How To Improve Your Productivity With Mindfulness in the Workplace

Meditation Meditation by Moyan Brenn via CC BY 2.0

There has been rapid growth in workplace mindfulness programs, and there are some compelling reasons why this is a good thing!

“The enormous benefits of mindfulness at work are increasingly being recognized by employers as well as by employees. More mindfulness means more professional productivity and satisfaction, and less absenteeism, `presenteeism’ (where workers are physically present but unproductive), accidents, and workplace stress and the many psychological and physical problems that this causes. Mindfulness improves our work performance and enjoyment because it improves our decision-making ability, the quality of our working relationships, and our leadership.”
— Dr. Stephen McKenzie, author of Mindfulness at Work

What Is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness2

According to Jon Kabat-Zinn,”mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.”

You do not need to meditate to become mindful. Meditation is a tool to lead people to post-meditative mindfulness. However, as you’ll see, much of the research focuses on meditation.

How Does Mindfulness Work?

neuroplasticity

Mindfulness actually works by changing our brains! That’s what’s behind the impressive benefits of mindfulness!

Richard Davidson is the founder of the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. A major aspect of the center’s research is neuroplasticity—the ability of the adult brain to change its structure or function in an enduring way. Specifically, 1) You can train your brain to change, 2) that change is measurable and 3) new ways of thinking can change it for the better.

If you’d like to learn more about neuroplasticity, see “What is Neuroplasticity?.

Benefits of Mindfulness in the Workplace

“The implications [of mindfulness in the workplace] are enormous. When you are mindful, you end up healthier, you end up happier. So, with an increase in mindfulness in the workplace, there is lower absenteeism, fewer healthcare costs and there is a reduction in accidents.”
— Ellen Langer, “The Huge Value Of Mindfulness At Work: An Interview With Ellen Langer

Health

Meditation has some substantial health benefits, including reducing blood pressure, pain response, stress hormone levels and even affecting cellular health. For a look at what it actually does to the body, see this Huffington Post infographic.

Emotional Resilience

Richard J. Davidson and Sara Begley co-authored The Emotional Life of Your Brain: How Its Unique Patterns Affect the Way You Think, Feel, and Live–and How You Can Change Them.

In her article “Rewiring Your Emotions“, Sara Begley discusses the idea of harnessing neuroplasticity to change how you respond emotionally to the ups and downs of life. She writes:

“I don’t know about you, but if I’m feeling miserable and someone tells me to just cheer up on the spot, I want to slug them.

Fortunately, the brain’s emotional circuits are actually connected to its thinking circuits, which are much more accessible to our conscious volition. That has been one of Davidson’s most important discoveries: the “cognitive brain” is also the “emotional brain.” As a result, activity in certain cognitive regions sends signals to the emotion-generating regions. So while you can’t just order yourself to have a particular feeling, you can sort of sneak up on your emotions via your thoughts.”

Begley continues with this example: “If the amygdalae is generating negative emotions, the left PFC sends inhibitory signals to the amygdalae, basically telling them to quiet down. As a result, the negative feelings generated by the amygdalae peter out, and you’re not mired in unhappiness or resentment.”

So emotional resilience depends on high activity in the PFC and a strong connection between it and the amygdalae. Begley prescribes mindfulness meditation as one way to strengthen the circuitry that supports emotional resilience.

Davidson_BodyMind

Happiness

Daniel Goleman, in his article “Want a Happier Brain? Try Mindfulness, presents solid evidence to back up that title.

Goleman’s discussion begins with some research done by neuroscientist Richard Davidson, whose work focuses on the emotional dynamics of the brain. Davidson discovered a correlation between left-to-right brain activity and emotional states:

“When we’re in a down mood — irritable, anxious and grouchy — our brain has high activity in the right prefrontal area, just behind the forehead. But when we’re in an upbeat mood — energized, enthusiastic, optimistic — there’s lots of activity on the left side of the prefrontal area.

