MINDFULNESS – The New Success Mantra


Mindfulness is a meta strategy for Happiness and is regarded as an important determinant of success and productivity. Historically it has its roots in the Oriental philosophy and is now gaining popularity all over the world. A process that is considered a harbinger of well-being both at the physical and emotional level, has far reaching implications, from Medicine and Psychology to the Work place.

 

Mindfulness has been defined as “a state of being aware”. The fullness here is not the filling up of the mind with random thoughts, but the fullness of awareness and presence in the moment. The focus is on what is happening now and the effort is to push aside thoughts that do not belong there. There are two key elements to mindfulness: “focused awareness” and “unattached observation” in other words, we don’t allow the awareness to go away and yet we don’t cling to it. Meditation is an important tool in practicing mindfulness, but one can be mindful even in routine activities like eating, exercising etc.

 

There are myriad benefits of Mindfulness:

 

Psychological Benefits:

  1. It makes us feel calmer, reduces stress, gives us greater response flexibility which in turn improves our Emotional IQ.
  2. Being present in the moment, evokes curiosity and awe in even ordinary events and gives us a sense of having more time.
  3. Shauna Shapiro has studied the linkages between meditation and prefrontal cortex activity. The PFC is the newly evolved brain that helps rational thinking processes like planning, prioritizing, deciding and memorizing. The Left PFC is activated by positive thoughts whereas the Right PFC is activated by negative thoughts. Studies now show that meditation increases the left right PFC ratio thereby increasing happiness.
  4. Richie Davidson has demonstrated that meditation can raise your level of happiness, which otherwise remains constant, by changing the structure of the brain. The parts of the brain that are involved with attention, concentration, emotional intelligence and compassion actually get stronger with meditation or mindfulness.

 

Physiological Benefits:

  1. It lowers inflammation and improves immunity.
  2. Heart health (blood pressure, arrhythmia etc.) is improved.
  3. Shortening of ‘telomeres’ leads to reduced risk of cancer;

 

Social Benefits:

Mindfulness makes you more kind, compassionate and altruistic. It does this by stimulating the insular cortex of your brain, thereby making you more empathic.

 

It looks like mindfulness is great for your physical and emotional well-being. Its benefits in the spiritual domain is also well documented. However, many of us are not motivated by these intrinsic rewards. We have invested a lot to be successful in our careers, what does mindfulness do for us – you might ask. Well the good news is that mindfulness increases your chances of success.

 

Mindfulness makes you happier and many researchers like Diener, Lyubomirsky and King have demonstrated that happiness is a precursor to success as we are more productive when we are positive. Besides it increases your response flexibility thereby increasing your Emotional Intelligence, an important determinant of career success. As we relax, our creativity is sparked and that further adds zest to our careers. It is interesting to note that mindfulness is experienced when we are in Flow (Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi). Flow is the zone where competence meets enjoyment and leads to the development of mastery another crucial determinant of success.

 

Let us look at a few simple ways of practicing mindfulness:

  1. Relax: Sit in a comfortable position. Gently close your eyes. Gradually bring your focus on each part of your body and relax it. Feel the tension easing away.
  2. Breathing: Observe your breathing. Observe the sensation of your breath in the nostril. Observe that the air going in is cool and the air coming out is slightly warmer.
  3. Here and Now: Focus on the breath. If other thoughts start coming in, just push them away gently. Tell them, “I will attend to you later, not now.” Don’t be perturbed by them just push them away and get back to observing your breathing.

 

If you do not have time, you can start with just one-minute practice. Even that is known to help. As it becomes easier, you can add minutes. Practicing for 30 minutes is a good target.

 

You can try mindfulness in any activity, while eating, going for a walk, exercising, having a bath. If you eat with mindfulness, look at what you are eating, its colour, its shape, its size. Eat slowly, experience the taste, the texture, the feeling in your mouth and throat, the after taste in your mouth, the sensation of hot or cold. This actually increases the enjoyment and you are less prone to over eat or binge. TV dinners promote mindless eating and hence aren’t good for your waistline.

 

Exercise becomes so much more enjoyable when done with mindfulness. Go along with the stretch, feel each muscle stretching or contracting. Feel the breath expanding your lungs, feel it being released.

 

Try going for a walk and notice each tree, the cool breeze on your face, the splash of colour, the side-walks, the people, the sounds. Observe everything. Don’t judge whether it’s good or bad, just witness.

 

Well, the burning question is how do we balance multi-tasking with mindfulness? Let’s look at a Master Chef. He is cutting and chopping with precision, boiling water for the soup, heating the oven, blending the sauce, baking, and also making yummy desserts with fancy decoration. At no point is his concentration wavering from the task at hand. His multi-tasking is just sequencing the steps to take advantage of time lapses between activities. Thus while boiling potatoes, he can chop tomatoes. While something is baking in the oven, he can prepare the sauce to pour over it. Chatting on the phone, or watching a soap on TV would take away his focus and attention.

 

As we practise mindfulness every day, it will become a way of life, and happiness and success will then be the default state. Is that not a goal worth pursuing?

 

Mindfulness is about being fully awake in our lives. It is about perceiving the exquisite vividness of each moment.” Jon Kabat-Zinn

 

Key Takeaways:

  •  Mindfulness is a meta strategy for success in every walk of life.
  • It refers to being present in the moment with “focused awareness” and “unattached observation.”
  • There are many psychological benefits of practicing mindfulness such as reduction of stress, increasing level of happiness, efficient thinking and cognitive flexibility.
  • The major physiological benefits are improving immunity, heart health and reducing the risk of cancer.
  • At the social level it makes you more compassionate and altruistic as well as spiritual.
  • In terms of organizational success, it boosts productivity; increases your emotional intelligence; sparks your creativity and also facilitates mastery through achieving FLOW.
  • Practice of Mindfulness can begin with just a few minutes every day and some simple steps like relaxing, observing your breathing and gently pushing away distracting thoughts.
  • Mindfulness can be practiced even in everyday activities such as walking, eating, exercising etc. You just need to do it with attention and awareness. Gradually it will become a way of life.

 

Gitanjali Bagchi specializes in creating harmony and equilibrium. She is a life-coach par excellence and has extensive experience in coaching and corporate training. An alumnus of St Xaviers, College and IIM Calcutta, she continues to be a student of life!

 





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