Not All Mindfulness Is Good

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Have a problem at work? With money? With interpersonal relationships? Mindfulness can fix it. That's what so many studies and articles and news reports make it sound like, anyway. Paying better attention to your inner landscape and distancing yourself from the force of your emotions can seem appealing, especially in a professional landscape. But not everyone responds to mindfulness practices the same way.

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Psychologists at the University of Buffalo have previewed new research into what mindfulness does to social systems — e.g., how someone using mindfulness techniques affects how they participate in a team or treat their coworkers. The results may be surprising: The kind of person you are might dictate how mindfulness changes your behavior.

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"Mindfulness increased prosocial actions for people who tend to view themselves as more interdependent," said lead author Michael Poulin. "However, for people who tend to view themselves as more independent, mindfulness actually decreased prosocial behavior."

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In other words, if you're more comfortable working on your own or charting your own path, mindfulness is more likely to push you more toward a solo focus, rather than supporting the people around you.

A lot goes into making mindfulness a successful method for anybody, including how well you're sleeping and how well you manage your own stress. But mindfulness is a tool, rather than a prescription, and we've got lots of practices available to us for getting through our day. Meditation may be a good trick for curbing mistakes, but the feelings you feel are just as valuable on their own — including at work.

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