Each of us has a typical ratio of left-to-right activity when we’re just at rest. And this ratio predicts fairly well our typical, day-to-day mood range.

There’s a bell curve for this ratio, like the one for IQ: most of us are in the middle, with some good days and some bad days. Those who are tipped to the far right are likely to have clinical levels of depression or anxiety. And those whose setpoint tips far to the left are able to bounce back quickly from upsets.”

Goleman goes on to describe a study led by Richard Davidson and mindfulness expert Jon Kabat-Zinn. This study concluded with good news — we can nudge our setpoint to the left!

“Jonny [Kabat-Zinn] taught mindfulness to a group of the biotech workers and had them practice about half an hour a day for eight weeks. Richie [Davidson] measured their brains before and after. The result: at first their emotional setpoint was tilted toward the right — they were, after all, on a hectic, 24/7 schedule. But after eight weeks, the mindfulness group on average showed a greater tilt toward the left.

What’s more, they spontaneously said that now they were in touch again with what they loved about their jobs, with why they had gotten into the field in the first place.”

Thus, the ability to “nudge our setpoint to the left” can make us happier with our work.

Focus

Meditation can be “an antidote for workplace ADD.” One of the biggest problems in the workplace today is what some have called “continuous partial attention.” Attention deficit can harm people’s ability to interact competently, impeding understanding and rapport. Lack of attention also negatively impacts individual job performance. A person’s ability to do his job is directly related to how well he can concentrate and focus.

Mindfulness meditation techniques can overcome workplace ADD by training our minds to focus on what matters in the moment and to resist distractions.

Decision Making

One aspect of good decision-making is the ability to avoid “sunk-cost bias”—our tendency to continue down a path because we’re already so far along. For example, you realize that your job is not right for you. But you don’t look for another job or go back to school, because your current position has consumed so much of your time and effort. In her Greater Good article, Hooria Jazaier, explains research conducted by Andrew Hafenbrack and colleagues. The research abstract states, “In the research reported here, we investigated the debiasing effect of mindfulness meditation on the sunk-cost bias. We conducted four studies (one correlational and three experimental); the results suggest that increased mindfulness reduces the tendency to allow unrecoverable prior costs to influence current decisions.”

In fact, “Close analysis of the latest mindfulness research, with Jochen Reb, Associate Professor of Organisational Behaviour at Singapore Management University, for the upcoming book Mindfulness in Organisations, suggests that mindfulness techniques can have a positive effect on all our widely recognised stages of the decision-making process.” In her article, “How Mindfulness Improves Decision-Making“, Natalia Karelaia lists the four stages of the decision-making process as:

  1. Framing the decision
  2. Gathering information
  3. Coming to a conclusion
  4. Learning from feedback

For each of these four stages, Karelaia explains how mindfulness can have a positive effect on that stage.

Leadership

Mindfulness is the essence of effective leadership.

The essence of effective leadership is mindfulness, which is also the essence of charisma. When you are mindful, you are present. When you are present, people notice it. When people experience you as mindful, they then see you as authentic and trustworthy.
— Ellen Langer, “The Huge Value Of Mindfulness At Work: An Interview With Ellen Langer

When we are mindful, we are fully connected to ourselves and to other people, and this connection allows us to lead ourselves and others from and to shared certainty, rather than individual confusion.

“Being mindful more of the time and mindless less of the time helps us be great leaders because it helps unite [us] in common goals and ways of achieving them, and frees us of our separate ideas about what needs to be done and how. When we experience mindful connectedness with the people we work with, we will be great leaders, whether we’re leading a sporting team or a hamburger shop or a multinational corporation. We are not great leaders regardless of the people we lead, we are great leaders because of them.
— Dr. Stephen McKenzie, author of Mindfulness at Work

Creativity and Caring

Mindfulness practice has been shown to draw out creativity and caring. In an interesting piece, “It’s Not McMindfulness,” Barry Boyce says, “[mindfulness practice] naturally leads to inquisitiveness about our own minds and examination of how we’re connected to other people, of the causes and effects of our actions. … Leaders touched by mindfulness may find innovations to solve real problems and help make a better life.”

