By letting it go it all gets done. The world is won by those who let it go. But when you try and try, the world is beyond winning.Lao Tzu
The reality of many corporate environments
We are often unable to remember what was said during conversations, or we arrive at the workplace with no memory of the commute. Many of us eat at our desks without tasting the food, and we pay more attention to our smart phones and email than to family and colleagues.
I think every one of us has experienced this kind of "being in the mind" instead of being present in the world around us, resulting in stress and distraction. In recognizing this reality, it's a good idea to encourage employees to learn and practice mindfulness techniques or to make corporate MBSR training available to everyone.
Why mindfulness training?
According to Jeremy Hunter at Mindful.org, mindfulness training in the workplace can deliver tangible benefits that are clearly good for business and good for us. He goes on to tell us that mindfulness training can result in:
- less wasted time and improved productivity
- fewer scattered efforts
- enhanced concentration
- reduced stress creating greater calm
- reduced conflict leading to strengthened relationships
- fewer misunderstanding resulting in better communication
- clearer decision making for better results
- more creative problem solving
Adapted from the article "How to Take Back Attention."
So, how does this work, and what does it look like in practice? Keeping in mind that the spirit of mindfulness is always self-chosen (and deeply personal in practice), here are some techniques to get started in your own spaces and at your own pace.
Becoming mindful in the workplace: A primer and some tips
- Make a commitment to paying attention to the present moment, without judgment, at set intervals throughout the day.
Tip: Try setting a vibrating alarm on your phone for this.
- Begin by taking small steps: "Today I will become more aware of________ (my body language, breathing, facial expressions, or emotions and responses to others, and so on)." This helps direct intention for the day.
Tip: Start by associating certain activities with mindfulness, such as lunches or meetings or when finishing one task and starting another.
- Start each morning with at least 5 minutes of mindful practice: Simply notice how you feel emotionally and physically before you start your daily routines (again, without judgment).
- Help regulate your energy in a different way by deliberately slowing down in situations that are typically hurried, such as when you are caught up in the morning rush. Get in touch with your senses by noticing the temperature of your skin and background sounds around you.
Tip: Put mindfulness in your calendar and set an appointment with yourself!
- Pay attention to your body language and breathing. Our body movements and posture have a powerful effect on both closing our attention down and on opening it up. This can be as simple as paying attention to our walking by slowing our pace and feeling the ground against our feet.
Tip: Post a small note or picture on your desk to remind you to be mindful.
Interpersonal mindfulness in the workplace
One of the most important ways to reduce stress in the workplace is to be aware of how we relate to others — including bosses, clients, coworkers, and customers. Here are a few ways to improve perceptions and communications:
- Watch your language: The words you use affect your body/mind responses. For example, when we tell a colleague that we are "drowning" in work — we signal to our brain that it is having or about to have an unpleasant experience. You can change this type of negatively-charged language to something more positive and energizing — reframing your experience by saying "I'm having a productive day", or "I'm getting a lot done."
- In your interactions, first identify what you would like the outcome to be, whether it's an important phone call, email, or meeting. In other words — know your intention. We can all intend to improve relationships with clients and customers, or intend to open mindful communication with coworkers.
- During the day, really listen to others. This practice will also shift your energy to the other person and away from the "monkey-mind" and its distracting thoughts, even if just for a few minutes.
Learn how mindfulness works to reduce stress
You might wonder why taking just one mindful breath is so effective at calming the body and mind.
First, breaths taken mindfully tend to be slow and deep, which stimulates the vagus nerve, activating the parasympathetic nervous system, which in turn lowers stress, reduces heart rate and blood pressure, and calms us down.
Second, when you put your attention intensely on the breath, you are fully in the present for the duration of the breath. When we feel regretful, we are in the past; when we worry, we are in the future — but when we are fully in the present, we are free from regret and worry. This allows our body and mind some precious moments for rest and recovery.
Find inspiration at Google and in Vancouver!
Take a look at this video produced by the people responsible for initiating corporate mindfulness training at none other than Google!