Between answering emails, checking Whatsapp, paying for the coffee you just ordered and worrying about that unexpected meeting you have with your boss in an hour, it almost impossible to be present in the moment. Constant rush increases stress, and stress is very detrimental, to both our personal and professional lives.
We Are Not Our Thoughts
Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, professor emeritus of the University of Massachusetts Medical School defined mindfulness as: “paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment and nonjudgmentally.”
Another good definition comes from Ronald Siegel, an Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychology at Harvard Medical School and the author of The Mindfulness Solution:
“Mindfulness is awareness of present experience with acceptance.”
Mindfulness was once considered a trendy Eastern movement in the Western world, but the truth is, the principles of mindfulness are now being incorporated into science, medicine and workplace, and for a good reason too.
“Mindfulness practice brings all sorts of insights into the workings of the mind. Perhaps the hardest to grasp is the idea that thoughts are not reality. We’re so accustomed to providing a narrative track to our lives and believing in our story that to see things otherwise is a real challenge,” The Mindfulness Solution: Everyday Practices for Everyday Problems
Mindfulness At Work
How many times did you work on several different things at the same time without noticing anything around you? How many times did you have the feeling you forgot to breathe because of the amount of work you have? This is working definition of stress at work. A simple exercise to begin practising mindfulness or being present at this very moment is to sit quietly and focus on your breathing for at least two minutes.
In the last decade, mindfulness has been used inside companies to lower health costs, improve employee productivity, reduce employee stress through a combination of breathing techniques and mental relaxation. Being present in the moment helps employees stay “on task.”
Office workers are interrupted or self-interrupted every three minutes during the day, according to Gloria Mark, professor of Informatics at the University of California, Irvine.
Mindfulness has definitely entered the office with companies like Intel, Google, Aetna and others building extensive programs to encourage mindful practices among their employees.
Increased Creativity And Focus At Intel
Intel is one of the companies that have adopted mindfulness early. It all began with its Awake@Intel program in 2012 when 1,500 employees were asked to rank their levels of stress and happiness on 10-point scales during the 19-session course. At the end of the sessions, employees reported that their average levels of stress had decreased by two points, while happiness had increased by three points.
Intel employees also reported a two-point increase in “having new ideas, insights, mental clarity, creativity, the ability to focus, the quality of relationships at work and the level of engagement in meetings, projects and team efforts,” the UNC study reports.
How To Practice Mindfulness
Sure, you can’t meditate at work, but you can do your mind a favour and meditate before or after work. You don’t need special cushions, scented candles and low-key Indian music playing in the background. All you need is the time you take for yourself. You need to set all the phones on silent, sit with the straight back, close your eyes and focus only on your breathing. Focus on the cold air entering your nostrils and warm air leaving your body. Focus on the feeling, not on your thoughts. The most important thing is not to get frustrated when your brain inevitably starts singing a song or thinking about your obligations. You need to understand that our brains are used to constant noise, worry and a general state of being overwhelmed. So when your thoughts start to interfere with your breathing, don’t frustrate about it. Instead, notice the thought and let it go. Go back to breathing. It will be difficult in the beginning, but have in mind that in life, everything is about starting all over again. Apply that technique on practising meditation because, as Dan Harris, the ABC correspondent and author explained in the video below, meditation is a skill that can be learned
- Stop multitasking
Because you can’t be present here if you are here, there and everywhere. It may be challenging when you have 10 tabs opened in your browser and your phone is ringing, but you have to ask yourself: “What is the worst thing that could happen if I don’t answer my phone right now?” Finish what you started, and go to the next task. The quality of your work will benefit as well.
- Stop chasing happiness
Do these statements sound familiar to you?I will be happy once I receive that promotion
I will be happy once I receive my paycheck.
I will be happy once I know get my raise.
We all believe that success brings happiness but actually, happiness brings success. By learning how to be happy at this very moment about things we already have in our lives, we will attract success more easily. Gratitude is the keyword here.
And here is how Shawn Achor, the bestselling author of The Happiness Advantage sees it:
“If we can get somebody to raise their levels of optimism or deepen their social connection or raise happiness, turns out every single business and an educational outcome we know how to test for improving dramatically. You can increase your success rates for the rest of your life and your happiness levels will flatline, but if you raise your level of happiness and deepen optimism it turns out every single one of your success rates rises dramatically compared to what it would have been at negative, neutral, or stressed.”
You can see Shawn’s entire TED talk about happiness and success here:
- Finally, you may ask yourself whether mindfulness fits your company culture. Some companies may think that this is too “new age” for them, but if you consider the fact that Goldman Sachs and Google practice mindfulness, it becomes clear that mindfulness is a good investment for all businesses after all.