The Greater Good

What matters in the workplace is what matters in our lives—using every moment to learn from experience so that we grow in insight, wisdom, and compassion.
Mirabai Bush, “Mindfulness at Work: An Interview with Mirabai Bush

I’ve saved the best for last! Expanding on the “caring” benefit, let’s talk about “the greater good.”

In a superb interview on mindful.org, Elisha Goldstein talks to Mirabai Bush about how mindfulness can make our work life more meaningful. Goldstein introduces Bush as “the author of Working with Mindfulness (MP3), a key contributor to Google’s Search Inside Yourself Program, Cofounder of The Center for Contemplative Mind and Society and so much more.”

The interview begins with a discussion of “right livelihood.” Here’s an excerpt:

Elisha: When it comes to the workplace, you have found a fundamental flaw in our minds when we think of work, like “Love is for home and discipline is for work.” One of the foundations to bringing mindfulness into the workplace is through an approach called Right Livelihood. Can you tell us more about that and the benefits?

Mirabai: I first heard the words “right livelihood” while learning to meditate in a Buddhist monastery. Meditation teacher S.N. Goenka said, “If the intention is to play a useful role in society in order to support oneself and to help others, then the work one does is right livelihood.” Other teachers expanded on that: Do work that is ethical and helpful to your personal development. Do no harm though your work. Cause no suffering to yourself or others. Use work to nourish understanding and compassion. Remember that all life is interconnected. Be honest, be mindful of what you are doing.

Other topics discussed are:

  • Mindful Listening: “a way of hearing in which we are fully present with what is happening in the moment without trying to control it or judge it.”
  • Walking meditation: “the practice of paying close attention to the ordinary action of walking, a helpful practice for people at work, who usually walk at least sometimes during the day.”
  • A compassion practice known as “Just like me” (“Just like me, this person has known physical pain. Just like me, this person has done things she regrets. Just like me, this person wants to be happy….” and so on)

I encourage you to read the full interview.

Are you ready to try minfdfulness at your workplace?

Watch for the companion article “Introducing Mindfulness into the Workplace” on Friday! 

This is part one of a two-part series, Mindfulness in the Workplace, by Carol Preibis of Ahh The Simple Life. Don’t miss part two on Friday! If you’re a regular reader of the CCC blog, you’ll recognize Carol as a contributor. Thanks, Carol!

Carol Preibis

Carol is passionate about food, recipes and cooking.


Carol Preibis and her sister Michele value the Simple Life and want to help you shed the complicated nature of today’s world. They share insights on food, decorating, stress relief and living more simply, while actually enjoying day-in, day-out living. Looking for a scrumptious, healthy recipe? Trying to figure out how to have fun on a budget? Head to Ahh The Simple Life to start feeling better and getting more out of your life.

9 Ways You Can Help Those In Need #allin1day

I give because I can.

Did you know?

  • Every two seconds someone in the U.S. needs blood.*
  • The Red Cross has won three Nobel Peace Prizes, in 1917, 1944 and 1963.^
  • In 2013, the international Red Cross movement provided food aid for more than 6.7 million people and essential household and hygiene items for over 3.4 million people.`
  • The ICRC’s (International Committee of the Red Cross) water, sanitation and construction projects benefitted some 28.7 million people in 2013.`

Please join us in going #allin1day to help the Red Cross deliver essential aid to those in need.

How can you help?

I gave whole blood for six years before learning that I was an ideal platelets donor, which I moved to three years ago. I don’t give in memory or honor of a specific person, although it is amazing when you meet people who have needed platelets — cancer patients, car accident survivors or organ transplant recipients, to name a few.

Go all in with us on June 2, 2015.

CCC is in. Are you?

