Even if you love the work you do, there are likely moments that it causes you significant stress – tight deadlines, grappling to get a better salary, long working hours, butting heads with your colleagues… No matter what your career path, your days spent in the office are likely provoking severe anxiety. And, if there’s anything the modern wellness findings have taught us, it’s that stress and anxiety are toxic to the body and mind. This is where mindfulness can help.
Many major corporations have discovered the benefits of mindful employees. Google, Target, Intel and General Mills are just some of the companies investing in mindfulness programs as they know the benefits it brings. Mindful decision makers take the time to make more informed, quality decisions. Mastering the art also allows employees to better direct their focus to the most pertinent task at hand.
The simple practice of being mindful means paying attention to the present moment while accepting it without judgement. This could be seen as a form of meditation as mindfulness is an effective way to train the mind, in turn reducing stress and creating an overall sense of wellbeing – including at work.
Instead of focusing on the future or dwelling on past events - where our minds wander, fret, fantasize or daydream – mindful meditation brings us back to the present moment and gives us the tools we need to be less stressed, calm and kinder to ourselves and others.
Here are some ways you can cultivate mindfulness at work:
Silence Your Thoughts
Actively give your full attention to the task at hand by forcing your mind not to wander. Each time your thoughts start to drift, acknowledge them, and consciously bring your attention back to what you’re working on. Do this by starting your workday with the intention of getting through a particular task. Make the decision and use your conscious mind to get it done.
We’re inundated with facts about the negative consequences of living a sedentary lifestyle (i.e. sitting in our office chairs for 8 hours a day), but many of us are still guilty of it. Neuroscientists have discovered that daily exercise can boost the areas of the brain responsible for regulating our attention. Even if it’s breaking a sweat for just 20 minutes a day, by moving more, you can train your mind to better focus on the present.
Researchers discovered that people who multitask tend to do so because it makes them feel more productive. However, it couldn’t be further from the truth. Juggling too many tasks isn’t a sign of superhuman ability. Instead, it’s stressful for your mind, preventing you from getting your work done in the long run. Rather map your tasks out for the day and focus on crossing them off one at a time.
Ignite Your Senses
The goal of mindfulness isn’t to empty your mind completely or to stop thinking altogether. Instead, it’s meant to help you pay close attention to your physical sensations, thoughts and emotions in order to see them more clearly. Becoming aware of your five senses can help you achieve this. If you’re feeling overwhelmed at the office, or want to practice being more mindful at work, take 10 minutes out of your day to absorb your surroundings. Without judgement, look around and take in the objects on your desk or the colleagues around you. Listen for the sound of keyboards typing, phones ringing and the printer churning away. Invest in a quality sensory token like the Hydrean that can be taken with you to boardroom meetings and business lunches, and use it to feel your way back to the present.
Set Mindful Reminders
The word ‘mindful’ relates to the word ‘remember’. Ironically, it’s easy to forget to be mindful in our everyday lives as our brain’s default mode is to habitually get lost in our own thoughts. Similarly, being on autopilot when you do mundane tasks like driving to work or plugging in numbers into your latest sales report means you’re also not fully present. By setting an alarm on your fitness watch or phone will snap you back into the present moment, forcing you to consciously be more aware of the present.
Make a Friend of Stress
In a breakthrough survey, scientists discovered that respondents who considered stress to be beneficial to their performance lived longer than those who perceived stress to be negative to their health. Stress is inevitable and something we all experience at some point in our lives. Mindfulness can help you change your perception of stress, and use it to your benefit so you respond to it creatively rather than negatively. The next time you feel the familiar rise of anxiety hit, pay attention to how your body responds. Take note of your increased heart rate, how oxygen is being pumped around your body, and how you’re being prepared for a surge of energy and sharpening of the senses so you can respond to the challenge. This change in mindset can help prepare you for stress and manage it better, subsequently adding years to your life while improving your everyday performance.
We all have bad days at work where you want to hand in your two weeks’ notice without a second thought. The trick is to turn those moments into opportunities for mindfulness. The next time you’re feeling defeated at work, try writing down three things you like about your job. Whether it’s your colleagues or the fact that you’re learning new things, reminding yourself of the benefits of your job can help you cultivate a new appreciation for it – even when the day isn’t going exactly as you had planned.
It’s also important to remember that just because it’s called a “workspace” doesn’t mean it’s the best place to do your work. An office environment is jam-packed with distractions. By learning how to react to them in a more compassionate, mindful way you can not only focus better but also learn to manage your frustrations in a positive way. Turn off your pop-up and push notifications and dedicate answering emails to certain times of the day.
When in doubt, remember to just pause. Take a deep breath in, take in your surroundings and regain control of your focus. The power is in you – you just need to learn to hone it.