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Be more present. It's the only place you can ever be

Just over a month into the New Year and already resolutions are fading and we're sliding back into the same old patterns. Except that in my case – and I don't mean to sound smug here – I'm not!

I've decided to give mindfulness a go, the practice of being fully in the present moment, and I'm already impressed by the difference it's making.

Now I know that mindfulness has been talked about a lot, but for the benefit of those who still aren’t convinced – and I was one of them until recently – I'm going to share my whistle-stop tour of its benefits and why it fits in so well with Clear B2B’s mantra “The difference is clear thinking.” 

What mindfulness is
Basically, mindfulness is about observation without criticism – about paying attention to our thoughts and feelings without judging them. It's usually practised through simple breathing meditation in which you focus on the breath in and the breath out and observe your thoughts as they emerge and then drift away.

In time, this practice helps you to learn to fully attend to whatever you're doing right now, whether that's taking a shower or making an important work decision. Focused, objective thinking. Surely we’d all benefit from more of that? 

What mindfulness isn't

  • It's not a religion (although, yes, it does have its roots in Buddhism)
  • It's not complicated – in fact, you can't succeed or fail (I love how freeing this feels!)
  • You don't have to sit in a weird position or even cross-legged – although you can choose to do this if that's what you prefer
  • It's not about waving goodbye to all your goals and ambitions
  • You don't have to spend hours meditating every day – just 15 minutes can make a difference

So why am I telling you about this? Well, I believe that mindfulness has a role to play in reducing the stress that's causing so many people to feel depressed, anxious, or just plain burnt-out.

Mental ill health is now the leading cause of sickness absence in the UK and accounts for 70 million sick days every year. This costs British business more than three billion pounds. And it's not just us Brits. The World Health Organisation says that deteriorating mental health represents one of the most serious health challenges for Western society in the twenty-first century.

The benefits of mindfulness

So how can mindfulness help? Well, lots of research studies have looked at the impact of mindfulness in the workplace and they've found that mindfulness can:

  • Increase staff wellbeing and resilience in the face of challenges
  • Create more positive relationships between colleagues, building more productive teams and so ultimately improving a company's bottom line
  • Improve decision-making, helping leaders to choose informed responses over automatic reactions
  • Boost creativity, increasing flexible thinking and the ability to generate new ideas

I’m sure you’ll agree that’s a pretty compelling set of reasons for marketing communications specialists.

And me? I've experienced three key benefits so far:

  • Mindfulness helps me keep things in more proportion – so challenges that once might have seemed insurmountable, or at least very demanding, now seem more manageable
  • My life feels fuller and richer (not in a monetary sense!). The best way I can describe this is to compare it to putting on your glasses or contact lenses if you're short-sighted. Suddenly the world comes into focus and everything looks sharper and brighter
  • I feel more open to possibilities I might not have considered before, both at home and at work when I'm thinking of creative solutions for clients

Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that after just a few weeks, I'm a completely new person and fizzing with so many brilliant ideas I may well pop. What I am saying is that I'm more open to seeing things differently and less prone to what's known as 'cognitive rigidity' (the tendency to be blinded by experience). So there is definitely more fizz. In a creative industry like ours, this can only be good news and so it's maybe not surprising that creative and innovation-based companies like Apple, Google, Target and McKinsey & Company have implemented mindfulness programmes to boost creativity.

In the light of all this, if you're looking for ways to free up your own thinking in 2018 and create a happier, more creative and productive workforce, take a look at mindfulness. It’s easy… you can simply download an app, or if you want to want to explore mindfulness with a good dose of humour then I can certainly recommend Ruby Wax’s book ‘A Mindfulness Guide for the Frazzled’.

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