Mindfulness at work
There’s a lot of hype about how mindfulness can improve your life and it’s hit the workplace bigtime. There’s also a lot of misunderstanding and even mistrust. This page will clarify a few things and show you how to quickly test mindfulness for yourself.
Bringing mindfulness into your day is a subtle yet profound shift. It all starts with a few short moments of awareness. You can do this whatever you’re doing, and notice what happens when you practice really being of present and fully aware.
The proof of the pudding, as they say. See what you think…
- Do constant interruptions interfere with your productivity?
- Do you often feel overwhelmed by your workload?
- Are you currently struggling to keep up with your ‘to-do’ list?
- Are you ever depressed, anxious or irritable at work?
- Are you easily distracted from what you ‘should’ be doing?
- Is it hard to concentrate for more than a few minutes?
- Are you unable to remember what was said during discussions?
- Do you regularly ‘zone out’ and operate on autopilot?
These are natural responses in an economic climate where we’re being asked to do more with less, work longer hours, but at the same time, be creative, motivated and more productive.
That’s where mindfulness comes in
Learn a little about mindfulness and back it up with a couple of simple exercises and you can expect to:
- Feel more focused and able to concentrate better
- Boost your motivation and creativity
- Reduce stress, anxiety, and irritability
- Increase your resilience and emotional intelligence
- Manage your energy levels as you go through the day
- Find your work – even the mundane bits – more fulfilling
- Manage yourself and others more concisely
- Have more productive conversations with colleagues
- Get more done and feel more confident.
Sounds too good to be true? Maybe. Perhaps it won’t all happen at once and maybe some of these things won’t happen for you at all. What you get out depends on how much you put in. But the points listed here are all researched and proven benefits of using mindfulness at work.
That’s why firms like Google, Yahoo, Nike, Deutsch Bank, Apple, Intel and Goldman Sachs have all promote the use of mindfulness in the workplace.
Why I designed this course
I’ve been using mindfulness ever since I learned about it 30 years ago, and I’ve been helping my clients in therapy and coaching develop the habits too. Back then, it was simply called meditation. Then along came Jon Kabat Zinn’s book ‘Mindfulness Meditation for Beginners’. What made it a game-changer was that Kasbat Zinn is a scientist. He’d taken Buddist meditation – normally associated with years of practice – and shown us how to reap the benefits of mindfulness in days, not years.
Mindfulness was on the map for me from that point on.
I’ve also been using mindfulness in my corporate training for many years, and because I believe so fervently in the benefits it is a natural for inclusion in my online training courses.
Let’s get to business
It’s true that mindfulness has become a bit of a buzzword these days, but don’t be put off. These businesses have read the studies. They understand the cost-benefits of supporting their staff in adopting simple habits of mindfulness. The advantages aren’t just about hard-edged business factors like productivity either.
For example, here’s what one survey showed when staff were asked how learning mindfulness had helped them at work:
91 % believed it positively added to the culture
88 % said they would recommend it to a colleague
66 % said they felt less stress or managed it better
63 % were better able to manage themselves at work
60 % experienced increased focused, mental resilience, and better decision-making
52 % manage relationships better with peers at work
46 % experienced increased innovation and creativity.
How to get some yourself
Mindfulness is a form of mediation (before you get distracted with visions of saffron robes and wind-chimes, read on).
In its simplest form, mindfulness means awareness. ‘Training’ yourself means learning how to relax at will, and then to focus your attention, quieten your mind, and clarify your thinking.
Typically, you’d start with anything between 10 and 20 minutes at a time, a couple of times a day. With practice, you’ll learn how to ‘switch on’ a mindful state of mind pretty much any time you need to.
Once this becomes a habit you’ve opened the door to a technique that will relax you, reduce stress, and calibrate and reset your levels of energy, creativity, and concentration.
Health and wellbeing
Regular practice enhances the brain’s repair mechanisms. Mindfulness is linked to the ‘relaxation response’ which triggers healing in mind and body, clears up stress homones and boosts the immune response. This is medically proven, so it’s about white coats, not saffron robes.
The psychological benefits of mindfulness have been linked to an increase in emotional intelligence, particularly the ability to empathise and self-regulate feelings and attitudes. In turn, this means more self-awareness, better communication, less conflict and, you guessed it, better relationships.
Try it for yourself, now
A simple mindfulness exercise is this two-minute break. Experience is the best teacher, so take a few moments and follow these instructions to understand how it feels to be mindful.
