Mindfulness at Work
Mindfulness has many definitions but one common theme: being present and aware within the current moment. Based in Eastern thoughts and traditions, mindfulness seeks to help people simplify by delegating focus to one task at a time. In the current world, multi-tasking and efficiency seem to be all the rage, but can leave people feeling exhausted, overworked, distracted, and incomplete.
Benefits of Mindfulness
Mindfulness steers you away from judgmental thoughts, distractions, multi-tasking, and fixating on the past or future. It takes some discipline to put it into practice, but the more often it is practiced, the more likely one will experience the benefits. Mindfulness has been known to help improve sleep, decrease stress, and lower blood pressure. It also has a place in aiding mental wellness, helping to fight against depression, anxiety, and other contributing symptoms. In addition to these benefits, redirecting your thoughts can help you practice good self-care, which leads to an improved mood and better self-image.
On the Job
Ever feel like you worked a solid day, but have no clue what you did? Incorporating mindfulness into the workday might make the difference between feeling satisfied and connected with work, or feeling like each day is monotonous and the tasks are never-ending. By taking a small amount of time during the day to shift your focus, it is possible to adjust your productivity and contentment. Some experts suggest spending 10 – 15 minutes in a mindfulness exercise, at least once a day. However, some exercises are as short as a minute. Mindfulness exercises draw your attention to specific internal or external phenomena, such as breathing, observing your surroundings, or turning off technology. The following are some popular mindfulness practices that can easily be added into the work day.
- Focused Breathing: Sit quietly and pay attention to your natural breathing. If your mind begins to wander, don’t judge yourself. Gently redirect your thoughts back to your breathing. Focus on the different sensations and movements of your body, such as your stomach expanding and the feeling of the air in your nose. Some experts suggest setting an alarm for each hour and doing this activity for a minute throughout the day to help keep stress down and to help re-center.
- Internal Dialogue: Observe your flow of thoughts and emotions. If you have a thought that keeps popping up, allow yourself to focus on that thought to explore what it means and how it might be influencing you. Perhaps you have an image or saying that helps to keep you focused on your values. If so, take some time to close your eyes and repeat this image or phrase to yourself, and bringing yourself back to it any time your mind wanders. Doing this exercise can help you to understand where you may be feeling pressured, and how that might be affecting your work. Instead of distracting yourself when these thoughts or feelings arise, mindfulness will help you to meet this perceived problem as valuable information to know yourself better.
- Observations: Without judgement, pay attention to any of the five senses that are being triggered, such as sound, sight, touch, smell, or taste. Staying in the present moment, breathe, and direct your mind away from any negative or stressful thoughts. Put your energy and attention into one sense at a time and allow yourself to be completely enveloped by it. This can help you to enjoy your lunch breaks a little more fully, or help you to be more aware of details that are surrounding you. Practicing this can help you decrease immediate reactions and can help you pause to evaluate the best course of action.
- Tune In: Technology - including phones, social media, or email - can often distract us and give us a false sense of connection. Often, we can perceive messages as urgent, and since the scroll of activity never ceases, it can be overwhelming. Getting caught up in technology can wreak havoc on productivity. A great start for incorporating mindfulness into your day is simply to turn off the radio while driving, put your phone into a drawer while working, or only checking your email during certain times of the day. Decreasing multi-tasking means you are increasing mindful attention.
There are many other exercises that can be done to help aid your work day. Finding the right ones that work for you involve a little bit of research, as well as some trial and error. It is important to remember to start small when starting to add mindfulness into your workday. Mindfulness is a discipline and a process. While it may feel awkward at first, building this habit can pay dividends to greater self-awareness and happiness.
Having the Proper Tools
While mindfulness is achieving greater popularity, and can boast of many benefits, it is not the only tool to have in your tool belt. Mindfulness cannot replace critical thinking, time management, organization, or many of the other skills that contribute to work success. The goal of mindfulness is to help you gain another perspective and help you to better utilize the time and skills that you do possess. The more tools you have, the more likely you will be able to use it when needed. If mindfulness is something you want to start incorporating into your workday consider engaging counseling resources for guidance.