Why Mindfulness Matters

Does your work life involve as much last-minute “energy-charged arrows” to erupt an anxious volcano or as much serenity as the Raffles Place MRT at
9am on a Monday? If so, it’s time for a fresh approach to your corporate life.

If sitting cross-legged in the corner of your office singing ���ommm’ doesn’t sound like your idea of a good time, you needn’t worry. Mindfulness practice
is practical enough for even the harshest sceptic – no prayer beads necessary. Not only will meditation ease you into a more engaging, creative way
of life, but it will also improve your overall wellness. Every major business press from Harvard Business Review to Forbes is punting mindfulness to
transform not only the corporate workplace, but the very work we do. Corporate behemoths like Google, Aetna and Facebook are all following suit by
encouraging their employees to adopt this discipline. Here’s why.

The UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School studied the benefits of mindfulness in corporate high-fliers and found that the practice of mindfulness improved communication skills and innovative
thinking while lowering negative stress reactions. Being mindful allows you to discover new ways to relate to ���the good, the bad and the ugly’ of whatever
life throws at you. It enables you to engage with what’s unfolding in the present moment instead of grappling aimlessly with the ���woulda coulda shouldas’.

Make no mistake: this is not a simple practice – especially for the stress junkies of today who find sitting in silence a daunting task. In one study by
the University of Virginia, a group of
men were given the option of sitting quietly or giving themselves an electric shock. Guess what 65% of them chose? The electric shock.

Mindfulness is not just abstract talk. A team of scientists from the University of British Columbia and Chemnitz University of Technology found that the practice of mindfulness appeared to enhance specific brain regions related to perceptivity, pain tolerance, emotional resilience, complex
thinking and self-awareness. Translating this into practical terms, mindfulness can keep you from sending emails you will later regret, it can eliminate
the need to have awkward and lonely lunches by yourself, and it can help you solve problems effectively and make clearer decisions. What’s more, your
body’s level of cortisol – the hormone to blame for all the stress that’s been causing you to down sedatives – also decreases and your immune system
becomes stronger.

According to Jon Kabat-Zinn, the godfather of contemporary mindfulness, there are seven attitudes of mindfulness that form the building blocks of one’s
practice. ���Practice’ being the operative word. No one becomes more mindful by attending a talk by Kabat-Zinn. This is a practice that is lived and
breathed in our everyday lives. It’s not what you do, it’s how you do it, and that’s intention and attitude in action. Let’s elaborate on the first
two attitudes.

First Attitude: Non-Judging

This attitude takes some practice because it introduces a concept that’s wildly foreign to conventional wisdom. We have all been so conditioned to make
judgement on thoughts, events and feelings – stamping them with a ���pleasant’ or ���unpleasant’ label – that we don’t even realise that we are now driven
by such judgements unconsciously. This attitude is about suspending this ongoing judgement and relating to our experiences in an impartial manner.

If your supervisor were in a destructive mood, it would be instinctive to go into a judging mode. The key here is to not judge the judging and simply become
aware of it without reacting to it. By bringing consciousness to the moment, we find the space and pause to choose our response instead of resorting
to the mindless reaction of going into full battle-mode.

Second Attitude: Acceptance

Time will always tick no matter how hard we try to manipulate it. Colleagues get promoted ���unfairly’ and others just get lucky all the time. Acceptance
is about seeing things as they are. Every second you open your palms to receive reality is a second you save on hand-wringing.

The world will not be as ideal as you want it to be, your boss will not stop being indecisive and your chaotic morning is unlikely to become less full
of chaos. These represent wants and desires, but we don’t live in the future. We are alive only in the present. Only when we truly accept what is going
on can we move forward. And if reality still bites, know that embracing the bite only makes you stronger.

Mindfulness is a conscious commitment to our intentions. For some of us it starts with suspending the judgement of our self-critic; for some it is about
opening our palms to reality. Living is about experiencing life to the fullest – the good, the bad and the ugly. So let’s roll up our sleeves and get
to work, just like Mark. 

Check out our latest Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) Program 


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