With the popularity of mindfulness and meditation, there are still many questions people have about what mindfulness is? They wonder if it’s right for them, or whether or not it’s right to bring it into a workplace.

What is mindfulness?

Let’s start with what mindfulness is. There are many modern definitions that all pretty much say the same thing; mindfulness is paying attention to the present moment. Experience without judgment of thoughts, feelings or sensations and a willingness to be ok with what is.  Mindfulness is paying deep attention to the world around you and within you, moment by moment.

Similarly to the field of medicine, mindfulness is a massive field.  It blends ancient eastern philosophies and traditions with modern day brain and body science.  The concept of mindfulness has been around thousands of years, the science of mindfulness has only been around since the seventies.  Though the research supports many positive benefits like reducing stress, improving attention and cognitive function, and enhancing overall well-being, from a science perspective, it’s still early in the research.  In 1997 there were three scientific studies on mindfulness. By 2017 there were roughly 1,200 scientific studies, which sounds like a lot, but compared to heart health studies in the same year it’s not. There were over 30,000 studies in 2017. The research, though encouraging, is still very much in its infancy.

Within the field of mindfulness, there are sub-categories; cultivation of character traits, self-study, physical wellbeing, and universal insight.  Meditation is the foundational tool that helps people build the skill to live with mindfulness across all sub-categories. Other tools of mindfulness include compassion, non-judgment of self and others and kind communication. A mindfulness teacher teaches more than just meditation, though meditation is a core element of what a mindfulness teacher teaches.

Do I need a mindfulness teacher?

People seek out mindfulness for many reasons. People with chronic and/or terminal health issues. such as heart disease, fibromyalgia, cancer, and others life-altering diseases. They seek out mindfulness to improve heart health, mental wellbeing and manage the stress of illness.  People who are going through a difficult mental or emotional time such as job burnout, divorce, addiction issues (theirs or a loved one) or grieving a death, also turn to mindfulness to ease internal suffering.  Still, others choose mindfulness to enhance cognitive function, creativity, and productivity.  Most people who start, continue either because they see a measurable impact. Such as lower blood pressure or increased focus or simply because it feels good to them.   Do you need a mindfulness teacher, only you can know if learning mindfulness feels right for you. (If you’re interested enough to have read this far, then the answer may be yes!)

Does my company need a mindfulness program?

Companies implement mindfulness programs for a variety of reasons.  Mindfulness at work is a one-billion-dollar industry. and has been shown to improve cognitive function which can be linked to productivity. It also has been shown to enhance creativity, which can be linked to innovation. Both outcomes can enhance the bottom line.  Some companies offer mindfulness as a wellness or health benefit, which is a win/win as it supports employees dealing with health issues and has the potential to lower health care costs for the company and individual.

Other companies implement mindfulness programs to help leaders, managers, and employees learn tools to manage emotional reactivity to address toxic workplaces as well as build cultures that support discernment and critical thinking skills.    The non-measurable impacts to this type of implementation may include improved trust, communication, and collaboration in the workplace.

Does your company need a mindfulness program? It depends on your motivation to have one and what other programs your company has in place to support employee development. It is important to ensure they can keep the program and practice supported beyond the training intervention.  Make sure your why and intended outcome for employees are clear. This will help ensure success and buy-in from bottom-up and top-down, as well as help you select the right teacher/program.

If you decide to move forward with an individual mindfulness program or you want to bring it your workplace – as with all things, the more you put into it, the more you will get out of it.  The first next step is to find the best teacher to meet your current needs.

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