Guest Column: Mindfulness is a way to reengineer effectiveness: Shailja Varghese

Varghese says that we have ignored the most important role and duty we have, and that is towards ‘oneself’

e4m by Shailja Varghese
Updated: Nov 25, 2016 9:12 AM
Guest Column: Mindfulness is a way to reengineer effectiveness: Shailja Varghese

More than ever before employee stress in media industry is being recognised as a major drain on corporate productivity and effectiveness. We all know the drill and rigmarole we go through to achieve our goals. It not an easy ride. There are sacrifices, hard work and sweat hidden behind all the glory and achievements. How often have you heard yourself say, “I feel cluttered and irritated?” “I wish I had more balance in life.” “I am always thinking about the future and not able to stay in the present.” or “So many thoughts bombard my mind and I am not able to think through.”

As per Assocham survey done in 2016 covering 250 companies from every sector, 45.5 per cent of the sample population in India suffer from depression or general anxiety. Obesity is the second worrisome disease, with 23 per cent of the employees suffering from it. 40.5 per cent of the corporate employees sleep less than six hours and might be resort to sleep inducing methods like pills.

We often project our stress on the external world whether it’s a person, situation or technological advancement, but the reality is we will be inundated with various roles to play through the day, and also expected to excel in each of them. However, the reason of stress and all the confusion is not in outside changing world or people but the hullaballoo of race to reach the finish line, and not being able to pause. We have ignored the most important role and duty we have, and that is towards ‘oneself’. In modern times the concept of self or in simple terms “my-time” is ignored, which has detrimental effects on us because nature has its own way of reinstating the equilibrium within us. Whether it is the manifestation of physiological or psychological ailments or the ‘moments of realisation’ when we are stripped off privileges given to us by nature due to abuse of body and mind.

There is a simple secret I will share, ‘between stimulus and response there is space and in that space, is our power to choose our response and in our response, lies our growth and our freedom.’ Well, this should be simple to comprehend because happiness in body, mind and soul is a rhythm, a pulse, a habit, but comes with an effort and training. An effort which needs to be cultivated at a tender age when we are children. Nevertheless, in the corporate world the need of the hour is to find techniques to reduce stress and increase energy, which can lead to creativity and productivity.

In the below interview link, Arianna Huffington, the founder of The Huffington Post, the founder and CEO of Thrive Global, and the author of 15 books jokingly says, "To everyone out there in the corporate world stop using phrases like 'we are killing it';"we are crushing it" – really? All you are killing is yourself. Lean back to lean into change. We are so hyper connected through technology that often disconnects us, from our self. When inner voice speaks – shut up and listen. Don’t miss the moment.


We are lucky to be in a time where there a whole lot of techniques, processes through which we can tune-in, by spending some tranquil time with ourselves through meditation, prayers, yoga, chanting, mindfulness and other practices. The big move in this direction has been the launch of International Day of Yoga in 2015 which now celebrated annually on June 21. There is no surprise that 53 per cent of corporate firms are opting for meditation and yoga sessions at workplace to boost productivity and reduce attrition rate.

Earlier this year a program started in China to introduce 100 universities to help fight depression and stress.

Now research and science is also backing the positive effects of these practices on brain and productivity. Following are the effects of meditation and mindfulness techniques on our brain.

   Focus: mindfulness techniques improve focus by causing an increase in cortical thickness in regions in the brain responsible for attention.

·Stress Reduction: decreases stress and anxiety by downregulating cortisol and adrenalin creating a state of deep relaxation in which our breathing, pulse rate, blood pressure and metabolism are decreased.

·         Cognition: improves cognitive function by increasing grey matter, brain volume and cerebral blood flow.

·         Mood: increases dopamine and serotine levels by stimulating regions of the brain which are associated with happiness and positivity.

·         Brain Function: increases whole brain function, by synchronising the right and left hemisphere of the brain.

·         Gyrification: MRI scans have shown that meditation and mindfulness techniques increase gyrification or cortical folding, which allows the brain to process information faster.

Do remember, the world is not going to get slower, and technology and data will only increase multifold. In the year 2020, we will be dealing with a more complex ‘internet of things’. Our bank balance and assets aren’t going to teach us how to keep our sense of equanimity. That part is up to us.

The question to ask our self is- do we want to press the pause button now or after 10 years when it might be too late? Think!

 - Shailja Varghese

(The author is content specialist and was a jury for Lions Entertainment at Cannes Lions 2016, she is also a mindfulness and happiness course trainer at the Art of Living Foundation) 

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