What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is one of those words that seems to be everywhere at the moment, but what does it really mean? Mindfulness is defined by mindful.org as ‘the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us’.
We can do this by becoming an observer of yourself; your thoughts, sensations, feelings and emotions. The key is to try your best to do this without judgement.
The good news about mindfulness is that you already have everything you need, and the more you practice, the more you’ll reap the benefits.
How can I be more mindful at work?
1. Focus on your breathing
Stop what you’re doing and consciously bring all of your attention to your breathing. Follow your breath as it enters your body and as you breathe out. If you get distracted or your mind wanders off, just acknowledge that and bring yourself back to focusing on your breath as you inhale and exhale. Even a few seconds of mindful breathing can be a powerful way of reconnecting to the present moment.
2. Use reminders
We’re often going about our day to day lives on auto-pilot. Even once you’ve experienced the benefits of mindfulness, it’s easy to forget to be mindful! Set an alarm on your phone, so when it goes off it’s a reminder that you have an opportunity to take a step back and observe what is going on for you in present moment.
3. Embrace stress
Studies have shown that how you perceive stress can affect how it impacts you. If you tend to think of stress in a negative way, try thinking about how stress can actually help you. When you are facing a challenging time at work, notice your heart rate and your breathing. Be grateful that stress is energising your body and making you more alert, preparing you for the task ahead.
4. Accept what you can't change
Mindfulness is all about acceptance. Accepting everything just as it is in the present moment, without trying to change anything. This is something that can be applied personally (accepting all of yourself, exactly as you are – even the bits you don’t like), but also in work situations.
5. Do one job at a time
Research shows that multi-tasking is actually ineffective as it’s pretty impossible to really do two things at once. Prioritise your workload and/or create a to-do list. Tackle one task at the time and give it your full attention. If your mind wanders, just bring it back to the job in hand. Taking phone calls? Do it mindfully, really listen to the person you’re speaking to rather than jumping ahead and planning your response.
One of the ways mindfulness can be cultivated is through meditation. The practice of meditation has roots in many ancient religions and cultures going back over two thousand years. In more recent times, teachings have been adapted to the modern world and made accessible for all. There’s a wealth of free information available online, recorded meditations to follow and downloadable apps. Meditation can be done whilst seated, walking, or even while doing other forms of exercise, such as yoga.
It’s not always going to be practical to do this one whilst actually at work. But by building a regular meditation practice into your daily routine, the benefits will continue into your working day. Or why not try organising a group meditation or yoga session during your lunch break?
“You are the sky. Everything else is just weather” – Pema Chodron