What’s Mindfulness, and what does science say?

What is Mindfulness, and what does science say?

Mindfulness is more present than ever in the media and in the workplace. Still, many people have no idea what mindfulness is or have many wrong ideas. In this article, I discuss what mindfulness is, how it fits into our work environment, and what science says about it.

What is mindfulness

Mindfulness is an exercise in which you pay attention to your thoughts, feelings, and your body. Practitioners develop an awareness of everything that happens in our busy mind and body and how we relate to the world around us. They report improvements in alertness, relationships, and resilience.

By practicing and realizing the present moment, practitioners learn to accept their feelings, thoughts, and physical sensations. This acceptance leads to more choice in how to react in difficult situations and conversations.

Mindfulness – develop awareness of thoughts, emotions and body sensations.

Why do people practice mindfulness?

The most common reasons People who start practicing mindfulness should feel calmer, more relaxed, and better focused. This is very helpful to many people, but others are also looking for more serious relief. Most often, they try to reduce anxiety, regulate emotions more effectively, and cope with difficult thoughts.

What does science say

Researchers have been interested in mindfulness since the 1970s. Meanwhile over 7000 papers regarding mindfulness are available in PubMed and this number is growing every year. Reviews of the studies report less anxiety, depression, and stress associated with completing a formal mindfulness course. Since the participants get more insight into what is happening from within, they react less to stress triggers. This also leads to more compassion and mutual understanding in communication.

Other benefits of mindfulness are backed up by science and covered in the rest of the article.

Who Practices Mindfulness?

All kinds of people practice mindfulness, regardless of profession, religion or political preference. They all have in common that they want to learn more about how their inner world works and how they can gain more control over it.

Even Silicon Valley has started to introduce mindfulness into the workplace. Mindfulness, selflessness and compassion are those core mental qualities Managers and leaders must develop in the 21st century according to the book The Mind of the Leader. No wonder many companies are integrating mindfulness into their culture these days. Salesforce, Google, Yahoo, Nike, Pearson, and HBO employees have access to meditation classes and meditation rooms at work.

It's not just tech professionals who turn to mindfulness and meditation. More than 80% of the world class artists Tim Ferris, interviewed for his book Tools of Titans, had some form of daily meditation or mindfulness practice.

In a medical setting, mindfulness is taught to people suffering from chronic illnesses, depression, and cancer. In countries like England and India "Schools systematically teach mindfulness and prepare their students to become emotionally intelligent."

Read on to learn more about how mindfulness is practiced, how it helps us become better leaders in the workplace, and what the science says about it. Or book a place for one of mine Free online introductory session if you want to learn what mindfulness is all about instead of reading dry material.

How is my relationship with mindfulness?

I have been practicing mindfulness since 2010 and have mainly started to gain more control over my thoughts and feelings. But had to delve deeper into my mindfulness practices while facing severe physical and resulting psychological problems. After 8 months of severe health problems and pain that somehow couldn't be diagnosed by the many doctors I visited, I was diagnosed with post-infectious fatigue syndrome.

A chronic diagnosis. Something that is likely to last a lifetime. It was, as you can imagine, a tough nut to crack. Mindfulness helped me deal with the negative thoughts, emotions, and physical pain associated with the entire process. I learned to accept every aspect of my life that I had no control over, such as: B. Decreased health and fitness and the prospect of having it for the rest of my life.

Not that I gave up hope, I started researching and doing everything I could to improve my health. I am proud that I have made great strides in my recovery and that I can enjoy life as it is in the present moment.

Mindfulness has helped me so much that I decided to teach others the practice of mindfulness in the way I would like to learn. From a rational and scientific perspective, but still to the depths and warmth of practice. If you'd like to learn more about how it's helped me, you can check out the About page.

How do I practice mindfulness?

"You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes every day – unless you are too busy. Then you should sit for an hour."

Dr. Sukhraj Dhillon

Mindfulness is experience. You can only learn it through practice. When we practice mindfulness, we can distinguish between formal and informal practice.

