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How to practice mindfulness at work

Mindfulness is one of the simplest and most effective methods for decreasing and dealing with work-related stress. And it’s a strategy more and more firms are turning to, with encouraging results. A flexible, meditation-based practice, mindfulness is, ‘a state of active, open attention on the present. When we are mindful, we carefully observe our thoughts and feelings without judging them as good or bad’. Essentially, being mindful means being in the habit of checking in on your own emotions and internal monologue, as well as your environment.

Among the benefits of practising mindfulness at work are increased levels of concentration and creativity, improved workplace communication, and greater employee wellbeing. Sounds pretty good, right? If you’re keen to try mindful techniques in your workplace but don’t know where to begin, we’ve rounded up some easy ways for incorporating mindfulness into your workday.

Master the Basics

First, get a handle on basic mindfulness technique. Begin by breathing deeply, in and out. Then, ‘When your mind wanders, notice where it goes (e.g., errands, a distressing conversation, etc.) and then bring your attention back to your breath. Don’t resist your mind’s natural urge to wander, but train it to return to the present. By settling into your body and noticing how it feels, you center yourself in the moment you’re living, too.’ The idea is that the focus and attention you cultivate during your mindfulness practice should, over time, flow into other areas of your work and life. Training yourself to return your focus to the present moment can prevent you getting stuck in panic-inducing, unproductive thought patterns. Interested? Why not give it a try!

Once you’re comfortable with the basic technique, you’re ready to start applying it in a work context.

Don’t get Sucked in by Your Inbox

Even if you start your workday with a 2-minute mindfulness meditation at your desk, there’s one morning task that’s almost guaranteed to disrupt your sense of calm and focus: checking your emails. The thought of an overcrowded inbox can cause instant anxiety. What’s more, constantly checking and responding to messages makes it almost impossible to complete tasks that require deep, focussed attention. Try checking your email only at set times – three times a day is optimal – and use mindfulness techniques to fight the urge to constantly hit refresh on your inbox. Every time you automatically go to check your email, try and acknowledge the impulse and let it pass.

Try Mindful Meetings

Imagine how much more productive – not to mention less stressful – your meetings could be if all the invitees were fully present and actively focused on the topic at hand. We’ve already shared a few tips for making sure everyone is engaged at your meetings, like slashing the list of invitees, but incorporating mindfulness techniques could take your meetings to the next level! Try starting your meetings with a group check-in. As you begin the meeting, try asking each participant to honestly evaluate how ‘present’ they are – are they completely focussed on the meeting? Or are they still mentally processing an email they just received? Allow a few minutes for everyone to do what they need to do in order to be fully present in the meeting, whether it’s firing off a quick answer to a question, performing a few stretches, or simply doing a quick breathing exercise.

Listen to Your Body

Mindfulness isn’t just about checking in with yourself mentally  – it’s about paying attention to your body’s physical needs, too, and responding to them thoughtfully. Do your eyes hurt? Is your head aching? Don’t keep staring into your computer screen – switch to working on paper, or go chat with a colleague in person instead of batting emails back and forth. Are you hungry or thirsty? Stop for a healthy snack or a glass of water. Are you feeling tired and sluggish? Don’t push through it! Take a restorative break: get some fresh air, read a book, do whatever you need to do to recharge your batteries.

Slow and Steady Wins the Race

We think these are all pretty good tips (if we do say so ourselves). But don’t get discouraged if you can’t master them all at once. Sure, one day you might achieve a level of zen where you never feel panicked when you open your inbox in the morning and don’t even think about checking your work email after you’ve called it a day – but for now, try taking it slow. Choose one mindfulness technique that fits your needs and gradually work up to adopting more. Soon, you’ll be drowning out distractions and stopping stressful thought patterns in their tracks like a pro!

By Jessica Miller

Jessica Miller is an Australian writer currently based in Berlin.

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