I give because I can, and I hope that if I ever need platelets, someone will give for me.

p.s. Did you know the Red Cross has several apps, including one for blood and platelets donations?

Statistics sources: *American Red Cross  ^International Business Times  `ICRC Annual Report

Pay It Forward,
Jaime

Let’s chat (on the Red Cross, Paying It Forward or otherwise):
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I’m Thankful For… Unplugging & Reconnecting

“Don’t be a jerk. Try to love everyone. Give more than you take. And do it despite the fact that you only really like about seven out of 500 people.”  –Judd Apatow

As a country, America tends to be cynical and polarized, impatient and angry. Maybe it’s our roots. Maybe it’s our lifestyle. Whatever it is, let’s put it all aside for one day. Let’s unplug and reconnect with those close to us, be patient and understanding with strangers we meet. Guess what? If you’re running to the grocery store on Thanksgiving morning, EVERYONE is in a hurry. Trust me, it’s not just you.

happiness_ernohannink_flickr

My Thanksgiving tradition begins early, rising before daylight in order to get ready to run a Turkey Trot. (It makes me feel better later when I’m enjoying a slice of my decadent peanut butter cream pie.) After running in the cold, I stop in a Starbucks on my trip South to see family for a steaming hot latte. It helps perk me up for the day ahead.

Last year, I was surprised when the barista who took my order told me that she volunteered to work Thanksgiving morning. Her goodwill earned her a hall pass from having to come in that night (when her family gets together) and serve the energized Black Friday crowd. Plus, she mentioned that everyone was in a good mood and even tipped more.

Maybe there’s something to that. Maybe there’s an extra sense of gratitude in the air on Thanksgiving Day, some added patience that helps you smile and forgive a stranger’s transgressions.

Whatever it is, let’s follow its lead. Smile at strangers. Wish them a happy Thanksgiving. Gently steer your drunk uncle in another direction when he starts talking politics. Don’t rip distracted Aunt Hilda a new one for forgetting her expected contribution AGAIN. And if you head out — to a store or restaurant or Starbucks, be nice to the workers. They’re spending their Thanksgiving serving you, and that’s something to be thankful for.

Everyone’s not fortunate enough to have a warm place to go on Thanksgiving. If you or someone you know is hurting this Holiday season, our friends at TED have pulled together information on where you can find a warm Thanksgiving meal near you

Join the Conversation

What’s your Thanksgiving tradition?

What’s your favorite food on your Thanksgiving menu?

What are you thankful for this year?

p.s. I’m spending Thanksgiving Day with family and friends (for which I’m thankful), so there won’t be a blog post on Thursday. If you’re looking for reading material, check out the I’m Grateful For… series. I’ll see you again on Tuesday, December 2nd, to talk about social media and selling. Same bat time, same bat channel!

p.p.s. Happy Thanksgiving to our Canadian, Liberian, Grenadian and Norfolk Islander friends who have already celebrated. Yep, it’s not just a U.S. Holiday.

Incredibly thankful and eternally grateful,
Jaime

We’d be thankful if you’d join our conversation. 
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33 Lessons in 33 Years

I recently came across a fun post, 32 Lessons from 32 Years of Life. The timing was perfect as I was pondering what to post about on my birthday (Yep, Pisces here.), and I had actually been toying with the idea of this type of post.

I hope you find these short lessons useful, and please feel free to chime in with your own at the end. So, here goes… lessons I’ve learned from 33 years of living:

1. You’re only as good as your word. Don’t break it. (Read: If You Say You’re Going To Do Something, Do It!)

2. Take care of your body. It’s the only one you have.

kicking toward the finish line

Running makes me happy and clears my mind. What’s your favorite activity?

