How to Use Mindfulness at Work
Consider using mindfulness as you approach your work day. Many people dislike work because of the high levels of stress they need to tolerate. A high level of stress isn’t a pleasant or healthy experience, so welcome any way of managing that stress with open arms.
So how can mindfulness help with work?
Mindfulness is proven to lower levels of stress, anxiety and depression.
Mindfulness leads to a greater ability to focus, even when under pressure, which then results in higher and more creative productivity and efficiency.
Mindfulness improves the quality of relationships, including those at work.
Begin the work day mindfully
Start the day with some mindfulness meditation. You can do a full formal meditation such as a body scan or a sitting meditation, or perhaps some yoga or stretching in a slow and mindful way. Alternatively simply sit up and feel the gentle ebb and flow of your own breath, or listen to the sounds of the birds as they chirp in the morning.
Other alternatives include waking up early and eating your breakfast really slowly and mindfully, or perhaps tuning into your sense of smell, sight and touch fully as you have your morning bath or shower; see what effect that has.
Mindful mini meditations at work
When you arrive at work you can easily be swept away by it all and forget to be mindful of what you’re doing. Whatever your work involves, your attention is sure to be sucked up.
When you’re at work, give a mini meditation a go:
When? You can do a mini meditation at set times or between activities. If you don’t like the rigidity of planning your mini meditations ahead of time, just practice them whenever the thought crosses your mind.
How? Use any posture you like, as long as your spine is relaxed and upright. The simplest form of mini meditation is to feel your breathing.
Where? You can do a mini meditation anywhere. Usually, meditating is easier with your eyes closed, but that’s not so easy at work! Try going for a slow walk for a few minutes.
Go from reactions to responses with mindfulness
A reaction is almost automatic thoughts, speech and behavior from you following some sort of stimulus, such as your boss criticizing you. A response to a situation is a more considered, balanced choice and leads to solving your problems rather than compounding them.
To help you to bring a sense of curiosity when you’re about to react to a situation at work, try asking yourself the following questions slowly and giving yourself time for reflection:
‘What feeling am I experiencing at the moment, here at work? Where do I feel the feeling in my body?’
‘What thoughts are passing through my mind at the moment? How judgmental are my thoughts? How are my thoughts affecting my actions at work?’
‘How does my body feel at the moment? What effect has the recent level of work had on my body? How much discomfort can I feel at the moment in my body, and where is the source of it?’
The idea is for you to be more creative in your response to this frustration rather than reacting in your usual way, if your usual way is unhelpful and leads to further problems.
The benefits of a considered, balanced response as opposed to an automatic reaction include:
Lower levels of blood pressure.
Lower levels of stress hormones in your blood stream, leading to a healthier immune system.
Improved relationships because you’re in a calmer state of mind.
A greater feeling of being in control, because you’re able to choose how you respond to others.
Solve problems creatively with mindfulness
If your job involves dealing with issues and problems, you can train yourself to see the problems differently. By seeing the problems as challenges, you’re already changing how you meet this issue. A challenge is something you rise to, something energizing and fulfilling. A problem is something that has to be dealt with, something draining, an irritation.
Write down exactly what the challenge is – when you’re sure what your challenge is, you find it much easier to solve. Try to see the challenge from a different person’s perspective. Talk to other people and ask how they’d deal with the issue. Become mindful of your immediate reactive way of dealing with this challenge and question the validity of it.
How to practice mindful working
Mindful working is simply being mindful of whatever you do when you work. Here are some examples of ways of being mindful at work:
When typing, notice the sense of touch between your fingers and the keyboard. Notice how quickly your mind converts a thought into an action on keys. Are your shoulders tense, is your face screwing up unnecessarily? How’s your posture?
Before writing or checking an email, take a breath. Reflect for a few moments on the key message you need to get across and remember it’s a human being receiving this message.
No matter what your work involves, do it with awareness. Awareness helps your actions become clear and efficient. Connect your senses with whatever you’re doing.
Finish with mindfulness by letting go
You may find letting go of your work at the end of the day very difficult. You may spend the evening talking angrily about colleagues and bosses, or actually doing more work to try to catch up with what you should’ve finished during the day. This impacts the quality and quantity of your sleep, lowering energy levels for the next day.
To let go at the end of the day most successfully, choose a formal mindfulness meditation practice. Or take up a sport or hobby in which you’re absorbed by gentle, focused attention; an activity that enables the energy of your body and mind to settle, and the mindfulness to indirectly calm you.