In the world of business, marketing, strategy and research, it can become extremely easy to get lost in the day-to-day grind of getting things done and following routine. While paying attention to details is important, losing sight of the big picture and spending our mental energy everywhere but in the present moment creates immense strain on our bodies and minds. This stress can bring about a mental fog that becomes the enemy of creativity and innovation. I’ve recently had the opportunity to take the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction course at Duke Integrative Medicine. At Vivisum, we’re considering making this course an onboarding requirement for new employees to manage work/life balance. However, I’m increasingly seeing the benefits that the philosophy can have not just for managing stress, but for promoting creativity at the office as well.For market research and business professionals, creativity and innovation can be intimidating concepts. The pressure to be innovative can be so intense that many simply throw up their hands and just assume that some people are just more “naturally inclined” towards innovation. I would challenge this assumption by sharing with you some principles of mindfulness that anyone can use to maximize their brilliance at work.Mindfulness as a psychological concept comes from the Pali word “sati,” which has no direct translation. Some have called it awareness, being present, remembrance, or even listening. In Buddhist traditions it simply describes the state of being attentively aware of the present moment. Numerous medical and psychological studies have demonstrated the benefits that mindfulness can have on a person’s overall health, and this includes cognitive capacity.

Business Relationships and Loving Kindness Meditation: Anyone who has every worked with people (so everyone) knows that business relationships can sometimes be a drain on productivity and creativity. Some people, despite all of the myriad of communication techniques you may try with them, are just difficult. As a leader, this can be discouraging. The greatest chance you have of overcoming relationship-based obstacles is to first realize that you have no control over who this person is and how they behave. Second (and this may be difficult for some), take a moment to practice what is known as loving kindness meditation. This sounds like an intimidating undertaking, but all this means is that you stop what you’re doing, take a breath, and spend a few moments wishing this person well. You may not change them, but you can certainly change the way you react to them, and this is what makes a good leader.

How to Break Through the Grind with Mindfulness: Mindfulness meditation has the amazing ability to just put things in perspective. I find that the greatest drain on my energy is not necessarily spending long hours on assignments, but rather losing touch with the present moment. When we get so absorbed in our thoughts that we forget to pay attention to the reality around us, this can cause stress, mental fog, and general unhappiness. For me, all it takes is a minute or two every hour to stop and just be aware of my surroundings and my own self. Try not to focus on the why or how of reality, but just let it be. With this mindset, suddenly everything becomes easily manageable.

Mindfulness and the Eureka Moment: How many times have you ruminated over a problem for hours, only to come up with no solution and more questions than when you started? For marketers, strategists, and entrepreneurs, the creativity necessary to be successful is immense. The fear of not being creative enough is what causes some people to not enter into these fields. My philosophy is that we spend too much time trying to force our minds into a pattern that they’re not equipped to handle. What I mean by this is: trust your brain. It’s an amazing organ that can come up with the most brilliant insights if given the space and freedom to do so. So if you feel like you’re going in circles searching for a Big Idea, just let go. Anchor your mind in the present moment, focus on your breathing and the sensations in your body, and let your subconscious run in the background. Every time I do this, it takes about 20 minutes to have that “Eureka” moment that I had spent hours trying to force. Mindfulness as a philosophy is sweeping the healthcare industry, and it’s no wonder why. The list of benefits that it provides is seemingly endless. My own hypothesis for the reason why it’s so good for us: it’s the way we’re supposed to live. It’s the way we evolved to think. Integrating this into our professional lives gives us the edge of simply allowing our brains to work for us naturally, and this includes innovation.

 

If you’d like to integrate mindfulness into your daily life but aren’t sure where to start, check out this guide to breathing techniques.

Ellen Hart is a Senior Associate Consultant at Vivisum Partners. She specializes in in-depth qualitative research in healthcare and nonprofit fields.

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