3. Own your decisions. You are responsible for you — not anyone else.

4. Pay it forward. Karma has a way of reciprocating. You’ll  benefit more than those you help anyway. Trust me.

5. Make time for you. It’s not selfish; it’s necessary to recharge and be at your best.

6. Some “vices” are OK. If you really enjoy something, do it (unless it harms others).

7. Pay attention. You’ll learn so much by being observant, in business and in life.

8. Learn from the past, look forward to the future, but live in the present. It’s the best show there is. If you’re constantly reliving things or worrying about future events, you’ll miss a lot of wonderful moments.

9. Learn to give — and receive — constructive criticism. (“This is terrible” or “you’re stupid” is not constructive.)

10. Listen, listen, listen. It will take you far in life.

11. Follow your gut. It’s your instinct for a reason.

12. Try new things — foods, adventures, travels. You never know what you’ll fall in love with. (Like ice skating, for me.)

ice skating

Snow, wind & ice. Lots of ice. Enjoying some time on the pond — the best part of winter.

13. Respect your values and beliefs. If you feel uncomfortable in a situation, it’s OK to walk away. (Read: Gray Area: Do Ethics Still Have a Place in Business?)

14. An interview is a two-way conversation about an opportunity. Relax.

15. The devil IS in the details. Handle those and the rest will follow.

16. Do something special for yourself monthly, or more often if you can. Because you’re worth it. (Thanks, L’Oreal.)

17. Don’t project your bad day outward. Just because you’re in a bad mood, everyone else doesn’t have to be.

18. Social media’s great, but get social in real life too. (Read: Social Media’s Nice, But It’s Not IRL)

19. Embrace the mundane. It’s 80% of life. (Listen: This is Water, David Foster Wallace)

20. If you feel like getting dressed up to go to the store, go for it. Likewise, if you head out in workout gear, it’s no big deal. Life doesn’t hinge on what you’re wearing. (Granted, there are occasions where your dress is dictated by the occasion. Embrace it.)

21. Sometimes, you can buy happiness. Just don’t try it all the time.

22. Value those close to you. Don’t take them for granted, because some day they won’t be there.

Color Run Akron 2013

My sister-in-law, brother & I after Color Run Akron.

23. Make the extra effort. It usually pays off — even if no one’s watching.

24. Have a strong handshake, a genuine smile and a killer pair of earrings. (Gentlemen, I hear cuff links produce the same effect.)

25. Laugh a lot. It’s the best medicine, and you don’t need a prescription.

Yours truly, enjoying the moment

Yours truly, enjoying the moment.

26. Don’t waste too much time worrying. It really doesn’t change things.

27. Think through major decisions but don’t be afraid to act. Indecision can be paralyzing and leave you watching from the sidelines.

28. Be impulsive every once in awhile. Do something crazy at least once in your life.

29. Celebrate birthdays. Age brings wisdom and life experience. Appreciate them.

30. Think — every single day. It never goes out of style.

31. Listen to your body. It’s amazing what it can tell you.

32. “Never being satisfied” makes a great motivational poster but leaves you feeling empty inside. Always wanting more can leave you broke and alone. Enjoy your achievements and appreciate what you have. Remember, perfection is unattainable.  (Read: What’s your riddle?)

33. Be genuine in everything you do. It’s easier in the long run, and people will appreciate you for it. Eventually, you’ll even find people who like you for who you are.

“And then I remember to relax, and stop trying to hold on to it, and then it flows through me like rain and I can’t feel anything but gratitude for every single moment of my stupid little life…”  –Lester Burnham, American Beauty

stick em up!

Bonnie & Clyde… back in the day.

I’ve never really grown up (vertically challenged here), but I have learned a lot. Like a good hat can make up for just about anything, even a really crappy day.

Share Your Lessons

What lesson(s) have you learned?

Do any of these lessons resonate with you? Do you disagree with any?

Maybe we can all learn to navigate this crazy thing we call life a little better.

Cheers,
Jaime

Life lesson: Connect with others!
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What’s your happy?

Color Vibe Akron 2013

My sister-in-law, brother & I after Color Vibe Akron.