Formal mindfulness practice consists of exercises in which attention is trained by focusing on different objects. There are many types of exercises that last anywhere from a few minutes to over an hour. Introductory exercises focus attention on the breath and the body. More advanced exercises add sounds, thoughts, and emotions to this awareness. These exercises are mostly guided by a live teacher or by audio recordings. Most people listen to instructions with their eyes closed to avoid distraction. However, depending on the exercise, someone with experience can practice without guidance.

Informal mindfulness practice is about practicing mindfulness in everyday activities. It helps to create moment to moment awareness of what is going on within us. For example, it can be practiced while walking, exercising, driving, and eating. It can even be practiced at social events and conversations. This is where the magic begins to happen. You are less responsive to stress and can react from a balanced state of mind instead of getting caught up in your emotions.

Moment-to-moment awareness during the day.

How do I learn mindfulness?

Mindfulness practice can be learned in a number of ways, the most common being meditation apps and courses.

  • Mindfulness and medical centers around the world organize live, one-on-one classes. These courses are usually spread over several weeks. Mindfulness teachers lead the courses in groups that vary from a few to 30-40 people. A big advantage is the live support of the teacher and the group in learning mindfulness.
  • Some centers and mindfulness teachers also offer live online courses. People participate in the comfort of their own home, but also have valuable interaction with their teacher to optimize practice learning. You can attend and practice from anywhere while having the personal assistance of a teacher and the group.
  • Meditation apps like Headspace, Calm or Insight Timer (my favorite) are good tools to get an introduction to mindfulness and all kinds of meditations. They contain various records of guided meditations and courses.
  • There are several good quality pre-recorded mindfulness courses online, some are even free. Palouse Mindfulness is probably the best known. And the De-Mystifying Mindfulness course is becoming increasingly popular lately. It is obvious that this approach is very cost effective.
  • In the workplace there are different forms of mindfulness courses and workshops, both online and in person. They range from a short introductory session to workshops lasting several days and 8-week courses.

When considering learning mindfulness, there are a few things to consider:

  • Willingness to invest time to learn the practice. The longer the program lasts, the more impact it has on a person. However, keep in mind that personal home practice and attitude towards the practice is an even more important success factor. Participants are advised to practice at home for 30 to 45 minutes daily for the duration of the course.
  • Would you like them to learn by themselves or would you like the assistance of an experienced teacher? The disadvantage of self-learning is that this approach is not supported by an experienced guide. This may be necessary as one delves deeper into the practice, as detailed in the section Is Mindfulness For All? Section below.
  • Where do you want to study? Would you like to meet people in person and practice in a group? Or do you want to learn from the safety of your home without getting stuck in traffic?

Mindfulness-based stress relief

The MBSR (Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction) course is a standardized 8-week course and the oldest on the market. MBSR courses can be attended in person or online and are considered the "gold standard" in the medical world. They are also the most researched format in the western world.

The MBSR course is developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn at the Stress Reduction Clinic and Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Healthcare and Society in Massachusetts. Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD, is Professor Emeritus of Medicine at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. In the 1970s, he was the first to introduce mindfulness into conventional medicine. Based on his studies in Buddhist meditation, he created an 8-week meditation course in a scientific context. He later removed all references to Buddhism and this course became the 8 week MBSR course now taught all over the world.

You can read more on available on-demand courses for professionals on my website if this has piqued interest.

Mindfulness against stress in the workplace

"Employees work with employers and brands when they are treated as respectable people."

– Meghan M. Biro

In Flanders, only around half (49.6%) of jobs are classified as “fit for work” recently Studies in stress from the government (October 2019). By doing UNITED KINGDOM. A staggering 79% of employees experience work-related stress. Even more worrying, in the US, 75% to 90% of doctor visits are related stress-related complaints. While 80% of the US workforce report feeling stressed about ineffective corporate communications.

Short-term stress is related to many negative side effects, such as: B. restlessness, bad mood, worry and a whole host of other emotional and cognitive problems. However, it is not limited to emotional and mental problems. By connecting the mind and body, stress affects both a physical and a spiritual level and affects all organs in the body. Chronic exposure has been linked to cardiovascular disease, gastrointestinal problems, and mental health problems – the list goes on and on.

