Before we look into how practicing mindfulness can inform user experience design, first we have to ask 'what is mindfulness?'
“Paying attention in a particular way,
How does mindfulness apply in UX?
If you’ve done user research, you’ll know that many things race through your mind during interviews:
As UX professionals, a large part of our jobs is to facilitate collaboration between different departments with different personalities and objectives. Mindfulness gives you the ability to respond calmly instead of having knee-jerk reactions in difficult discussions. Equanimity helps to ground you in a calm state of mind, even if your clients/stakeholders are critical of the hard work you’ve put into your designs.
It’s hard to describe this, other that that it arises from within your body – like a bear in a forest.
If you were looking for a bear, you don’t go crashing through the forest shouting out loud and making a ruckus. Like a photographer, you stay still, silent, open and slowly wait for the bear to cross your viewfinder. Mindfulness allows you to stay aware and open to what arises in the present moment.
The practices for mindfulness are extremely simple, but they are hard to commit to over the long term.
Also, trying to understand mindfulness by its definition is like trying to understand what it is like to fall in love by reading a textbook. You might get a general idea, but you’d be missing out on the best part: what it actually feels like. Mindfulness is all about experience, about the actual aliveness, of each moment.
Empathy is a critical factor in UX and design thinking, but sometimes it can do more harm than good if there is a lack of self-awareness. It is really important for understanding others’ emotions and needs deeply, but there is a downside of physical and emotional burnout, especially for care-giving professions, such as nurses, social workers or fire fighters. Cognitive neuroscience is showing how compassion might be useful as well.
“Non-judgement means suspending judgement, it doesn’t mean you won’t have any judgements and you have to force yourself to be non-judgemental. It’s more that you don’t have to judge how judgemental you are. … It’s colossal how ideas and opinions, likes and dislikes actually drive us literally from moment to moment so that we can be lost in thought, lost in our heads, caught up in emotional storms…” by Jon Kabat Zinn on defining mindfulness.
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