How to Cultivate Mindfulness at Work
Having known then what I know now about the benefits of mindfulness at work, I would have been more productive, less stressed, a better communicator and a better colleague.
It was when I was at my corporate job that I needed to practice mindfulness the most. But as I look back, perhaps it was a twist of good fortune that I didn’t, otherwise maybe I would not have left it behind and pursued my dream of self-employment.
Although I had been familiar with mindfulness and meditation for a number of years, I hadn’t embraced it the way that I embrace it now. The practice of being mindful has become ingrained in how I interact with what is happening in my day today. However, I want to acknowledge that I still have some challenges with it.
What is mindfulness anyways? The practice of mindfulness is to be aware of what we’re thinking, what we’re feeling – emotions and bodily sensations, and what’s happening around us in the present moment.
In order for us to reap the benefits of mindfulness such as reduced stress, improved memory, lowered anxiety and depression, and increased focus, we need to practice it repeatedly.
Just as athletes require diligent practice in order to perform their best at their sport, it’s also necessary for mindful students to practice being mindful consistently in order for us to experience life without suffering. In other words, we are better human beings to ourselves and to others when we practice being fully present.
How We Can Bring Mindfulness to Our Work
Cultivating mindfulness at work can be tricky especially when there is a constant stream of things we need to attend to – phone calls, emails, texts, meetings, an unhappy customer, an upset boss, organizing a potluck lunch, and more. And we haven’t even gotten to our actual work.
These are ways I incorporate mindfulness when I’m working.
Start the Right Way
I’m a huge sports fan and often you hear coaches say we need to start right in order to get a win. I took this to mean that the game doesn’t begin when the players hit the ice, the court or the field, it begins from when the athletes wake up, and what they do leading up to the game, during it and post game.
To experience less stress and become a better employee at work, our mindfulness practice starts well before we set foot in the office.
Meditation need not be an hour long nor a formal one. However, whatever time I have, whether it’s 5 or 45 minutes, I initiate the day with a meditation or mindfulness practice.
One of my favourite mindfulness practices is to put on a pot of tea, and watch outside my window the birds perched on my neighbour’s tree. I observe the birds as they fly to my other neighbour’s bird feeder and back to the tree. Back and forth they go.
I also enjoy watching the snow or rainfall, and paying attention to the sounds outside – the leaves rustling or the cat meowing while sitting on the roof of my car.
I’m not planning my day or thinking about what happened yesterday while I’m doing this. I try to be present and be an impartial witness to what I’m seeing. If a thought comes up I acknowledge it, “there’s a thought”, then I go back to observing.
For some of you, you may be saying, well I don’t have time in the morning, as I need to get the kids to school, or whatever the reason, but I say to you this – each second that we’re awake is an opportunity to practice mindfulness – in the shower, getting dressed, preparing lunch or during your commute to work.
Paying Attention to the Breath
This simple yet effective mindfulness practice can do wonders when we are faced with a challenging situation at work, boredom, or anytime we’re caught in a flurry of our thoughts.
- Take a deep breath
- As you breathe, follow the breath as it fills your lungs, then pause for a couple of seconds
- Then exhale slowly
- As you breathe out track how the breath leaves the body
- Pay attention to any sensations you feel in the body
- Is there any tension or discomfort?
- See if you can breathe into that discomfort
- When a thought comes up, notice it gently and then go back to the breath
At my old communications job in the financial industry, we had to move temporarily to the trading floor since our office was being renovated. You can imagine the number of distractions in this open style office.
There were TVs everywhere blaring the latest business news, colleagues talking on the phones with their clients, impromptu meetings, and ladies from the cafeteria wheeling around food carts. All this while writing a piece of content due that day.
So what do we do to bring mindfulness in all this chaos?
We need to set ourselves up so that we can anchor our attention in the present moment in order to be successful at our jobs. And sometimes we need to create a space conducive to the mindfulness practice. In other words, let’s get rid of disruptions and distractions.
Here are some of the things we can do:
● Put your phone, both landline and cell phone, on silent
● Close all applications on your computer with the exception of what you’re working on…that includes social media sites
● If you have an office, close the door
● If you work in an open office environment, find a quiet place to work
● Listen to calming music
● Don’t skip lunch – working on an empty stomach is trouble
There are many more ways we can help ourselves to be present at work, however, find a method, a tool or an exercise that works for you. Challenge yourself to practice mindfulness as often as possible, especially during those times when you’re in a difficult situation both at work and outside of it.
What about you, how do you bring mindfulness in the workplace?