During my senior year of undergrad, I took an elective called Social Intelligence. It was, hands down, the most interesting class I took during those entire four years and it was where I was first introduced to the concept of mindfulness. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term, mindfulness refers to the practice of focusing on the present and “living in the moment.” It is an amazing tool for stress relief and overall wellness and can be applied to any setting, including the workplace!
We have all experienced the stress of being overwhelmed by the amount or level of difficulty of the work we have to do. Our natural reaction is to ruminate and try to process the situation either internally or with others. People often end up spending more time thinking and talking about how much work they have to do than it would take to actually do it! Practicing mindfulness can help you to channel your focus and block out unnecessary distractions so you can be more productive. It can also help build teamwork, enhance creativity and communication, and resolve conflict.
Here are a few easy ways that you can practice mindfulness at your job:
- Just Breathe. Find a quiet place where you work or close your office door if you have one. Sit upright, close your eyes, and slowly inhale and exhale through your nose. Take deep breaths. Feel your chest expand and contract with each breath. Allow whatever thoughts come into your mind to just come and go. If you find yourself stuck on some particular thought, come back to focusing on just your breath. Try this for about five minutes.
- Make Smooth Transitions. During the workday, we are constantly moving and changing activities. We move from emails, to meetings, to writing reports and creating spreadsheets, all with extreme speed. Give yourself some time to transition between modes, even if it’s just for a minute. During this time, acknowledge that you are making a transition and remind yourself to remain present so you don’t bring thoughts of the previous mode with you into the next.
- Observe and React with Serenity. When dramas arise in the workplace, try to observe what’s happening without being drawn into it. If by chance you do become involved in the drama, stay calm and present in the moment. Don’t draw on old opinions or anger and don’t allow visions of what the future outcome could be determine your actions.
- Falter and Learn. Acknowledge that we are all human and we all fail every day. Look at each experience as an opportunity for growth.
- Look Out the Window. Too many of us are trapped in windowless offices, surrounded by artificial lighting and muted colors. If you can, take a brief walk outside at least once a day to connect yourself with something natural.
- Use a Mindful Clock. The Mindful Clock is a simple little app that gives you a “meditation” chime that you can set to remind you to relax throughout the day. Try setting it to chime on the hour to remind you to enjoy 5 minutes of breathing. You can find the Mindful Clock here.
These exercises only take a few minutes a day and can easily be incorporated into your daily routine. For more information about mindfulness, there is a wealth of knowledge on the web, as well as several great books by one of the original pioneers of mindfulness in the U.S., John Kabat-Zinn.