Why Mindfulness Isn’t Working Anymore
“Close your eyes and focus on your breath.”
As you concentrate on your breath, the chaos of your life seems to fade into the background. The overwhelming stress of daily life seems to turn into a wisp of smoke that can be blown away just by deep breathing. This is how mindfulness became a savior for people. It gave them control over their thoughts and actions.
Its growing popularity normalized its presence in our daily life. People no longer whisper about mental health and mindfulness. Soon, corporate organizations began dipping into the pool of treasures that mindfulness offered to look trendy and ‘woke’. However, has this done us any good?
How did mindfulness become popular?
While mindfulness had always existed in Hindu and Buddhist traditions, the West has been comparatively less familiar with them. Jon Kabat-Zinn, the founder of the Center for Mindfulness at the University of Massachusetts, played a huge role in introducing the West to mindfulness. He developed an eight-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program. As the name suggests, it was aimed at reducing stress with the help of mindfulness. Several organizations followed suit by introducing mindfulness sessions that gradually gained prominence.
This normalized conversations around mental health, stress, anxiety, and burnout. Organizations started offering mindfulness courses to prevent burnout and enhance employee wellbeing. Everything was going well. So where did the trouble start?
Using mindfulness as a poor excuse
When a commodity becomes popular, everyone wants a piece of it. Mindfulness is no different. From celebrities to multinational organizations, everyone is talking about, and indulging in mindfulness. The heady concoction of self-awareness and its innate ability to reduce stress is the thing people needed to be successful. Companies are hosting mindfulness retreats and offer meditation sessions in the office.
That’s where it has gone wrong.
The idea behind mindfulness is to give you the power to be in control of your thoughts and channel peace. However, as with everything else, this also requires time. It has become a get-out-of-jail-free card when employers are faced with a tough situation. If employees complain about being understaffed, overworked, or stressed by work, they are offered a meditation class instead of dealing with the issue at hand.
When two kids get into a fight, it’s better to sit them down to discuss and resolve issues that led to the altercation. However, if you just hand them an ice cream cone for a temporary truce, the moment you look away, they’ll fight again because the issue remains unresolved. Similarly, mindfulness practices can be effective only for treating symptoms and not the root cause.
This is not to say that mindfulness is a useless tool. Mindfulness helps us navigate our emotions and thoughts towards a certain problem. However, the problem is something company leaders need to look at. Instead of brushing workplace conflicts and employee dissatisfaction under the carpet, work on them. If an employee feels overwhelmed by work, look at the division of work in their team. If the working hours are eating into your employees’ family time, find ways to enhance work-life balance. With the right balance of mindfulness and an organizational approach, employee wellbeing will not be a tough nut to crack.
Cover image sourced from Shutterstock