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  • Vanessa Barajas, MPH

Using Mindfulness to Solve Problems

Although mindfulness is commonly associated with meditation, it can be applied to many of our daily activities, such as problem solving. Mindfulness is associated with self-awareness; being open, present, and receptive to what is happening from one moment to the next.

Although mindfulness is something that anyone can achieve, we differ in our ability and willingness to achieve it. Luckily, it’s something we can improve on with practice. Being mindful involves neutrally acknowledging one's feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations—which can be pretty challenging at times but well worth the outcome!

In 2008, Hunter and McCormick conducted a small exploratory qualitative study, examining a range of workplace outcomes derived from mindfulness practice for eight managers and professionals. These outcomes included heightened awareness of external stimuli, greater acceptance of an individual’s work situation, increased coping ability and the ability to remain calm in stressful/challenging work situations, better adaptability and more positive workplace relationships. Hunter and McCormick analyzed the interviews they conducted, and found out a number of things about employees who practice mindfulness too. They found that individuals who practice mindfulness have more modest, realistic work goals, are more selfless and are less concerned with material acquisition and wealth (Hunter & McCormick, 2008).

In another study, Allen and Kiburz (2012) looked at mindfulness as a trait. Their study showed that greater trait mindfulness was associated with greater work-family balance. It also found that trait mindfulness predicted improved sleep quality, and increased vitality (Allen & Kiburz, 2012).

More research is needed to discover the full extent of what mindfulness can do but did you know you can approach a conflict with mindfulness? You can do this by being receptive, rather than resistant, to people's thoughts and opinions. When you approach a problem with mindfulness, you are better able to understand its root cause and identify effective solutions.

Here are a few ways in which mindfulness can be used to solve problems:

  1. Cultivate awareness: Mindfulness helps you become aware of your thoughts, feelings, and emotions, as well as external factors that may be contributing to the problem. This awareness can help you identify patterns and triggers that may be perpetuating the problem and allow you to break free from them.

  2. Focus on the present moment: Mindfulness encourages you to focus on the present moment, rather than getting lost in worries or regrets about the past or future. By staying present, you can better understand the problem and find effective solutions.

  3. Non-judgmental observation: Mindfulness helps you approach the problem without judgment, allowing you to see it from a fresh perspective. This can help you identify new solutions that may not have been apparent before.

  4. Take a step back: Mindfulness also helps you to take a step back from the problem, creating a space for you to reflect and gather your thoughts. This can be particularly helpful when you are feeling overwhelmed or stuck, allowing you to approach the problem with renewed energy and creativity.

  5. Reduce stress: Problem-solving can be stressful, but mindfulness can help you manage that stress. By staying focused on the present moment and breathing deeply, you can calm your mind and reduce feelings of anxiety or overwhelm.

  6. Improve decision-making: Mindfulness can help you make more informed decisions by reducing the impact of emotions and distractions. By staying centered and calm, you can approach the problem with clarity and make more rational decisions.

Here are some additional helpful tips for integrating mindfulness into problem solving:

  • Understand that your beliefs are sometimes driven by emotion. They are subconscious, automatic thoughts that can be illogical, invalid, or biased.

  • Accept that your perception is limited. Your understanding of the situation is only one side of the story. Try to interpret the situation differently, change its meaning, or view it from another person’s perspective.

  • Your objective is to solve the problem, rather than win the fight.

  • Once you’ve shared your feelings about the situation, allow others to do the same.

  • It is helpful to have a mediator involved if tensions are high. The mediator is there to create an environment that is conducive to open communication, ensuring that everyone’s voice is heard.

  • Take a couple minutes to focus on your breathe before jumping into challenging tasks

Mindfulness has the ability to bring clarity and positivity to many of your life experiences. If you are interested in learning more about how mindfulness can enhance your life, listen to the latest podcast episode titled “Boosting Creativity through Mindfulness” on A Mindful Moment with Teresa McKee. Click here to listen.


Allen, T. D., & Kiburz, K. M. (2012). Trait mindfulness and work-family balance among working parents: The mediating effects of vitality and sleep quality. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 80, 372 – 379.

Hunter, Jeremy & Mccormick, Donald. (2008). Mindfulness in the Workplace: An Exploratory Study.

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