what is mindfulness?
If you're more skilled at working with your mind and mental states then things go better for you, your organisation, your colleagues, clients, family and friends.
But how to do this?
Mindfulness training is one of the most effective means available.
Mindfulness is a way of paying attention, in the present moment, to yourself, others and the world around you. Derived from the Buddhist meditative traditions it is now finding its way increasingly into secular contexts. It is a skill that anyone can train in and we now know that such training literally re-sculpts your brain.
Studies at Harvard and elsewhere, for example, have shown that after just eight weeks of training there is a significant increase in brain grey matter concentration in areas associated with sustained attention, emotional regulation and perspective taking. Such training also increases activity in the left prefrontal cortex - a predictor of happiness and well-being. And it boosts your immune response, helping to defend against illness.
Mindfulness training gives you more insight into your emotions and it increases your level of attention and concentration. It's been proven to help with stress, anxiety, depression and addictive behaviours and has a positive effect on physical problems like hypertension, heart disease and chronic pain.
People who have trained in mindfulness have been shown to make more rational decisions. At times of economic decision making, meditators activate a different network of brain areas compared with non-meditators and that enables them to uncouple negative emotional reactions from their behaviour.
Meditation has been found to be a highly effective means of training managers in corporate social responsibility. The training significantly raises managers' levels of care and concern - and that changes their behaviour.
A study carried out in the US Marine Corps found that those Marines who trained in mindfulness experienced improved mood and working memory. Under pressure, they were more capable of complex thought and problem solving and they had better control of their emotions. Mindfulness training reduces the functional impairments associated with high-stress challenges that demand high levels of cognitive control, self-awareness, situational awareness and emotional regulation.
Mindfulness training has also been shown to raise one's level of emotional intelligence and improve relationships. Those completing a course of mindfulness training show significant improvements with respect to emotional intelligence, perceived stress and mental health compared to others.