Research shows that we are happier, more productive, and our most creative when involved in activities that allow us to remain fully focused in the present. Unfortunately, our brains just aren’t wired to maintain this state of focused awareness. Our minds are frequently engaged in a powerful inner dialog fueled by random thoughts, triggered memories, worries, and continual analysis.
Rather than enjoying life in the present, you may find yourself spending a good deal of time scrutinizing the past or agonizing over an unpredictable future. This internal chatter can leave you feeling drained, stressed, and unfocused.
Your roaming thoughts can hinder your productivity, steal your motivation, and keep you from reaching your true potential. You can learn to disengage these distracting thoughts and emotions by embracing mindfulness and practicing mindfulness meditation.
Understanding the Concept of Mindfulness
Mindfulness is the state of active awareness to the present, to the now. In a state of mindfulness, you are aware of your body in the space it occupies. You observe your thoughts and feelings without imposing judgment. You are simply accepting the moment for what it is: your current experience.
You can practice mindfulness by focusing your attention on the details of what you are doing at this precise moment. When engaged mindfully, the past is left in the past; the future is of no concern. The present is experienced in its entirety, including the sights, the sounds, and the physical sensations.
Embracing Mindfulness in The Workplace
When your mind gets locked into the complexities of your thoughts, memories, and emotions, the part of your brain that houses your hypothesizing, problem-solving and strategizing (neocortex), can’t function as efficiently. It’s not your fault; it’s just what happens. Preoccupations can cause additional stress and decrease your ability to focus on the task at hand.
Today, more employers understand that including mindfulness programs in their corporate culture has a positive impact on productivity, profitability, and employee morale. Consider the following examples of employers embracing workplace mindfulness:
- Walt Disney was one of the first companies to encourage mindful meditation in the workplace. The Disney company was rewarded for their efforts with a dramatic increase in creativity and innovation.
- General Mills has been offering meditation rooms in their corporate office since 2006.
- Google also has an in-house mindfulness program and built a labyrinth for employees to engage in meditative walking.
Engaging in Workplace Mindfulness
While many employers offer programs that foster workplace mindfulness; others are not quite there yet. While corporate mindfulness programs are proven to be mutually beneficial, you don’t need a corporately sponsored program to learn the basics on your own.
Keep in mind that mindfulness is a state of awareness, of focus. Mindfulness allows your brain to take a break. It’s not necessary to ignore the thoughts that threaten to pull your attention; you want to be aware of those as well. Simply accept these mental encounters without judgment and move forward. The following suggestions could help direct your path to workplace mindfulness:
Be Present in the Moment
When you focus on the present, the now, the external forces in your life are no longer a problem. Take time throughout the day to pay attention to the sights sounds and experiences of the moment. You may find it difficult to remain in the present when you first begin this exercise, but it will get easier with practice. Once you make a habit of living in the moment, you will notice that unnecessary worries quickly vanish. You will likely find more enjoyment in experiences and encounters you had previously taken for granted.
Focus on a Single Task
While many people consider multitasking a requirement in the workplace, the brain’s ability to multitask is a myth. Your brain simply cannot focus on multiple functions at the same time. Studies show that multitasking can decrease productivity by up to 40 percent. When you remain focused on a single task, your brain focuses at a higher level of intensity. By slowing down and resisting the urge to multi-task, you will likely find yourself increasingly efficient, productive, and resilient at work.
Practice Mindful Breathing
Mindful breathing is a particularly useful technique for calming yourself when life gets overwhelming. To breathe mindfully, simply focus on your breath as you inhale and exhale through your nose. Try to breathe naturally and calmly. Mindful breathing will help clear your thoughts. Notice any thoughts or emotions you have, acknowledge their existence, then gently bring your focus back to your breathing.
Accept What Cannot Be Changed
In mindfulness, acceptance does not mean resignation or avoidance of your feelings; acceptance is simply the act of acknowledgment without judgment. Feelings and emotions should not be labeled as good or bad. For example, if you accept that you are feeling symptoms of anxiety without judgment, you won’t intensify the impact of your emotions by experiencing anger or guilt in addition to your anxiety. By accepting your thoughts and feelings and eliminating secondary emotions, you are better equipped to remain focused on the present.
The Many Potential Benefits of Mindfulness
By practicing mindfulness, you will learn to let go of the stress, self-criticism, and distracting thoughts that could be interfering with your work. When you learn to live mindfully, you will find that your work day becomes more productive and you will feel more connected. You could also find that you feel happier more fulfilled. Some of the additional benefits of mindfulness include:
Improvement in Personal Satisfaction
Being mindful enhances your capacity to form a deeper connection with those around you. When you aren’t distracted by stress and worry, it’s easier to connect with others and form meaningful relationships. You will notice more of the small pleasures in life as they happen. You may soon notice increasing levels of confidence and feeling of contentment with your personal life and your career.
Improves Physical Health
Living with the regrets of the past or anxiety of an uncertain future causes a lot of unnecessary stress. Anytime your brain perceives a threat involving the past, present, or future, it triggers a physical response. This stress response floods your body with cortisol to increase your heart rate and prepare your body to flee. Cortisol increases your risk of heart disease, diabetes, and chronic pain. Mindfulness reduces stress. Spending more time engaged in the present can also lower your blood pressure and improve immune system function.
Improves Emotional Health
Psychotherapists often suggest mindfulness meditation to treat anxiety, depression, substance abuse, and eating disorders. One of the many reported benefits of mindfulness is that it helps people learn acceptance, experience emotions without self-criticism. Practicing mindfulness improves emotional resilience.
Enhances Innovation and Creativity
Creativity is not something that can be engaged with a switch; it can’t be turned off and on. Strong emotions and self-censorship often get in the way of creativity. To find your creativity, your mind needs to be still. When the emotional areas of your brain are active, it’s nearly impossible for your brain to allocate resources to creative processes. Mindfulness can restore stalled creativity.
A Mindfulness Meditation Exercise for Beginners
Mindfulness meditation is an ancient technique proven to alleviate the symptoms of anxiety, depression, and stress. This centuries-old practice allows you to calm your brain and cultivate non-judgmental awareness of your thoughts and feeling. Mindfulness meditation can reduce the volume of your internal chatter, leaving you with a renewed sense of perspective and self-acceptance. While the process is simple, it can take time to master. Consider the benefits of the following exercise:
Sit in a comfortable position with upright but relaxed posture (not rigid)
Rest your hands on your thighs turning your palms facing down
Set your gaze on the floor four to six feet in front of you without staring or forcing your focus
Keep your chest open while keeping your back strong but relaxed and lower your chin slightly
Focus lightly on your breathing as you inhale and exhale naturally through your nose
As your thoughts arise, notice what happens
When you notice your mind wander, gently bring your focus back to your breathing
While it is recommended to practice this meditation technique daily in 10-30-minute sessions, if you are just beginning, consider starting with 3-5 minutes and increasing the time in small increments. Many people find it beneficial to incorporate several mini meditations sessions (1-3 minutes) periodically throughout the day. Keep in mind that learning to live with mindfulness is a process, not a quick fix.
When your attention is divided, the internal stress can leave you feeling drained, unfocused and disconnected. The principles and practice of mindfulness and mindfulness meditation reduce stress and help you reclaim the present more effectively than simple relaxation methods or self-affirmation practices. The benefits of mindfulness are found in the journey, the process of self-acceptance and self-discovery.
Recommended – The Mindfulness Journal