mental illness is that everyone is different, so it can take time to find the right coping methods that work for you. But if you are interested in learning more about mindfulness, there are plenty of courses you can try.
If you feel that your job is adversely affecting your stress levels and mental health, you should talk to one of your superiors. They have a duty to care for you, and if they fail to meet that, then you are under no obligation to stick around. Remember, your mental health and well being in the workplace are more important than any job.