The practice of mindfulness has existed for many years and its significance is growing amongst business leaders and entrepreneurs.
When practiced with consistency and diligence, we connect with the present moment and learn how to live in the present moment rather than brooding about the past or worrying about the future.
How is this possible? Well, mindfulness teaches us how to relate to things differently, and by extension how to relate to ourselves, by bringing awareness to the things in life over which we have control, such as the present moment, instead of dwelling on the things in life over which we have none or little control, such as the past or future.
How is mindfulness achieved?
Mindfulness is a combination of maintaining focused attention, developing your capacity for concentration, and sustaining a state of increased awareness.
Mindfulness can be achieved through meditation, whereby you practice sustaining attention on the body, breath or any sensations that may arise at that moment. Mindfulness can also be achieved by being mindfully attentive in everyday life. For example, by paying close attention to the taste and texture of your food while you eat.
At its core, mindfulness helps us put some space between ourselves and our instinctive reactions. In doing so, we can see things for what they really are, rather than what we think they are.
When mindfulness is achieved, your mind and body act together as one. You breathe in and out mindfully; bringing your mind back to your bodily sensations, reaffirming your connection with the present moment.
The breath is quintessentially significant for mindfulness as it provides an anchor point for your practice; if the mind begins to wander, you come back to the breath, noticing each inhale and exhale, moment by moment without judgment or self-criticism.
Paying attention without any judgement is so vital for mindfulness practice; if the mind begins to ruminate, we can simply come back to the breath; and in doing so we bring our attention back to the present moment and regain our focused attention without critiquing ourselves too harshly that our minds began to wander.
What are the benefits of mindfulness?
Numerous studies have shown a statistically significant correlation between mindfulness and the psychological and physiological benefits on the body:
Continued practice reduces anxiety and any feelings arising from worry or unease, by increasing our ability to regulate emotions and manage the stress response
Mindfulness improves our cognitive abilities, including visuospatial processing, working memory, and executive functioning
By cultivating focus, concentration and awareness, mindfulness helps create new neurological pathways in the brain, strengthening the brain's ability to continue to cultivating focus, concentration, and awareness again and again
Mindfulness and Coaching
There is a growing body of research demonstrating the positive impact of integrating mindfulness techniques within life, business, and sports coaching. Virgili (2013) highlighted the importance of present-moment attention and non-judgemental identification to enable clients to increase their self-awareness and overall knowledge of their behavioural preferences. Passmore & Marianetti (2007) proposed that maintaining focus during the session and remaining emotionally observant, helped clients to focus on their goals. (Kinsler, 2014) demonstrated a significant correlation between those clients who engaged in mindfulness techniques and those who developed authentic leadership styles.
Mindfulness & Business
Many businesses are engaging with mindfulness in the workplace, either as part of their leadership development curriculum, executive coaching programmes, or as part of their employee well-being offer. Whilst much of the content of these programmes will differ from one provider to the other, the vast majority of programmes enable employees to develop strategies to stay focused on tasks without being distracted by thoughts about the past or future, to find a sense of calm in the midst of stressful or challenging situations and to manage their own internal emotions and impulses with greater self-awareness.
Mindfulness and Yoga
The work of Jon Kabat-Zinn demonstrated the connection between yoga & mindfulness by combining each asana with mindful awareness, as each movement is practiced slowly and gently. This awareness helps us move towards a heightened state of “physical and mental development” as we focus our attention, and practice, on the present moment.
The Future of Mindfulness
The application of mindfulness is limitless; it will continue to influence the worlds of clinical and academic study, the business world and sports psychology. As a qualified life coach and yoga instructor, I have seen the positive impact of mindfulness for a range of clients and I truly believe that future research into mindfulness can unleash a source of rich data from which we can continue to understand the connection between the body and the mind and its implication for our personal, professional and physical development.