The medical fraternity has been using mindfulness for many years in therapeutic settings to assist people in dealing with physical and mental illness and to enhance well-being. Off late, the corporate world has started noticing the benefits of introducing mindfulness in the workplace. Here are some reasons why practising mindfulness may be good for your career.

What is meant by mindfulness?

The definition of mindfulness transverses many boundaries and has been used to connote everything from a simple attention process, to a committed lifestyle choice. Mindfulness is achieved when one’s attention is entirely focused on present-moment phenomena occurring both externally and internally. Research does suggest a range of benefits may accrue to individuals who exhibit a mindful disposition or engage in activities that enhance mindfulness. Some of the commonly observed benefits are improved mental and physical health, psychological well-being, behavioural regulation, and interpersonal dynamics.

What does mindfulness encompass?

Researchers believe that mindfulness contains five areas:

(1) Orientation in the present,

(2) Sensitivity to context,

(3) Openness to experience,

(4) Adoption of multiple perspectives, and

(5) The drawing of novel distinctions.

In the state of mindfulness, the practitioner attempts to observe one’s experience from a decentered or non-egocentric position, thereby delinking the phenomena under observation from the obvious (and apparently unchallengeable) interpretations.

What are the benefits of practising mindfulness?

Improved attention control

Increased control over attention is an important outcome of mindfulness. In practising deliberate, focused attention, the practitioner can experience him/herself as actively in control of their attention. For many, consciousness is experienced as something that happens to us. That is, our thoughts come and go unbidden, our attention is “captured” by stimuli external to us, and seemingly this occurs independently of our choice, mindfulness breaks this pattern.

Decreased emotional reactivity

Emotional reactivity is also associated with a passive stance toward consciousness, wherein the person experiences him/herself as subject to their perceptions, and the emotions that arise from them are experienced as automatic and inescapable. The decentered awareness of experience associated with mindfulness enables the person to make their perceptions an object of attention, rather than being subject to them. In breaking this nexus, the person creates a moment of choice or “a small interval of time” in which they can see their experience differently and chose an appropriate response.

Better relationship with self

Most of the humans continue blaming themselves for life’s challenges and build a spiral of hating oneself or become too critical of one’s action; this is also termed as negativity. Practising mindfulness promotes a more “secure attachment to oneself” one that encourages experiential engagement rather than avoidance. In other words, the security triggered by an affirming and unique relationship with oneself enables the individual to engage in their ongoing experience and derive valuable insights from it. This leads to better self-understanding and, ultimately, a better understanding of others.

Discover new information:

It is accepted that the human attention system has limited capacity. A multitude of stimuli bombard the senses in any moment, and people can only direct attention towards a small fraction of the available stimuli. It is believed that mindfulness practice helps to counteract this tendency by helping people to either notice information that was previously or by allowing an opportunity to select (choose) a new interpretation for familiar stimuli (e.g., understanding job performance feedback as constructive, not a personal criticism).

Improvement in self-confidence

One of the biggest advantages of practising mindfulness is that individuals gain a sense of empowerment from within. Mindfulness training may positively impact goal-directed behaviour via improvements in self-efficacy. That is, when the experience of attention control is coupled with reduced emotional reactivity, a person is likely to feel that they can better manage their emotional responses and utilise their cognitive resources more fully in the service of self-regulation.

Jappreet Sethi