What is Mindfulness?
We live in uncertain and perturbing times, with all the opportunities and difficulties this entails. The only certainty is that there is no such thing as security in our jobs, in our economic condition, or in any other aspect of our lives.
If we factor in the constant technological interruptions we are subject to on a daily basis (emails, phone messages, social media), the multitasking we are forced into in order to reconcile our professional and personal lives or to take on the work of those who are no longer there, all of this leads us to a situation of perpetual inattentiveness which makes it difficult for us to center our attention on one thing at a time.
Mindfulness is a way of focusing our attention on the moment at hand, of freeing our mind from the burdens that keep us from fully concentrating on what we are doing at any given moment. When mindful, we neither ruminate on the past nor dream about the future, but rather we accept the present as is without attempting to control it.
The challenge lies in universalizing this state, maintaining it, and even transmitting it to our collaborators. The good news is that it can be cultivated and that training in mindfulness has proven to be the most effective way of achieving this; the practice of mindfulness has lasting effects on a neural level, as the brain’s plasticity allows for the creation of new connections which modify our mental and behavioral patterns.
Companies such as Google, Apple, Deutsche Bank and General Mills already apply programs which incorporate mindfulness and which are based on the scientific rigor of academic investigations; these programs confirm that through mindfulness we can increase personal productivity as well as develop a greater capacity for emotional self-control and for decision making. In the following table we can see that when we exceed the stress level necessary for adequate performance, the latter actually decreases:
- Improves stress and anxiety management by changing the perception we have about the events that trigger these states, without having to change or control reality.
- Increases our capacity to direct attention, improves concentration on the task at hand, and develops memory as well as the mental flexibility needed to make decisions or to respond in unexpected situations.
- Increases emotional intelligence, understood as the ability to recognize our feelings and the feelings of others as well as the knowledge to manage them by developing abilities such as self-awareness, self-control, empathy and sociability.
- Has a positive impact on physical and psychological well-being as it enhances immunological resistance, increases the thickness of the left frontal neocortex (the area of the brain associated to well-being and happiness), and has positive effects on hypertension, chronic pain and addictive behavioral patterns.
Given the wide array of benefits, there are actually very few reason not to participate in mindfulness training.