Mindful meditation is now mainstream in business. Over the past few years a movement has been underway to bring this previously personal practice into the workplace. What’s driving this movement and what impact is it having at work?
Jon Kabat-Zinn, founder of the Stress Reduction Clinic and the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School defines mindfulness as "… paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally."*1 This is not reserved for a time when you are sitting on a cushion in a quite place. Image you are sitting in a meeting and everyone was paying attention, in the present moment, with open minds. How different would that meeting be?
A big driver of the adoption of mindfulness practices in the workplace is that there is more science to demonstrate the benefits. The strongest evidence of the health benefits thus far comes from two meta-analyses. The first, published in 2014, found that people participating in mindfulness meditation programs experienced less anxiety, depression, and pain. The second, published in 2012, found that meditation practice can reduce negative emotions and that meditation was comparable to behavioral treatments and psychotherapy.
Another driver is the evidence of impact mindfulness practices can have in the workplace. Aetna, a health insurance company based in Hartford, CT, conducted a study with employees utilizing mindfulness practices. The study found that there were reduced stress levels, improved sleep quality and reduction in pain levels.
In our world full of distractions, mindfulness is being viewed as a leadership practice. A white paper from the UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School found that mindfulness practices influenced innovative thinking, focus, clarity and productivity.
I’m a firm believer that mindfulness is not just a passing fad. With continued evidence to show the benefits, hopefully we’ll see this become a part of the culture and norms at many more organizations.
Don’t miss my previous writing on mindfulness. I’ve shared my personal experience on mindfulness medication, in a week long meditation retreat with Jon Kabat-Zinn here and here. And in previous blogs here.
*1. Kabat-Zinn, J. Wherever You Go, There You Are – Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life, Hyperion, 2005, Page 4