"Based on published studies, mindfulness appears to be effective in reducing levels of stress and increasing levels of resilience and emotional intelligence. It raises the level of self-awareness and awareness of others; it increases interpersonal sensitivity and communication skills. It lowers rates of health-related absenteeism, leads to increased concentration and extends one’s attention span. it reduces impulsivity and improves one’s capacity to hold and manipulate information. It lowers levels of psychological distress and raises levels of well-being and overall work and life satisfaction”The Mindful Workplace| Michael Chaskalson
Many organisations today find themselves facing increasing complexity. Business has changed. It is fast paced and unrelenting. Employees are bombarded at every turn by media messages and a culture of “sweat the asset” permeates most companies today. Directors find themselves operating in an environment of increasing competition, shrinking profits and endless competitor innovation. Technology only serves to drive this trend of non-stop connectivity and fuels the growing demands placed on individuals to perform and their optimum. Some employees feel stretched, burnt out and anxious. Many managers are simply in survival mode. In this mode, managers and employees alike, are robbed of their flexibility, sense of humour and ability to deal with the unknown.
A Stressed Brain:
The hormones cortisol and adrenalin get secreted when we are stressed. These are useful to mobilize us into action in the short term. However, if they are constantly activated in the long term, they impact on us negatively and affect how we perform and respond to situations. What often occurs is that our attention narrows to such a degree we end up focusing only on what is stressing us. Our memory activates thoughts, which are most relevant to what is stressing us. This cascade of thinking is our default mode of learned habits in the mind.
In short, the brain’s executive centers, which include our neural circuitry for paying attention, comprehending, and learning are short-circuited/hijacked by our networks for handling stress.
The result is stress, anxiety and negative emotions increase and the chances of reactivity are heightened. This emotional contagion affects all who come into contact with us. As a result, our behavior directly impacts others in less than optimal ways.
A Relaxed Mind Is at Ease:
Scientific research, clinical trials and more recently, advanced brain-scanning technology (FMRIs), attest to the value of Mindfulness Training. Research shows that even a short period of mindfulness meditation directly affects the function and structure of the brain, changing it in ways that appear to increase attention span, sharpen focus and improve memory.
In a study led by a Harvard-affiliated team of researchers based at Massachusetts General Hospital, MRI scans documented that meditation produced changes inside the brain’s gray matter.
It has been found that participation in an 8 week MBSR (Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction) course, is associated with more dense gray matter in brain regions involved in learning and memory processes, emotion regulation, self-referential processing, and perspective taking. There is also a reduction in dense gray matter in the amygdala—the part of the brain associated with fear and stress.
This has beneficial implications for our workplaces. How and what we pay attention to, changes how we relate to thought, emotion and much more. It is possible to re-wire our brain and change our state of mind and habitual patterns, allowing us to be more self-aware, emotionally intelligent and able to self-regulate with greater skill.
Self-regulation is a key skill:
Emotionally intelligent people have the ability to self-regulate.
Daniel Goleman, a leader in Emotional Intelligence, outlines the signifiers of emotional self-regulation as follows:
A person who knows how to self-regulate possesses:
- An inclination towards thoughtfulness and reflection.
- Has integrity, specifically, the ability to say no to impulsive urges.
- The ability to accept uncertainty and change.
Thus, people who can manage their emotions well, are resilient. They can bounce back from stress arousal more skillfully. This means, at the neural level, quieting the amygdala and other stress circuits, frees up the capacities of the executive centers. When we fine-tune our ability to pay attention, on purpose, the mind becomes flexible and focused and in turn, the body relaxes. This state of relaxed alertness is certainly the key to optimal health and performance.
Don't you think this is a skill worth cultivating at work?
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