Mindfulness is a powerful practice with a host of well-researched benefits, like reduced stress, better concentration, enhanced creativity, and greater emotional intelligence. But it won't be of any use to you unless you apply it to your everyday life, to the world of work, play, and personal relationships.
The workplace is an especially important place to practice being present and attentive because it tends to be particularly stressful. You may feel that your financial health and your family's well-being depend on your performance on the job, while at the same time you're expected to get more done than you reasonably can, and to interact with people you have difficulty getting along with and don't like or respect. No wonder that more than 80 percent of Americans feel stressed at work. In fact, stress alone costs businesses $300 billion annually.
Here are some tips for reducing your workplace stress and enhancing your performance with mindfulness:
Develop a regular meditation practice. You can't really exercise mindfulness on the job unless you've been developing your mindfulness muscle at home, preferably first thing in the morning right after you get up. There's something special about those quiet moments before the day begins that lend themselves to meditation —and they set the tone for the rest of the day.
Begin your workday with five minutes of mindfulness. After sitting down at your desk or work station and before getting started, turn your attention from your thoughts and feelings to the sensations of the coming and going of your breath. When your mind wanders off and begins planning your day, gently bring it back to the breath. Continue this present-moment awareness as much as possible as you go about your work.
Once your workday is under way, slow down just a little so you can be more aware of what you're doing as you're doing it — the essence of mindfulness. If you start obsessing about the future or regretting the past, come back to the task at hand.
Avoid multitasking as much as possible. Try to do one thing at a time with mindful awareness — otherwise, your attention becomes scattered, and you don't do anything really well.
Every hour take a mindfulness break. You can program your computer or smartphone to remind you. Put aside your work, if only for a few minutes, and bring your attention back from stressful thoughts to the coming and going of your breath.
In your interactions with co-workers or employees, put aside your agenda and deeply listen to what they have to say. Notice your reactions and counterthoughts, but don't get caught up in them. Bring the same nonjudgmental, mindful attention to your conversations as you do to your breath.