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What mindfulness means for the modern worker

By Gwyn Humphreys

In a world full of distractions and media outlets constantly fighting for your attention, our brains are exposed to more stimulus than ever before.

Thinking back to the days of early man (i.e. the early '80s), life was simpler. There were four TV channels to choose from, no smart phones, tablets, or apps to distract us and no emails to reach us at all hours of the day.

Life moved much slower.  

Fast forward to today and multitasking is seen as a badge of honour that everyone must wear proudly. If you’re not working across 5 projects, and you don't have at least 2 screens on your desk (while sending emails at 2am), it begs the question: what are you doing? Clearly, being a part-timer.mindful.jpg

And once you get home, if you’re not watching TV while also using your phone and shopping on a tablet, then surely there must be something wrong with you.

So, what's our problem?

You’re probably thinking, 'Alright Judgey McJudgerson, you're basically describing me. What's wrong with how I'm living my life?' 

Well, the truth is, I know how you feel. I was like you once too. 

I couldn't even use the toilet without checking my emails or surfing the net. Clearly, there was something wrong. Given that 47% of all smartphones damaged by water are a result of toilet mishaps, I bet most of you use your phone on the throne too.

Not being able to switch our brains off or focus on a single thing for even a short period of time is a big problem. What's more, living life through technology seriously impacts our ability to be compassionate as humans.

Our brains have become accustomed to this new way of thinking. But as the reality of this lifestyle begins to set in, companies are starting to see the negative impact it has on their employees. As a result, they're investing in mindfulness training.

OK, so what the heck is mindfulness? 

Your first thought might be of people sitting cross-legged in a circle, trying to find their Zen.

When I started our training course, I didn’t know what to expect and it was something completely out of my comfort zone. It soon became clear (no, it wasn't a moment of enlightenment or me 'finding myself') that the part of ourselves we usitlise the most seems to get the least focus.

Everyone is aware of the benefits of eating well, getting exercise, etc. but what about looking after our brains? I was shocked the first time I practiced mindfulness at how great it felt to properly switch off and focus (and it only took 2 minutes). 

Our current way of living has reduced our ability to properly focus for any length of time. It has also made us less empathetic to those around us. The reason we commissioned this mindfulness session was to train our brains to improve our mental health, make us more compassionate people and ultimately, make us more effective at our jobs. This is the same reason some of top companies in the world are investing in mindfulness training for their employees.  

Do I really have to be compassionate to strangers? Even Donald Trump? 

In a world where we communicate more with people via social networks than face-to-face conversations, compassion has been lost. It’s easy to forget what another person may be feeling or experiencing when you can’t see them - it’s hard enough to know when they are standing in front of you.

Showing empathy to those around you - and those around the world you don’t know - may sound a little hippyish, but the next time you are due to have a call or meeting with someone that you may have negative feelings towards, try and imagine what might be going on in their life and wish them well. 

When you then pick up the phone, your whole approach will change. 

We tried this as a group, and I have to admit that some things were too much of a stretch, we couldn’t bring ourselves to show compassion for Donald Trump. We’re only human after all.

But this was the first time we'd actively practiced being mindful - and we know the more we practice the better we'll get.

Don't just take my word for it - give it a go yourself 

Like anything in life, you get out what you put in. 

When it takes only a few minutes a day, why wouldn’t you give it a try? You might be surprised by what you get out of it yourself and what a difference it may make to others around you. I know I was.

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