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The calming influence of regular mindfulness practice

Consistent mindful practice enhances our ability to face unpleasant experiences calmly

Reduced burnout and an increased sense of wellbeing are side-effects of regular mindfulness meditation practice.
Reduced burnout and an increased sense of wellbeing are side-effects of regular mindfulness meditation practice. (Pexels/Antoni Shkraba)

Much of the research available on mindfulness, today, points to huge benefits not only in intrapersonal awareness but also in our interpersonal relationships. When we engage in a few minutes of mindfulness meditation regularly, our ability for interoceptive awareness – of being able to tend to cues from the physiology as well as sensations related to our emotions, increases. Our capacity to be empathetic and compassionate to ourselves and others increases, as does the ability to be more of our resourceful, creative selves. 

Also read: 5 ways to complete the stress cycle and avoid burnout

Mindfulness meditation is a practice that comes from Buddhist philosophy and is adapted in various contexts like in therapy, educational settings and the workplace. Mindfulness is a state of awareness in the here and now, internally and externally, in a non-judgmental, open and kind way. When we practice mindfulness, it increases our choice points simply because we ‘know’ what’s happening; we are not engaging with ourselves and our environment in an automatic, habitual way. 

Mindful awareness is also a powerful mechanism of change. We become aware of what is held in our body and mind and our conditioned patterns, even if they are not necessarily pleasant. It's worth noting that mindfulness meditation doesn’t always make us feel calm. That’s a myth. Instead, it allows us to feel this ‘unpleasantness’ from a place of calmness. In that sense, it gives us more choice and freedom. Therefore, when the practice of mindfulness is introduced in general settings like the workplace, it can’t be just something ticked off the list of HRs planned activities for employees. It needs guidance and ought to introduced by those who have in-depth training and practice in this subtle and profound agent of change. A mindfulness-based therapist understands the nuances of the practice and can help people navigate with what arises as they engage in it. 

Mindfulness can be a powerful shield against burnout when introduced correctly with sufficient support made available to those practicing it. Here are a few pointers to keep in mind:  

  1. Mindfulness practice is not a one-size-fits-all solution. There are many ways it can be practiced. For example, if awareness of the body and breath feels overwhelming, like it can when there is anxiety or depression, then a movement-based practice is more beneficial. For instance, mindful walking, where our attention is on our feet touching the ground at every step, is a good alternative.  
  2. Simple grounding practices such as taking a pause where one is aware of one’s thoughts, feelings and sensations ‘in the moment’ can give us a good start. This breaks the habitual tendency of the mind to ruminate over the past or worry, and puts us in touch with a clearer sense of what we are feeling at the moment. 
  3. Mindfulness training is a building of our capacity to be present and see our experience for ‘what is’. What we encounter is not always pleasant. But when you train in it consistently, there is a slow building of capacity to not push away what feels unpleasant. Being able to sit with these uncomfortable feelings can allow us to tap into what’s really present.   
  4. Much of mindfulness practice is really about relaxing the ‘doing’ energy of the mind. As we attune to it, our creative energies and perceptions are enhanced. 
  5. Do note that while mindfulness practices can benefit the individual and reduce symptoms of burnout, environmental factors that are causing the burnout also need to be addressed. 

Reduced burnout, increased attention and sense of wellbeing are the side-effects of a regular mindfulness meditation practice. When bringing mindfulness to the workplace, research finds that certain factors need to be taken into consideration, like the organization’s culture and leadership. When the organisational culture is open, democratic and places an emphasis on empathy and care, mindfulness-based interventions for employees can fit in beautifully. When the organizational culture is not so, we might want to bring in mindfulness to create an environment that is conducive and can lead to transformational change.  

Sandy Andrade is a mindfulness and presence-oriented psychotherapist and founder-director of Just Being Center of Mindfulness and Presence, Pune. 

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