- Find a quiet spot to sit and focus your attention on your breathing
- When you are settled, allow your eyes to close gently
- Breathing with your abdomen, allow your breathing to slow to a rate that is naturally comfortable for you
- Make the out-breath slightly longer than the in-breath. For example, breath in to the count of four seconds, and out, to the count of five
- Don’t force it, let your breath flow naturally, and focus all your attention on your breath
- As you draw breath in, notice how it feels to fill your lungs
- Each time you exhale, allow your shoulders to drop as far as they can
- If your mind wanders or other thoughts creep in, simply bring your attention back to your breathing
- Do this for a two minutes (longer if you feel you want to), and notice the bodily changes as you slow things down
- When it’s time to stop, gradually open your eyes and notice how relaxed you feel.
One step at a time
This kind of exercise is the first step in developing mindfulness in yourself. Do this a few times and you’ll learn how to quiten your mind and focus your attention. Being mindful means giving your full attention to what you are doing as you do it.
Thiis can be abything, such as your morning run, drinking a cup of coffee, going the dishes or having a conversation. There are many simple ways to use mindfulness in your everyday life. As you become more proficient you can apply the habit to your work routines as well.
Try drinking a cup of tea or coffee mindfully, for example:
- Focus on the sensations coming from your drink, the colur, aroma, any other impressions. Focus entirly on the drink in the cup.
- Reach out and take in your hands, slowly and deliberately. Notice the warmth, the rising steam. Is it steady in you hand, or does the cup move slightly (e.g. trembling)?
- How does the cup feel in your hand? What are the sensations around where your hand touches the cup?
- When you take a sip, pay attention to the taste, the aroma. Notice different aspects of the taste, sweetness/bitterness/ for example. Is it smooth or sharp, hot or warm… etc?
- As you swallow, feel the warm liquid flow into your throat…
You may find other aspects and details. Whatever you notice is fine. Allow yourself to be totally absorbed in the experience.
When you apply this kind of focus to whatever your are engaged in, you begin to think slow doen, become more relaxed and, in turn, to think more clearly, to de-stress, and to give your best.
Now try this
Mindfulness gives you control of areas of your life you’ve probably thought you couldn’t influence. You’ll begin to enjoy the benefits almost as soon as you start to practice. I’ve provided a free audio track (MP3) to guide you and get you started. Try it, and judge for yourself.
My online course is coming soon. It will give you everything you need to reap the benefits of mindfulness at work and in your life in general.
Small habits add up to big changes. Using practical exercises and brief video lectures I will show you how to learn and apply habits of mindfulness in your life.
Think about it, what would you like to be better:
To feel more confident, motivated, and purposeful?
Be more organised and get more done at work?
Improve the amount you sleep or the quality of your sleep?
To feel more in control of your emotions or your mood?
To be more proactive in your relationships with colleagues?
To be more focused and concentrate better?
To even out your energy levels and avoid the dips and troughs?
You may not manage all of these things right away, but even SOME would be pretty handy, right?
Here’s what people who have experienced learning simple mindfulness methods have said:
“Without a doubt that (learning about mindfulness) has helped me to achieve unexpected success.”
“Mindfulness has given me techniques that have really helped me to get through a tough time in my life. I recommend it to anyone.”
“I have more balance in my life and feel I’m better at changing perspectives. My decision-making is more reasoned and I think I give better value at work.”
“I was feeling stressed and lacking clarity and direction. I have learned the importance of taking take time out and listen to my body. Just a few minutes each day has already started to make a big difference.”
Let’s look a little deeper
I’ll start with a few simple ideas
Mindfulness is essentially about simplicity. It is defined by two main features.
The first is giving full attention to your immediate experience.
The goal of mindfulness is to achieve a state of alert, focused relaxation…
The second is a habit of approaching life experiences with a sense of curiosity, acceptance and openness.
…by deliberately paying attention to your thoughts and sensations without judgment. This allows the mind to refocus on the present moment.
There are several ways to get into the relaxed and focused state that typifies mindfulness.
Some courses spend a lot of time on techniques. I always recommend breathing as the starting point. This requires no special kit, we all know how to do it, and breath is central to wellbeing so focusing on your breathing brings many benefits.
The most complicated thing about mindfulness is its essential simplicity.
Some people stumble before they start …
Mindfulness is about how you do it, not where you get to.
Doing and being, not getting to…
Back to work!
Apply this to the workplace (tbc)
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