You don’t need to meditate every day to reap the benefits of mindfulness at work. We’ve put together 5 ways you can practice mindful moments in your day to help you de-stress and refocus.
You’re probably thinking, “Yeah sure sounds like a great idea, but how do you become more mindful in a busy working day?” Emails, phone calls, meetings and presentations, and your own work, how do you apply the principles of mindfulness in the middle of all that?
First things first, always be consciously present:
Being Consciously Present
Mindfulness at its core is about being aware. We use it to be aware of both your moment to moment experience and what’s going on around and within you. At work, this means being consciously present in what you’re doing while you’re doing it. You might think you are already doing this when you are deep into a stack of work and the hours are whizzing by. But are you also, at that moment, aware of your mental and emotional state? Or are you working on pilot mode and operating unconsciously? Does your mind wander in the middle of a task?
When this happens, acknowledge the thought that has distracted you and bring your attention back to the task at hand, don’t let that thought drag out.
Use short mindfulness exercises during your working day
Just as regular physical exercise trains your body to get fitter and stronger, mindful exercises train your brain to be more mindful. The more you do it, the easier your body and mind find it to drop into a mindful state. The perception that a mindful exercise means taking you away from your work for 20-30mins is a common misconception. Mindfulness exercises can be as short as you wish. Research has shown even a minute of consciously connecting with just one of your senses is beneficial. You don’t need to close your eyes or even be sitting down. At times of excessive pressure practising a short mindfulness exercise helps to rebalance your nervous system, toning down the fight or flight response that is released when cortisol (the stress hormone) is released around the body. This allows your brain time to engage logic to make reasoned decisions, rather than knee jerk emotionally fuelled reaction to situations.
Slow down to speed up
Taking time out to be mindful may seem counter-intuitive. You may not think that slowing down and being conscious at work could have such a profound effect. A great example:
Imagine being asked to stop sleeping for a week. Sleeping is resting, and resting isn’t work, right? So you’re now working and not sleeping, maybe you’ve experienced this when studying or meeting a tight deadline. Eventually you burn out, your efficiency levels drop to zero, you’re completely out of the present moment.. you’re starting to get the picture, right? Your brain needs rest to work efficiently, so if you’re burning out your brain in work and not allowing it to rest, imagine what a handful of mini mindfulness exercises could do?
Effective leaders, worker and entrepreneurs slow down and reflect to make the best decisions and actions. This is mindful working.
Makes stress your friend
Research has found that people experiencing high levels of stress but who believed that stress was good for them had among the lowest mortality rates. Whereas highly stressed people who believed that stress was bad for their health had the highest chance of dying. So if you want to make stress your friend you need to change the way you think about it, and thus how your body responds to it. Mindful awareness of the science behind what stress is doing to your body can help you achieve this new perception.
The next time you are facing a stressful challenge in work, notice your breathing accelerates and your heart rate speeds up. It is now that you switch your attitude, recognise that stress response is actually energising you. Your increased heart rate is pumping more oxygen around your body. Your body is preparing you for the challenge, the process is sharpening your senses and your immune system. Recognise how your stress response prepares to meet your challenge and view this stress and a fuelling system to get the job done!
Accept what you can’t change
To be mindful means to accept the present moment just as it is. It also means to accept yourself just as you are now. It doesn’t mean giving up, it means acknowledging the truth of how things are at this time before trying to change anything. An example within the workplace, if you go over a budget, that’s a fact, it’s already happened, you can’t change it. As soon as you accept this, you can begin to move forward, learn from your mistakes and find a suitable way to deal with the situation. Lack of acceptance could lead to dodging meetings with your superior, perhaps even going into a state of denial and continuing to spend over your budget. Acceptance actually leads to change.
Mental health is more important than ever before, science has recognised the need to look after our mental wellbeing just as much as our physical wellbeing. There are many more ways of adopting mindfulness into your working day, and many different exercises you can undertake. You could start by taking a few minutes a day, or even a minute between tasks to mindfully focus on your breathing and see how your performance excels.