“Mindfulness doesn’t involve chanting, bowing, sitting cross-legged or burning incense. You don’t even have to close your eyes.”
Most people tend to associate the concept of “mindfulness” with meditation. They may believe that unless you can find the time, space and setting to quietly sit in contemplation, then you can’t practice mindfulness. However many experts suggest that mindfulness can be incorporated into virtually any activity throughout the day.
What is mindfulness anyway?
Definitions vary, but this is how we define at Aetna: Mindfulness is paying attention or noting whatever is happening in the moment with a gentle and open mind. It’s about being present in the moment, the one you’re in right now.
“Being mindful means we are aware of breathing, thoughts, feelings, sensations and surroundings,” explains Cheryl Jones, who leads Aetna’s Wellness Program Strategy. “Mindfulness doesn’t involve chanting, bowing, sitting cross-legged or burning incense. You don’t even have to close your eyes.”
Mindfulness on the job
Not only is it possible, it’s very helpful to practice mindfulness at work. “In fact, your job is an ideal place to be present with yourself and others. So often we let ourselves get distracted. We stop listening and though we may be in the room physically, our minds are somewhere else,” Jones notes. She offers these tips for practicing mindfulness at work:
- When crafting emails, pause and re-read your words before pressing “send.”
- Take a few breaths before calling a customer or co-worker. This will help clear your mind.
- When your mind wanders off during conversations, bring it back to the person speaking.
- Avoid multitasking. Do one task at a time when possible and you’ll be more effective.
Far reaching benefits of mindfulness
With high profile advocates like Goldie Hawn, Ariana Huffington and Aetna Chairman Mark Bertolini talking about the importance of mindfulness, it’s no surprise that more employers are taking a look at the potential health and productivity benefits.
“Our experience with mindfulness in the workplace shows there are tangible health benefits,” Jones says. “Our employees report that they feel less stressed, sleep better, and can better manage pain after going through one of these programs. There may not be a change in what’s happening in their daily life, but they feel better equipped to handle the challenges and embrace what’s good in every day. Ultimately, that’s what being mindful is about – stepping back so you can bring a mindful presence to whatever you’re doing right now.”
Employers are starting to formally support mindfulness in the workplace. In 2011, Aetna introduced mindfulness-based wellness programs for its employees that has produced more than a 35 percent decrease in perceived stress. Participants also reported a 20% improvement in sleep. To learn more about mindfulness, visit aetnamindfulness.com