Mindfulness: Does it really work?

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In recent years, there has become more of a focus on mindfulness and how it can benefit us, from our physical health, mental health, our relationships, and even our job performance.

Large companies such as Apple and Google have even started implementing mindfulness training programmes in their offices to boost employee performance and productivity.

What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness describes a mental state in which a person maintains complete awareness of their environment and themselves, including their thoughts, feelings and physical state, in any given moment. It also involves accepting our own thoughts and feelings without judging them as either negative or positive.

You can practice mindfulness through meditation, and also by simply paying close attention to and recognising the significance of everything you are experiencing, such as your breathing, your emotions, and what you can see, hear, smell, etc.

How does it help us?

Mindfulness has been found to have a number of benefits in all aspects of our lives. It is thought to boost our immune systems, fight depression and anxiety, improve our memory and ability to concentrate, enhance our relationships, and improve behavioural problems.

When it comes to being more productive at work, a study carried out in the U.S. surveyed a group of 98 restaurant servers and their managers. They found that those with higher levels of mindfulness were reported as having better job performance by their managers. These results are a step towards discovering whether job performance is affected by mindfulness, but it cannot be determined whether this is a direct link or if mindfulness and performance are connected in another way.

Further studies have been carried out to try to better define the connection between the two. These two studies focused on supervisors in workplaces rather than the employees themselves to discover if a supervisors’ mindfulness affects the performance of their employees.

One study looked at 96 supervisors from various industries, measuring their mindfulness and also traits of the employees, including job performance, work-life balance and emotional exhaustion. It was found that all three of these areas were improved among employees with more mindful supervisors.

The second study replicated the first, with an additional focus on “organisational citizenship behaviours”. This study found the same results as the first and also found that employees with mindful supervisors showed more concern to their employees and voiced their thoughts more openly. However, this study also found that employees who did not feel autonomous, competent or connected with others in the workplace were not positively affected by their supervisor’s mindfulness.

So, while these studies suggest that higher levels of mindfulness are a positive influencing factor in the workplace, both from employees and supervisors, the final results also suggest that mindfulness on its own may not be enough to have this effect. Still, with all the other positive effects of practising mindfulness in your own life, there is no reason not to try to improve your levels of mindfulness and see if it affects your productivity at work.