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Exploring Mindfulness at Work

Christy Matta, M.A.

Mindfulness is spilling into areas beyond medicine, healthcare, psychology and neuroscience. It's moving into programs in education with children and college students, parenting, athletics, the legal profession and business.

zen businessmanStudies of Mindfulness in a business context have shown that increases in mindfulness are associated with increased creativity and decreased burnout and executive and corporate mindfulness leadership programs are emerging to meet the need. An FAA study found that multitasking reduces productivity by as much as 20%-40%, while a study with business men in Korea found practicing mindfulness increased productivity. Pacific Investment Management Co and technology leaders, Apple Computer, Yahoo!, Texas Instruments, Nortel Networks and Google have all already instituted mindfulness training and wellness opportunities on-site.

How do you begin to practice mindfulness in a corporate or office environment? In an atmosphere where you may be easily distracted habitually shuttling between the past, future and multiple projects, mindfulness may seem impossible.

Mindfulness can be particularly helpful in highly emotional situations. Sometimes when we simply react to a situation, we behave in ways that we know are not necessarily wise, productive, or efficient. When we simply react our actions often unbalance our work lives.

To Begin to Use Mindfulness To Decrease Reactivity at Work:

Begin to notice times when you are reactive. Instead focus on your objectives and what will work in the situation. Focusing on what works allows you more freedom of choice and to see possibility.

Think of a challenging situation you encountered in the past week at work. It may be a challenging situation related to the actions of another person, a project or your own actions. Identify a goal in the situation. Think deeply about the situation and come up with several actions or thoughts that would be a step towards your goal. Each action or thought may not get you to your goal, but keep focus on what works.

At first this may be a difficult exercise. It's sometimes hard to expand how we think about and act in different situations. With practice it will become easier. If you find yourself stuck, simply allow yourself to brainstorm and write down any step or possible solution that comes into your mind. Allow yourself to edit your steps later. If you find yourself stuck in judgments, let them slide out of your mind.