The last few years have been stressful. Oddly enough, one benefit of those heightened stress levels is that companies have taken notice of the negative effects stress has on employees’ health, well-being, and productivity. More and more, the focus is on promoting and practicing mindfulness in the workplace.
Mindfulness is the practice of being aware of the present moment. It helps lower stress levels and trains the mind to pay attention and focus. You don’t have to overhaul your work habits and processes to practice mindfulness completely. A few small changes can help you become more mindful. Here’s how!
1. Focus on Breathing
One easy way to check in with yourself and develop mindfulness is to pay close attention to your breathing. When your stress levels rise, pause and tune into your breath. Pay attention to each inhalation and exhalation. Then, try to measure your breathing. Inhale for several counts, hold it, then exhale for several counts. You can perform breathing exercises discreetly at your desk.
2. Choose a Mantra
A mantra can guide you throughout the day, week, month, or even year. Before you start working, choose a mantra, such as “I am strong” or “There is peace within.” When your stress levels rise, focus on your mantra, repeating it to yourself.
3. Take a Meditation Break
You don’t have to get in a lotus position on your office floor, but carving out space for meditation throughout your day will help bring you into the present. There are many ways to practice meditation. It can be as simple as closing your eyes for a few minutes and listening to the surrounding sounds. You can also use a meditation app or download mindfulness exercises online.
4. Take a Lunch Break
Detaching from your work and enjoying a healthy meal can help improve your mindfulness. Taking a lunch break is an excellent way to get away from the hustle and bustle of the office and allow yourself to recharge. Even if you’re overwhelmed by all you need to accomplish, taking a break benefits your mental and physical health. Doing this will also give you a much-needed break from staring at the computer all day, reducing the strain on your eyes and improving productivity in the long run. Furthermore, taking a lunch break will help you maintain a healthy diet, giving you time to eat a nutritious meal rather than hastily grabbing unhealthy snacks from the office vending machine.
5. Try Yoga
Some workplaces offer yoga classes during lunchtime, in the morning, or after work. If yours does, take advantage of those class sessions. During Yoga, you’ll learn to breathe and tune into the moment. You’ll also move and stretch your body.
If your workplace doesn’t offer Yoga, or you work from home, try to carve out some time for practice at least a few times a week. You can find plenty of free 15 or 20-minute yoga sessions on YouTube.
6. Schedule Time to Check and Respond to Email
An email is a valuable tool, but it also tends to take over your life and can pull you out of the present moment. To lessen email’s grip on your work life, schedule daily times to check your inbox and respond to messages. Try to postpone checking your email until later in the day for the best results. Starting with a deluge of messages first thing in the morning can inhibit your mindfulness practice.
7. Take a Walk
Whether up and down the hallways in the office, in a park, or around the block, taking a walk each day can help you focus better at work. Don’t bring any distractions, such as your phone, when you walk. Instead, make a point to notice your surroundings as you walk, such as the other people in the street or park, the sounds from the road, and the signs and advertisements you pass.
Multitasking was once seen as a way to appear like a productive go-getter. Now we know that multitasking is bad news for the brain and productivity. Instead of seeing how much you can juggle at once, practice mindfulness by focusing on a single task at a time. Your brain will thank you, and so will your co-workers.
9. Practice Gratitude
At the end of each workday, reflect on what you did and find something to be thankful for. Then, write yourself a gratitude note highlighting why you must be grateful. Practicing Gratitude pulls you into the moment by causing you to reflect on the positive events of your day.
10. Create Cushions of Time Between Obligations
When you’re rushing from meeting to meeting or project to project, it’s easy for work to blur. One way to practice mindfulness is to slow down and give yourself space. Start by creating time cushions between tasks, meetings, or projects throughout your day. If you have an appointment from 1-2 p.m., don’t immediately schedule another meeting to start at 2 p.m. Instead, plan your next work for 2:15, so you have 15 minutes to reflect on the previous session and prepare for the next one.
11. Commute in Silence
The world is loud, which can be distracting. One way to quiet the world and enhance mindfulness is to find silence throughout your day. If you have a commute, try to travel for at least a portion of it in silence. Turn off the radio, podcasts, or music, and use the quiet time to be aware of your surroundings.
12. Set Your Work Hours
Create work boundaries, and don’t do anything work-related outside those boundaries. For example, don’t check email after 6 p.m., and don’t schedule calls during your off hours. Establishing firm work and non-work hours will help you focus when you’re on the job.
13. Scan Your Body
Taking a few minutes to pay attention to how your body is feeling can help you become more aware of your emotional and physical state. As you focus on your body, start at the top of your head and slowly move down, scanning for any sensations that may be present. This will help you identify any tension areas so that you can practice focusing on your breath and allowing that tension to melt away. It can also help give you a better understanding of how your emotions might impact your physical body, allowing you to take the steps necessary to manage stress and take better care of yourself.
14. Practice Observation
Similarly, practicing Observation pulls you into the moment. Look around you and note what you see. You may pay attention to the art on the walls, the shoes on people’s feet, or the sounds you hear.
15. Record Your Achievements
Write down what you’ve accomplished during the day at the start or end of each workday. Doing so will help you see the benefits and value of what you do. Regularly taking time to record your achievements is an important habit to cultivate. It can also help you track your progress, stay motivated, and provide you with a portfolio of accomplishments to reflect on.
Practicing mindfulness at work can have immense benefits, both personally and professionally. Being mindful helps us stay present at the moment and aware of our thoughts, emotions, and reactions. This allows us to become more aware of our behavior and in tune with our bodies and needs, enabling us to be more productive and engaged with our work. Mindfulness can also help us manage stress and reduce feelings of burnout, as it helps us focus on the task at hand rather than ruminating on worries. Taking a few moments out of the day to practice mindfulness can bring a renewed sense of energy and purpose to our work, helping us make more mindful decisions and feel more satisfied in our day-to-day lives.