Mindfulness gives people an awareness of how stress is triggered in the mind and thus in the body. Practitioners are becoming aware of its short and long-term negative effects. With this awareness comes the freedom to reduce the triggers and the effects of the triggers.

A Review of 209 scientific studies With over 12,000 subjects, the idea that meditation reduces stress was confirmed. They found that it not only reduced stress but also anxiety and depression and confirmed that it was an effective treatment for various mental health problems. A Cleveland Clinic Study It has also been found that meditation at work reduces stress and increases morale. It shows a 31% reduction in stress levels and a 28% increase in vitality – a measure of how energetic a person feels throughout the working day.

Mindfulness not only has an impact on a psychological level, but also improves physical health. It reduces cortisol production and improves the autonomic balance and reactivity of the sympathetic nervous system.

Mindfulness in Leadership

Companies around the world are employing mindfulness in their culture these days. Big giants like Apple, Google and Salesforce, McKinsey & Co have meditation rooms in their offices and others offer free meditation classes for their employees. Google even developed its own mindfulness program, Search in you, taught all over the world. They aim to "impart practical mindfulness, emotional intelligence and leadership tools to help you reach your full potential at work and in life."

If you just sit and watch, you will see how restless your mind is. If you try to calm it down it will only get worse, but over time it will calm down, and when it does there is room to hear more subtle things – then your intuition starts to blossom and you start to make things clearer seeing and being in it the present more. Your mind just slows down and you see an enormous amount of space right now. You see so much more than you could see before. It's a discipline. you have to practice it.

– Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs was probably one of the first professional leaders to adapt meditation to the work environment. His own practice was based on Zen meditation. Jobs was a dedicated practitioner and claimed that it helped him use his intuition to make radical business decisions. He also talked about how it enabled him to deliver the simplest designs for Apple's products.

Bill Gates says he uses mediation to improve his focus and step back and relax with the thoughts or emotions that are present.

The biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it happened.

– George Bernard Shaw

There is a big discrepancy how managers and employees feel their commitment in a company. 77% of executives believe they involve their employees well. Still, 88% of employees say that their leaders do a bad job with commitment. Even worse is the finding that 65% of employees would forego a raise to see their executives get laid off.

Jacqueline Carter worked with Harvard Business Review to assess over 35,000 executives in over 72 different countries. Based on the research, she called the situation a leadership crisis. Research found that mindfulness, selflessness, and compassion are essential characteristics of 21st century leader. It was also found that leaders with higher emotional intelligence are much better at helping people find purpose, purpose, connection, and real happiness in their work. These are the qualities one develops while practicing mindfulness.

More research has been done on mindfulness and leadership. A Review of 19 studies indicated encouraging signs that mindfulness and meditation practices can improve managerial wellbeing, resilience and leadership skills.

Would you like to learn more about how to involve your team in a more conscious and mindful manner? My most efficient offer is 1-to-1 leadership coaching for the leaders of the 21st century!

Is Mindfulness For Everyone?

As with all types of training, mindfulness should be approached carefully. You don't run a marathon without proper preparation and a carefully designed training plan. The same goes for mindfulness and mediation in general.

We cannot solve problems with the same mindset that we used to create them.

Albert Einstein

When more awareness of internal processes of the mind and the current state of the body is gained, people may feel uncomfortable at first. Reactions to certain circumstances may not be what they want them to be. And when the body is observed regularly and then neglected for a while, a need for attention can become apparent. This is very common and part of the process of becoming more aware. If you were not aware of these things, you would not be able to change the way you (re) act and deal with these situations.

Starting this process requires some courage to familiarize yourself with your inner world as well as a willingness to change. This will cause you to change your response to stressful situations and take more care of your body. Your behavior becomes more aligned with your values ​​and supports a healthy body.

Some people are advised not to attend a mindfulness class or retreat. Especially people with severe mental health problems like psychosis and schizophrenia. For people with other problems such as cancer, substance abuse, or severe trauma, there are special mindfulness courses offered in a medical setting.


Hope you now have a better understanding of what mindfulness is all about and how it can fit into our workplaces. If you would like to learn more, please take a look at my online courses or contact me directly with any questions.


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