Bringing Mindfulness Into Your Workday
The concept of mindfulness has been around for more than 2000 years but it has only started to show up in business practice in recent years. Major organisations including Google and Harvard Business School are leading the way with recognising the importance of mindfulness and have incorporated it’s principles into their leadership programs and training.
In today’s workplace employees are facing more demands than ever. We often work long hours and never get to switch off because of always being available due to our phones and other tech devices. Not being able to switch off means that we are getting more stressed and not being present. This leads to exhaustion, anxiety and other related mental and physical health issues.
Incorporating mindfulness into your work day can reduce stress and anxiety, while boosting emotional intelligence, resilience and productivity.
Benefits of Mindfulness
Research on the benefits of mindfulness has been absolutely compelling and has demonstrated enormous benefits for the brain. Mindfulness improves both concentration and one’s ability to stay calm.
Physical benefits include:
Higher brain functioning
Increased immune function
Lower blood pressure
Lower heart rate
Psychological benefits include:
Increased mental clarity
Increased sense of calm
Greater feelings of connectedness
Heightened emotional intelligence due to greater awareness of self and others in the present moment.
Research on Mindfulness
Research indicates that two specific sites of the brain demonstrate a clear benefit from mindfulness exercises. The first is the cerebral cortex, which is responsible for concentration and mental efficiency. Connections throughout the cerebral cortex have been shown to become denser following mindfulness training.
The second part of the brain that demonstrates clear benefits of mindfulness is the amygdala. The amygdala is the control centre for the body’s ‘fight or flight’ response and it has been shown to shrink in size with regular mindful meditation. All of this points to an increase in logical, rational thought and a decrease in the more impulsive, fear driven responses of the amygdala.
Characteristics of Mindful People
People who practice mindfulness tend to have the following characteristics:
Present moment awareness
Observant and perceptive
Tolerant and open-minded
Greater intention behind their actions
A strong sense of curiosity
To be less critical of others and themselves
In the workplace these characteristics translate into greater empathy, fewer conflicts, improved teamwork and increased creativity.
The Relationship Between Mindfulness and Our Thoughts
We don’t engage in mindfulness solely as a relaxation technique but the by-product of mindfulness almost always includes relaxation. This is due in part to the fact that mindfulness allows us to have a different relationship with our thoughts. It enables us to notice our thoughts as objective observers that get to choose how we engage. Through mindfulness we can obtain more distance from worry thoughts rather than experiencing them as waves of anxiety. Instead we can watch worry thoughts come and go like clouds passing in the sky.
Mindfulness For the Workplace
There will always be stress at work and mindful people are better able to maintain their focus and stay calm when they are confronted with stressful situations.
Here are some ways mindfulness become part of your workday:
Attention training is an easy introduction to mindfulness. At Mind Strength we use a neutral task and check in on our five senses in relation to that task. For example, if we were to eat our lunch at work we can focus on taste, sound, texture, temperature, and colour. If a thought comes up while we are focusing on our sense we can notice it and let it just float on by without judgement or getting hooked into the content of the thought.
Mindfulness and Breath
Breath is with us wherever we go and is an excellent way to ground us in the present moment. We use our breath as an anchor. By noticing our breath with a child-like curiosity, without trying to alter it or do anything in particular, we bring our awareness into the body and engage our parasympathetic nervous system.
Drip Feed Mindfulness into your Day
Long mindfulness or meditation sessions are difficult to fit into the work day. Long meditation sessions are not even the best starting point for anyone looking to begin training their brain in the art of mindfulness. Instead what we recommend is practicing awareness throughout the day and practicing mindfulness in five minute intervals:
Each day set aside five blocks of time for five minute mindful moments. During these moments try to focus your mind and acknowledge and dismiss any thoughts that may pop up during this time. This reengages the Parasympathetic nervous system and takes us out of fight or flight mode. It also reduces the adrenaline and cortisol levels of our blood, reducing stress.
Stay present and re engage with your surroundings regularly. Check in on your five senses.
Use technology with awareness. Practice mind-body awareness and be aware of your posture and breath.
Mindfulness is present moment awareness. By being persistent and consistent you will notice that you are better able to recall what your colleagues have said during meetings, enjoy your lunch breaks with all five senses, be less distracted by technology and spend more time in the present, rather than dwelling on the past or future.
How do you stay present and mindful during your workday?