Smile, it’s Friday! So, what’s your happy? That moment, person, place or thing that always puts a smile on your face.

The picture above is one of mine; it was taken earlier this year after Color Vibe Akron.

What’s your happy? Leave your thoughts below, and enjoy your weekend! C’mon, let’s make a lot of people smile today. 🙂

By the way, Happy Flag Day, Old Glory! And a heartfelt happy birthday to the US Army. I would sing, but that’s not my talent.

Be colorful–
Jaime

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What makes you smile?

I’m sitting here polishing my toenails while making updates to my website and a squirrel just ran across my windowsill, stopping to peer in. (Don’t feed the humans!) I realized that I was smiling despite the damage that the little critters can cause.

What makes you smile?

Sometimes a midst the frustration and minor annoyances of day to day life, it helps to take a step back and remember what makes you smile. Then seek out those things, however small, so you smile more and more. It’s amazing what it does for your mood!

Here are some things that make me smile!

my Starbucks #sipface

Showing off my Starbucks #sipface while enjoying some espresso on a beautiful day.

after a day of trail running

I ❤ trail running (and a little mud)!

hitting my goal in the Akron half-marathon

In my 3rd half-marathon, I hit my goal (with the help of my blue toenail polish)!

relaxing on the beach

Soaking in the rays on Hilton Head Island…

I'm contemplating life

Just another day in the life…

Now it’s your turn –> what makes you smile?

Drop your list in the comments below or share your blog post link. I’m looking forward to your responses. Enjoy the weekend, and remember to smile!

Cheers,
Jaime

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Stop. Breathe. Take Stock. Repeat As Necessary.

My 30th birthday was one of the best days of my life. It also turned out to be a pivotal moment.

My 30th birthday cake - the first one!

My (first) 30th birthday cake from my fellow staff working an event. Made my day!

Between going for a morning run, having my Facebook page and phone inundated with well wishes, working an event for my employer, blowing out candles on two cakes, enjoying a quick massage, dining outside by candlelight, being serenaded with Happy Birthday twice and hanging out with industry friends (some of the coolest people I’ve ever met) deep into the next morning, I took stock of my life and didn’t necessarily like what I saw.

Don’t get me wrong; the day itself was amazing. But after pausing a moment, I finally admitted to myself that I wasn’t happy. That can be one of the hardest things to admit, especially to yourself. In the past few years, I had become a workaholic and had little time for family and friends, some that I had known for years.

Only a rat can win the rat race

Makes sense, doesn’t it?
Credit: denniseagles

While some people excel in the corporate rat race, I was suffocating. I missed the nature I had grown up in despite living minutes from a beautiful series of metro parks. I was trying to cram working out and somewhat healthy meals into what little time I had outside of the office and my commute. I love to cook but had no desire to do so at 9 or 10pm after coming home from the office. I knew I needed a change.

After much planning and thinking, I decided to open my own business. It wasn’t an easy decision, but ultimately, I knew it would allow me to align my personal priorities with making a living. It certainly hasn’t been easy (and it’s still early), but it’s the best decision I’ve ever made. I’m excited about the future and building my business while enjoying nature, making time for those important to me and having a more flexible schedule.

Poolside in Scottsdale

Capturing some brief pool time and utilizing our fabulous branded towels at an event in Scottsdale.

Similar to your personal life, it’s also helpful to stop and take stock of your business or career as well. It can be easy to veer off course and start heading down a path you don’t like. Perhaps you’ve moved away from your sweet spot, have some clients who drag you down or you don’t even recognize your marketing anymore. Whatever it is, remember to stop and take a deep breath every now and then. It can really help you stay on track, whatever your track to a happy life is.

I would love to hear about your moments of taking stock of your personal life or business. How did you discover that you weren’t where you were supposed to be? What made you decide to take a risk to correct course? [And if you’re looking for any marketing or branding assistance, I’d love to help!]

Cheers (and keep smiling),
Jaime