Mindfulness will bring many benefits to all aspects of your life, including your working life. But what does mindfulness mean and how do you begin? Mindfulness is the practice of being in the present moment. As simple as that. But in reality, few of us are fully present even some of the time!
The way to start is by establishing a meditation or yoga practice. Learning to discipline your mind with a single-minded focus on your breath is the basis.
Even five minutes meditation a day is better than no minutes a day, and there is no need to be sitting on a cushion. You can take five minutes before you get up or do it on your chair after breakfast. On the bus on your way to work is fine, even a walking meditation is fine, so long as you are training your mind little by little to stay focused. In simple meditation, this will be your breath.
Studies show that benefits include clearer comprehension of problems, lessening of distraction and increased stability. Focus and concentration and your ability to work well under stress will improve.
Here are my five tips on integrating mindfulness into your office job:
1. Begin Before You Leave Home
Every day you breathe, eat, move, speak and think and do all these mostly mindlessly! What might you notice or learn if you became present in every moment?
Step one might be to start practicing whilst making your first cup of tea. Notice and appreciate that you have unlimited clean water from your tap into your home. While the kettle is boiling contemplate how far your tea or coffee has travelled to get to you and how many people have worked at every stage of the process to make it possible before it reached your cup. How wonderful!
Now, NOTICE and savor the aroma as your morning drink brews, look at the steam rising, pour in the milk if you take it and contemplate its journey too. Notice how you feel as you drink.
Are you getting the idea? You could notice the process of showering or bathing. Just don’t be mindless!
A side benefit of mindfulness is it awakens gratitude for the little things that you might take for granted. A more grateful, conscious person is a happier person.
To some extent stress and anxiety are part of the working day for many of us. When we become stressed, our breathing shortens, and we tend to breathe from higher in our lungs.
Taking a few mindful deep and calming belly breaths will help you to keep your focus, especially before an important task, conversation or meeting, breathe and then compose yourself.
If you can, try to take a couple of 2 or 3 minute breathing breaks during each day. Stop whatever you are doing and focus on your breath, this will allow your tired brain to relax and you will return to your task calmer, with improved concentration and ultimately better results.
Get into the habit of checking in with yourself. Notice how you are in mind body and spirit. Pay attention to your energy levels, hunger and thirst. Become aware of any aches and pains.
It is possible to be stressed and slightly anxious all day without even realizing until you get home and your head aches or your back has seized up.
Make a habit of occasionally mentally scanning your body and notice any symptoms of stress. Is there tension in your neck and shoulders? Are your face muscles relaxed? Is your heart racing a little or are you feeling low level anxiety?
If any of these are happening, as soon as possible take a few moments to remove yourself from the situation, breathe, unwind, calm down. A calm mind and a well body perform better at work and keep you fit and well.
Listen mindfully and listen actively. This means with your full attention.
I’m sure you think you do but isn’t it true that sometimes as you are listening to your colleague talk, a part of your mind has already rushed ahead and is busy formulating your answer or counter-argument, or even thinking about something else entirely! Whilst this is happening you are very likely to be missing something that might be important. It is certainly not showing the respect that you would like to enjoy when you are speaking.
Bring the focus you have learned in your daily meditation sessions to your conversations. Make eye contact, hold it and listen carefully to every word until the other person finishes speaking. Be fully present in every moment of every conversation.
Communication is key in the workplace. You want and need to be connected to your colleagues and business associates. Be PRESENT and use the words you choose carefully.
For example, if you casually and mindlessly use words like “swamped” it will create a negative reaction. Exchange for something positive instead like “my schedule is full right now”. Be careful with words. Once said they can’t be unsaid. Use your mindfulness and improved focus to communicate wisely.
6. Acknowledge Yourself
The new, more mindful you looks after yourself better, and because you now notice more, you are a kinder employer or colleague too. As you become more conscious and mindful you will notice things you might have missed before.
Acknowledge if you feel frustrated or impatient or angry, then ON PURPOSE shift your attitude. Notice the good aspects of each situation.
We are always in a state of inner dialogue, so say positive complimentary encouraging things to YOU! Acknowledge your successes big and small and enjoy them!