19
Feb
2017

“In today’s rush we all think too much – seek too much – want too much – and forget about the joy of just being” – Eckhart Tolle

We live in a busy world and it’s easy to find ourselves losing focus on the present moment while our mind ruminates about the past or worries about the future. Research shows that people spend almost 47% of their waking hours thinking about something other than what they’re doing[1]. This can occur at anywhere at any time, especially in the work place when many are feeling under pressure and stressed. A practice that helps us to live more in the present moment, and therefore reduce our worries about the past and future, is mindfulness. Mindfulness is the practice of focusing our attention on the present moment, on purpose, and accepting it without judgment[2]. There are many scientific studies that demonstrate the benefits of mindfulness, and it has been found to be a key element in happiness[3].

For mindfulness to work, we need to practice it by incorporating mindfulness exercises throughout our day. We then can train our brain to focus better. Practicing mindfulness involves being more observant, fully present and more connected to ourselves, others and the world. Through mindfulness we can learn that thoughts and feelings come and go, that we can have more balance and experience more peacefulness. It also develops self-acceptance and self-compassion[4]. Mindfulness involves paying attention to experience in the moment as opposed to being caught up in thoughts. It fosters an attitude of openness and curiosity. Even if our experience in the moment is difficult, we can be open to it instead of running from or fighting with it. In addition, mindfulness promotes flexibility: the ability to consciously direct our attention to different aspects of experience[5].

Some Benefits of Mindfulness at Work:

Mindfulness Improves Well Being:

Being mindful makes it easier to enjoy our work and the pleasures in life as they occur as we are fully engaged in the present moment[6]. By focusing our attention to the here and now, we can find that we are less likely to ruminate on negative past experiences and are less preoccupied with concerns about future success and self-esteem[7]. We are also more likely to develop deeper connections with our colleagues by listening without being distracted by our thoughts or external noise.

Mindfulness Improves Physical Health:

Mindfulness techniques can help improve our physical health in a number of ways so we can enjoy and get the most out of our time at work as well as life outside of work. It can help in the short term by relieving stress and improving sleep, as well as treating heart disease, chronic pain, high blood pressure and gastrointestinal difficulties[8].

Mindfulness Improves Mental Health:

In recent years, mental health clinicians have used mindfulness meditation as an important element in the treatment of a number of mental illnesses, including depression, anxiety disorders, substance abuse, eating disorders and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Mindfulness teaches us to accept our experiences, including painful emotions, rather than reacting to them with avoidance[9]. It can also help us to struggle less with irrational, maladaptive and self-defeating thoughts[10].

How We Can Practice Mindfulness at Work:

1) We may feel stressed as soon as we wake up because our thoughts about the day ahead may trigger our fight-or-flight response and release cortisol into our bloodstream[11]. When you  wake up by spend a few minutes in bed simply observing your breath. As unhelpful or stressful thoughts about the day come to mind, try to step back from them and return to your breath. Speaking a mantra (repeated phrase such as ‘relax and let go’) of your choosing can also help you take your focus away from unhelpful thoughts and feelings.

2) When you arrive at work, it is a good idea to arrive early so you’re not feeling stressed. Take five or ten minutes before you start your work to close your eyes, relax and again focus on the breath[12]. Simply maintain an ongoing flow of attention on the experience of your breathing: breathing in with our diaphragm expanding, breathing out with the diaphragm retracting. To help your focus stay on your breathing, count silently or repeat your mantra with each exhalation. Any time you find your mind distracted, simply release the distraction by returning your focus to your breath. Most important, allow yourself to enjoy these minutes. Throughout the rest of the day, other people and competing urgencies will fight for your attention. But for these few minutes, your attention is all your own[13]. This practice can help increase your effectiveness throughout the day, and by getting your head in a good place at the beginning of the day, can go a long way to ensuring we have a happy and productive day at work.

3) When you begin your work, focus on one task only. Be mindful as you work through this task. One risk during the day is overdoing multi-tasking, and your attention and stress level can suffer. One thing that can help is allocating specific times during the day to check emails or return phonecalls, rather than interrupting your attention constantly.

4) Be mindful of your priorities for the day – making a list and highlighting the top three tasks to complete can assist.

5) As the day moves on you may find your minds wandering away from the present moment, and it can help to repeat some mindfulness breathing exercises in shorter bursts. Taking breaks to relax rejuvenates the body and mind and help us stay sharp and avoid making poor decisions.

6) You may find being mindful when you have a coffee or lunch can assist, or as you take a walk around the office or at lunchtime, be mindful. Another useful mindfulness exercise is being aware of five things that you can see around you, five things you can hear and five things you can touch. This is easy to do in the workplace.

7) Consider shutting your door at lunch time and meditating – you may find an App helpful such as ‘Smiling Mind’ or ‘Breathe2Relax’, or simply put some relaxing music on for a while.

8) Relate to others mindfully – you will learn a lot more about others when you observe, listen and respond mindfully. Being mindful in our relationships, and repsonding rather than reacting, can assist greatly.

9)  When the work day finishes, and you head home – use the travel time on a train to read mindfully, you can walk or ride mindfully, or listen to music in the car. When you get home, connect with your partner or pet mindfully, or simply take some time to wind down mindfully.

10) REMEMBER, that in a world of smartphones, tablets and computers, it is a good idea at times to step away from social media and technology and simply be still.

Mindfulness is not about living life in slow motion – it’s about enhancing focus and awareness both in work and in life[14]. It’s about stripping away distractions and staying on track with individual, as well as workplace, goals[15]. Always be mindful of your values and what is important to you in relation to work – this can help you feel connected and fulfilled in the workplace.

References:

-How to Practice Mindfulness Throughout Your Work Day. Rasmus Hougaard. Last Modified 2016. http://www.mindful.org/how-to-practice-mindfulness-throughout-your-work-day/?utm_content=buffer9e79c&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=buffer.

-Benefits of Mindfulness. Helpguide. Last Modified 2017. https://www.helpguide.org/harvard/benefits-of-mindfulness.htm.

-Harris, R., 2010. ‘Mindfulness’. Retrieved July 2012: ww.actmindfully.com.au/mindfulness.

-Harris, R., 2009. ’Mindfulness Without Meditation’. Journal of Clinical Psychology. October 2009. pp. 21–4.

[1] How to Practice Mindfulness Throughout Your Work Day, Rasmus Hougaard, Last Modified 2016, http://www.mindful.org/how-to-practice-mindfulness-throughout-your-work-day/?utm_content=buffer9e79c&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=buffer.

[2] Benefits of Mindfulness, Helpguide, Last Modified 2017, https://www.helpguide.org/harvard/benefits-of-mindfulness.htm.

[3] ibid.

[4] Harris, R., 2010, ‘Mindfulness’, retrieved July 2012: ww.actmindfully.com.au/mindfulness.

[5] Harris, R., 2009, ’Mindfulness Without Meditation’, Journal of Clinical Psychology, October 2009, pp. 21–4.

[6] ibid.

[7] ibid.

[8] ibid.

[9] ibid.

[10] ibid.

[11] ibid.

[12] ibid.

[13] ibid.

[14] ibid.

[15] ibid.

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