You may have heard mindfulness mentioned by a colleague or read some cool stories about mindfulness and you are wondering “What is mindfulness”? “How can mindfulness help me personally and professionally”? Rest assured, you are not alone.
In this article on our mindfulness series, Sunita Alves, Executive Project Manager and a resident mindfulness expert at IBM, provides an insight into mindfulness.
The Mindfulness Series is a collection of suggested mindfulness approaches written by mindfulness experts in IBM and useful for creating greater awareness in your life and work.
By Sunita Alves
I’ve practiced mindfulness for several years now and was introduced to it through my training as a Life Coach, as well as through my practice of yoga. I started practicing mindfulness because it gave me relief from my own stressful thinking, allowing me to see clearly what choices were in front of me and make better decisions. In life coaching, I talk about “shackles on” meaning you feel trapped, overwhelmed, suffocated, or “shackles off” or the feeling of freedom, peace and joy. Essentially mindfulness shifted my life from shackles on to shackles off, including finding a way to balance children, family life, and work without losing my mind and temper, thus living a life that I am truly excited about.
I once interviewed a retired CIO with a computer science background. She gave me her tips to balancing life with a successful career. She described a model of a square, with her success contributors: a supportive spouse, healthy children, an engaging career, and reliable daycare. They were connected by a string. If one or two got out of balance she could generally cope for a short time until things got balanced. But if three or more were not in balance, life became too challenging and the square collapsed.
This is someone who is now retired, looking back on her life and discerning how she managed. When you’re in the middle of the busy-ness, it’s sometimes difficult to identify what part of your life needs tweaking, and how priorities in one area affect another.
This is where mindfulness can help.
In this short video by Happify on Why Mindfulness is a Superpower, mindfulness is defined as “the ability to know what’s happening in your head at any given moment without getting carried away by it.”
This ability is a superpower because it essentially reduces stress, which in turn increases energy.
Recently, during a Mindfulness Summit at IBM, Mark Swinson and I discussed five common challenges we face at work – multi-tasking, time management, creativity, dealing with the tension of difficult conversations, and the stress of giving and receiving feedback. We also discussed how mindfulness can help in these scenarios.
When you can direct your thoughts either to focus (as in using precious time to single-task and be more productive) or to defocus (as in steering your thinking away from unproductive rumination and negative self-talk) you gain more control where to expend your precious time, energy, and creative capital.
How to learn mindfulness
Mindfulness is learned through practice. Mindful breathing, mindful eating, mindful walking and body scans are all ways to practice it and builds up an attention ‘muscle’. You can integrate mindfulness to every day experiences or carve out practice time each day. Mindfulness is one of those things where the time invested correlates to the benefits seen. If you want to go beyond attention training, there are many compassion practices – gratitude journaling, Tonglen, Multiplying Goodness and Loving-Kindness to name a few. The benefit of these is a feeling of connection to the world beyond yourself.
Dr. Shauna Shapiro says “What you practice grows stronger”. Mindfulness meditation allows me the opportunity to become aware of what I’m thinking, and ask the questions — Is this kind? Is this compassionate? Is this thought ‘shackles off’?
For more on working and living more mindfully, visit our mindfulness series.
We hope you find these suggested mindfulness approaches useful for creating greater awareness in your life and work. Please feel free to add a comment below to let us know how you have got on.
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