Your mind is on a million things all at once at work. Those of us that study mindfulness tend to forget to do it. Why? As stated in the book “Mindfulness for Dummies at Work,” by Shamash Alidina, “The reason you forget to be mindful is because your brain’s normal (default) mode is to be habitually lost in your own thoughts—running a sort of internal narrative. When you’re going about your usual daily activities, your brain switches you into this low energy state, which is unmindful, almost dreamy.” To be mindful at work means being fully aware and present in one moment, conscious of your inner and outer experiences.
A useful goal to set mindfulness practice in motion is just to decrease the amount of “mindless” moments. An important fact: Doing some things automatically, without thinking, is fine but research undertaken at Harvard University showed that 47 percent of a person’s day can be spent lost in thoughts. The same research found that day dreaming can have a negative impact on well-being. Being on auto-pilot means that you’re not fully present and awake to the opportunities and choices around you. You can’t be creative, plan something new or respond appropriately if you’re operating mechanically.
But you don’t have time for much more in your busy schedule. So here is a quick reference for applying mindfulness tools to your work day. Notice the positive changes when you apply these simple and easy techniques to your everyday.
- The 5 Senses Trick: You do not need a full hour of meditation to put mindfulness to practice (i.e. watch the mindful minute video). Simply Pause and get in touch with your 5 senses. What are seeing, hearing, smelling, feeling, tasting? Even just focusing on one sense counts as a mindful exercise.
- Practice Gratitude: make a conscious effort to include gratefulness in your day. Write an email thanking a colleague or friend. Notice your environment, appreciating the little things (a good cup of coffee, a breeze, helpful guidance, a warm sweater, a comfy chair).
- Do one thing at a time: When you get up to grab your lunch, savor each bite. When you wash your hands, focus on the sensation of the water, its sound, the smell of the soap, etc.
- Remind yourself to be mindful: I have a co-worker that sets an “insight timer” on her phone. Each hour, it rings the soft ‘ding’ of a singing bowl, redirecting her mind to the present. I like to practice whenever I’m transitioning from one space to another (i.e. office to kitchen, building to outside, car to store, etc.).
- Accept what you cannot control; let go: when you are able to accept the current situation, you decrease energy-draining frustration and anger. You then can make space for calm acceptance of what is.
And remember these interesting facts:
- The more mindful exercises you do, the easier your brain finds it to drop into a mindful state, thus optimizing your brain function.
- John Kabat-Zinn, mindfulness expert, told Google employees that “Meditation is an act of sanity,” in a mindfulness session at the company’s headquarters in 2007.Today, Google incorporates mindfulness into their “Search Inside Yourself” training.
- Many corporations and employees are realizing that the benefits of mindfulness practices can be dramatic. In addition to supporting overall health and well-being, mindfulness has been linked to improved cognitive functioning and lower stress levels.