Mindfulness is developed through simple and easy-to-use practises that can give us insight into ourselves, our attitudes and brings more objectivity and self-mastery to our lives.
Allowing time for mindfulness in the work environment will help us move away from working on ‘automatic pilot’, to recognise our reactions and what triggers them to help us make better decisions, reduce stress levels, increase focus and concentration and improve performance.
Try incorporating the following mindfulness practises into your workplace environment.
• Try returning
Mindfulness is the act of bringing conscious intentional awareness to everyday life. People who practise mindfulness are more productive, less stressed and experience positive feelings more often.
Mindfulness only lasts moments. Practise returning again and again by a simple visual reminder of your commitment to not allow your awareness to stray such as a post-it note with the word ‘remember’ written on it stuck to your monitor, or keep a fresh flower or image from nature on your desk to bring you back into a ‘big picture’ perspective when you start to feel overwhelmed.
• Try noticing
“The mind is a cruel master but a faithful servant.” Often we are at the mercy of our thought processes. Rather than controlling the mind, it controls us, producing anxiety, worry, procrastination, reactivity, poor focus and judgement of ourselves and others. When we are on autopilot, our mind does two things in particular: it gets stuck in thoughts of the past and future, and it goes into a relentless state of criticism.
The two qualities of mindfulness are awareness and ease. Ask yourself regularly throughout the day, ‘where is my mind? Am I giving what I’m doing my full attention?’ and ‘am I more tense than I need to be about this task? Can I relax as I do this?’
• Try using a mantra
When we remember to be mindful, we bring ourselves back into the present, right here, right now, open to life as it is actually happening.
A mantra is one way of returning to your centre and consciously relaxing your nervous system. A simple mantra (a silently repeated affirmation) can be done in unison with the inhalation and exhalation. For example ‘slow’ on the in breath, ‘down’ on the out breath; or ‘just’ as you inhale, ‘this’ as you exhale.
• Try – Rather than jumping in without thinking, ask yourself ‘what am I saying, why am I saying it, how am I saying it?’ Also practise active listening, not springing into reaction or interrupting or preparing your response as someone else is talking.
When we are in our witness, it’s as though we are watching ourselves in the third person. Through this witnessing, we can begin to observe our own behaviours and habitual reactions to life. This is particularly useful in noticing how we create a lot of our own problems through our limited perception of how things are. Mindful relating creates the space to listen to and communicate with others in new ways rather than out of our habitual ways of relating. This is perhaps one of the most powerful applications of mindfulness.
You’ll be amazed at how mindful communication can transform interpersonal politics in the office! Someone you thought of as difficult will very often begin to respond differently once we change the way we engage.
• Try slowing down your breathing
Our response to stressors is very individual but we can improve our ability to deal with stress by witnessing our physiological responses and coming over our reflexive behaviours with new programming. The breath is the most powerful recalibrating tool we have, directly influencing what’s happening in our body and mind, clearing, calming and energising our system on every level.
Even a few conscious breaths will make a difference, but to really clear the mind of frenzied thoughts, soothe the nervous system and re-focus, try a minimum of 12 long slow breaths, focusing on making your exhalation as long, slow and smooth as possible and consciously relaxing areas of tension in your body as you breathe out. This can be discreetly done any time throughout the day for a ‘reset’.
• Try – Treat mindfulness – and life – playfully
We are creatures of habit but while the mind craves certainty, it paradoxically benefits from shaking things up. Like anything else, mindfulness works better if we can make it fun.
Retrain your brain out of ruts by changing the way you go about your day’s work, whether it’s the order you do things or the way you relate to your colleagues, the way you drive to work or what you do in your lunch hour. Or come up with initiatives that work to build a fun and involved workplace culture. Work environments can be creative, fun, awake … and employees can be too!
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Article by Geraldine Coren