Why You Should Bring Mindfulness to Your Organization
In times of Globalization and Digitalization, one is exposed to a constant flood of information and stimuli. Everything happens faster. The process of gathering information as well as decision-making and the achievement of results ought to be shorter and faster. This results in an ever-increasing pressure of companies to perform. But how can companies ensure stable performance under these circumstances?
One concept that has come up more and more frequently in this discussion in recent years is mindfulness and meditation. Companies like Google, Nike, General Mills, Facebook Goldman Sachs, and many more have been integrating mindfulness practices into their businesses. What mindfulness means and what advantages it brings to an individual and a company will be explained in the following article.
At the center of Mindful Leadership lies the development of the self-control ability of one's own attention. It is about being present in the current moment and perceiving precisely what is happening in one's own consciousness. This enables us to notice and override unconsciously acting patterns of thinking, feeling, and behavior, which creates space for creative and situation-adapted behavior in leadership situations.
Mindful Leadership can have a positive impact on everyday working life. First of all, mindfulness enhances the problem-solving ability and concentration of employees. This is mainly due to the fact that meditation can change the structures of the brain, which will be discussed in more detail below. In addition, mindful leadership reduces stress and thus increases the ability to work under pressure. As a result, exhaustion and even burnouts can be avoided.
Furthermore, an increase in the commitment of employees can be achieved. As a research study by brain researcher Richard Davidson and Jon Kabat-Zinn showed, meditation improves the overall mood and quality of life, which in turn has a beneficial effect on performance at work. Most of the time we act based on existing patterns of evaluation and reaction. This has the consequence that results are always similar. Mindful Leadership can help as mindful observation enables a change in perspective. This supports to perceive stressful situations more clearly and from different angles because those who do not focus on the present moment in a judgmental way can observe stressful events more objectively. This stress reduction can in turn lead to greater job satisfaction.
Another aspect that leads to higher job satisfaction is that the perception of one's own experiences leads to a higher awareness of peoples own values and needs and thus the ability to act more in accordance with them.
Furthermore, mindfulness encourages the development of emotional intelligence, which is critical to success in working with customers, colleagues, and employees. This leads to a more authentic appearance because mindful managers perceive inner impulses more quickly and can consciously decide from a self-observing attitude how they want to react as constructively as possible. This is because trust is built when managers' own behavior matches the values they express and their opinions do not constantly change.
A final aspect that needs to be mentioned is the positive effect on concentration and productivity. Due to the high level of distraction caused by phone calls, e-mails, or text messages, many people find themselves in a constant state of partial attention and are thus distracted from their work. This in turn creates stress and productivity decreases to some extent. Mindfulness can help to prevent this, as it enhances the ability to focus more on the current moment, to be less distracted, and to bring the mind back to the current task.
However, what is the reason for these many positive effects on people and on everyday working life? Some scientists have been able to detect a change in the brain through regular meditation. Which exact changes they discovered, will be explained in the following.
Thoughts can measurably change the structure of the own brain, so that, for example, the comprehension and the memory improve. The reason for this is the neuroplasticity of the brain. This means that we can train our brain through thoughts because brain structures grow when they are needed frequently. Mindfulness meditation provides particularly good training for the brain.
In a research study it was found that after just an eight-week regular meditation training of half an hour a day, more grey matter, i.e. more brain cells, were formed in the hippocampus. This area of the brain is responsible for learning, memory performance, and emotion processing. So, among other things, an increased ability to concentrate and an improved focus are achieved. At the same time, it has been found that the amygdala, which is associated with stress, high blood pressure, and anxiety, is reduced through meditation training. (Hölzel et al., 2011)
A further study was able to prove a positive correlation between the duration of meditation in years and gyrification, an enlargement of the cerebral cortex due to new wrinkling. As tasks such as memory, attention, and awareness are ascribed to this area, the brain becomes better at processing information, making decisions, and forming memories. (Wheeler)
Furthermore, meditation makes more resistant to the aging process. Without brain training the brain mass decreases with increasing age as well as fluid intelligence. This means the ability to think logically and solve problems declines. In a study in which meditators and non-meditators were compared to each other, the people who regularly meditated were rated on average 7.5 years younger than the control group. Meditation, therefore, plays an important role in maintaining our mental performance. (Luders, Cherbuin & Gaser, 2016)
A last important change that occurs through meditation in the brain is that in the Default Mode Network. The Default Mode Network is the inner voice that constantly judges us, worries about the future, and regrets the past. Through meditation we can switch off the Default Mode Network, i.e. the inner voice and doubts. This is not only noticeable during meditation, but the voice becomes generally less active, which allows us to concentrate better on things that are important at the moment and also helps us to become happier. (Harris, 2016)
With these many positive effects, it is no wonder that more and more companies want to integrate meditation and mindfulness in the form of Mindful Leadership into their organizations. So far, it is mostly large corporations that are applying this practice, but soon the trend will have reached small and medium-sized organizations. So, if you and your company haven’t taken any initiative in this direction yet, now is the time to do so.