Using Mindfulness to Elevate Design

February 25, 2023

The human body is a system of information. Listening to its signals gives us an understanding of our physical feelings, emotions, and reactions and connects us to our intuition.

Mindfulness is the ability to be fully present, aware of what we're doing and feeling, and not overly reactive to what's happening around us. Scientists have been trying to learn what mindfulness and meditation do to the human psyche and body for centuries. Studies demonstrate undeniable effects: decreased reactivity to stress, increased attention and care for others, and lessened inflammation, depression, and anxiety.

So how can being more in tune with our body and mind guide us as artists and designers?

1. Strengths Cognitive Control

Neuroscientist Yoona Kang has theorized that practicing awareness and attention with non-judgment strengthens our cognitive control so that we can have more influence over our reactions.

Our perception of the surrounding world is linked tightly to our habitual reactions. Once you notice them, you can choose what to do next. In the case of a co-worker or client, you may experience tension in response to the person, but with mindfulness, you can pause and notice your feelings or tightness in the body. You might take deep breaths to calm yourself, try to see the situation from the other person's perspective, or wait until the feeling passes before you respond.

2. Helpfully Constrains Our Options

Practicing mindfulness helps us to notice our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors as they arise, allowing us to connect to our gut instincts.

As designers and artists, we have infinite choices, yet we're paid to make the right decision. Understanding how you feel in the face of other voices helps narrow down options. When everyone is saying "A," as creative leaders, it's essential to be able to decide on "B."

When someone suggests something, and your gut says, "something is off here," - there probably is. We can listen to that signal and use it to guide decision-making.

3. Regulates Anxiety

With decision-making comes stress and anxiety. Practicing mindfulness meditation increases a person's capacity to regulate their body's response to complex internal states like anxiety. Mindfulness helps you cope with difficult feelings without over-analyzing, suppressing, or encouraging them. Giving yourself permission to feel and acknowledge worries, irritations, painful memories, and other negative thoughts and emotions often helps them dissipate.

By going with what's happening rather than expending energy fighting or turning away from it, you can gain insight into what's driving your concerns. Understanding your apprehension's underlying cause allows a sense of lightness to emerge naturally. This means you regulate your stress and anxiety by just paying attention to the body.

4. Reduces Bias

The more unbiased you are as a designer, the more you can leave your judgments out of an idea or product and better serve the audience's needs, separating them from your own views.

In a book called The End of Bias by Jessica Nordell, she writes, "Studies of mindfulness as a tool for overcoming bias are still in the early stages. But early research is promising, finding that subjects who participate in mindful meditation show less implicit race and age bias by helping deconstruct automatic reactions."

Specifically, loving-kindness meditation may reduce bias by improving our ability to care for another's inner experience. Loving-kindness meditation is a tool used to practice compassion for self and others by picturing yourself, someone close to you, an acquaintance, and someone you have a difficult relationship with and repeating a mantra that wishes them happiness, freedom, and wellness. "May you be happy. May you be healthy. May you live with ease." This deep concentration can create a profound feeling of interconnection. Practicing loving-kindness extends care to others and begins to blur the line between "I" and "You" to the point where bias loses all meaning.


Mindfulness can calm us in social interactions, allowing us to reflect and pause before responding. It connects us better to our gut instinct, which we can use to guide decision-making. Simply paying attention to the body regulates stress and anxiety. Those who participate in mindful meditation show less automatic reactions to bias, helping us leave judgments out of our ideas and designs.