We seem to hear about mindfulness quite a bit these days. Though the idea of mindfulness has its roots in Buddhist meditation, a secular mindfulness has been popularized over the last few decades, and recent research into the benefits of mindfulness practice have earned further attention.
Mindfulness is the practice of slowing down and becoming aware of each moment. This is often accomplished through bringing an awareness to the breath, your thoughts and sensations, and your surroundings. Engaging in these practices can have noticeable benefits, including helping to bring you a sense of calm as well as increased patience and compassion for yourself and others. By bringing attention to specific moments, you may find that you remember them, and others, more clearly.
Having an increased awareness of the moment can help slow knee-jerk reactions to difficult or stressful situations, allowing you to be responsive rather than reactive. This is useful in all areas of life, but particularly in the workplace, where it may be challenging to balance the demands of colleagues and clients while trying to cram productivity into every moment.
There are many resources for deep meditation and mindfulness practice out there, from classes to apps. If you're not ready to commit to a specific practice, or just want to experiment with mindfulness in your working life, here are five simple ways to bring mindfulness to work.
Acknowledge the Start and End of Each work day
When you arrive at work in the morning, take a moment at your desk to stop and breathe. As you take a few breaths, notice any feelings you are having about the day. It's not necessary to try to change them, but simply acknowledge that you are feeling nervous about a presentation, or excited to share new data. Repeat this practice at the end of the day. Acknowledge that you are leaving the workplace, and notice your feelings about the day, your physical sensations as well as emotions.
Count to Three
It's easy to just start writing when confronted with an urgent email. Instead of simply clicking "Respond", read the note, then count to three. Taking this small step back will allow you to separate yourself from your immediate response, and construct a more thoughtful response.
Notice things that you enjoy
To help bring your attention to the present moment, it can help to focus on something that is beautiful, or a task or activity that you enjoy. Don't fight the urge to appreciate the late afternoon sunlight outside your office window. Notice what catches your attention and give it all of your attention, if only for a moment. If what you find you're enjoying is moving, get up and stretch or take a little walk. Notice the sensations in your feet, neck and shoulders as you move around away form your desk. Being fully present in your body is a part of mindfulness too.
Practicing mindfulness isn't a completely solitary activity. Taking the time to acknowledge where other people are emotionally can help set a tone for a productive meeting and lead to clear communication. While you don't need to know what your colleagues are feeling, taking a moment at the beginning of a meeting and inviting attendees to notice their feelings will help everyone be more present.
Outside of formal meetings, give colleagues your full attention when they come to speak with you. Your body language can go a long way to help with this: turn your body away from your computer and look at them. You will be better able to respond to their question and better able to return to it later if needed.
Set short-term goals to begin your mindfulness practice. Select a single thing to pay attention to throughout the day. Set a goal that you will breathe at the beginning of the day and the end of the day. Take a moment to reflect on your goals and intentions for interactions - whether in person or virtual - that you will encounter during the day. Having a vision for what you would like to see happen will help guide you in the moment, even if the interaction takes a turn you do not expect.
Mindfulness is a process, and setting small goals, or even leaving reminder notes for yourself will help you to slow down and bring greater awareness to yourself and your work.