Mindfulness at work: A quick guide for the stressed out
Telling someone to practice mindfulness at work can come across a bit annoying.
The sentence is usually directed at someone that requires mindfulness. For example, someone that's struggling with a problem, and maybe doesn't have the patience to consider other ways of viewing the situation.
In that moment, that person probably sees 'mindfulness' as an easy buzzword that doesn't come close to solving the problem.
I've already been mindful and it hasn't worked, they'll probably think.
So instead of talking about mindfulness, maybe it's easier to talk about those things that make up mindfulness.
Mindfulness simply means being aware of how you're feeling in the present moment. If you're being mindful, you're able to recognise and accept the way you're feeling. That's powerful when you introduce it into the stress of your everyday life.
How can I practice mindfulness at work?
Although mindfulness uses techniques from yoga and meditation, you're not required to take up the lotus position on your desk.
Humans haven't had time to evolve and deal with the low-level stresses associated with the workplace, so it's all too easy to react to things at work in an unhealthy way.
If a project is slow to complete, it might be our instinct to double down and work harder on getting it across the line. If a working relationship you have with someone makes you feel under-appreciated, you might accept that as part of your work-life.
Neither of these responses are necessarily the healthiest way to approach the situations, although they may seem like the most obvious.
You could instead reflect on how the situation makes you feel, and whether acting from that feeling would be the best way to deal with the situation. Here's when it makes sense to practice mindfulness at work.
The benefits of mindfulness are vast; improved focus and attention, an improved immune system, improved relationships and a reduction in symptoms relating to stress, anxiety and depression all form part of a long list that researcher RA Gotnik identified.
Here's how you can introduce mindfulness as part of your working day
Take a few minutes on your commute to close your eyes and focus on your breathing.
Set a reminder to repeat this two-minute exercise. Don't worry if you get easily distracted by your thoughts. Gently bring yourself back to focus on the breath again.
When you are eating your lunch, spend a few minutes thinking about what you are eating: How does it taste? What's its texture? If you are drinking a tea or coffee, spend a moment thinking about how it feels to hold the cup.
When you leave your desk to take a walk, focus your on your feet's contact with the ground. If your mind wanders, bring it back to this sensation.
Focusing your attention on the present moment will allow you to recharge. Then you can come back to your work with a fresh perspective.
If you find yourself becoming impatient while you try any of these exercises, that's all the more reason to do them. Take a slightly longer break in a quiet spot to commit to the exercise. Think about why you're struggling to be mindful.
Practicing mindfulness at work is all about patience. Be kind to yourself.
By Alan Wanders, Growth Manager at Motivii