Mindfulness is the psychological process of bringing one’s attention to experiences occurring in the present moment which one can develop through the practice of mediation. Inspired by Buddhist practices, today Mindfulness is available as a wholly secular practice that emphasizes stress reduction, the cultivation of focus and the development of tranquility.
The goal of becoming more mindful isn’t to stop thinking or to empty the mind. It means becoming more aware of where you are and what you’re doing, without becoming overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around you.
More recently, mindfulness is taking hold in the business world and everywhere from Wall Street to Silicon Valley are adopting its practices for work productivity. But how can we stay Mindful? Here are three concepts to get you started.
- Practice first thing. By practicing mindfulness as soon as you wake up will help set the tone of your nervous system for the rest of the day increasing more ‘mindful moments’ as the day progresses.
- Keep it short. The human brain responds better to bursts of mindfulness so being mindful several times a day is more helpful than a lengthy session or even weekend retreat. While 20 minutes seems to be optimal, starting at a few minutes a day is good too.
- While you’re waiting. In our fast-paced lives, waiting can often be very frustrating. Everything from queues to traffic jams can ignite our nervous systems and while it might seem like a nightmare, waiting is actually an opportunity for mindfulness. While you’re waiting bring your attention to your breathing. Focus on ‘the flow of the breath in and out of your body, from moment to moment and allow everything else to just be, even if what’s there is impatience or irritation.
How to practice mindfulness
Mindfulness is a natural quality we all possess and if we take the time to appreciate it, it becomes readily available. Through the practice of mindfulness, we practice the art of creating space for ourselves – space to think, space to breathe, space to react.
However, while it may sound simple, mindfulness is not always easy. The real work comes in the form of making time for it every day. Here’s a short practice to get you started:
- Take a seat. Find a place to sit that feels calm and quiet to you.
- Set a time limit. If you’re just beginning, it can help to choose shorter periods of time, such as 5 or 10 minutes.
- Notice your body. You can sit in a chair with your feet on the floor, you can sit loosely cross-legged, in lotus posture, you can kneel—all are fine. Just make sure you are stable and in a position you can stay in for a while.
- Feel your breath. Follow the sensation of your breath as it goes out and as it goes in.
- Notice when your mind has wandered. Inevitably, your attention will leave the sensations of the breath and wander to other places. When you get around to noticing this—in a few seconds, a minute, five minutes—simply return your attention to the breath.
- Be kind to your wandering mind. Don’t judge yourself or obsess over the
That’s the basic practice. You go away, you come back, and you try to do it as often as possible for the best results.
Be more mindful at work
Our jobs pay the bills and take up most of our time. Often, our work gives our lives meaning too. However, with this comes a significant source of stress. Everything from tight deadlines too long days full of difficult conversations. And while you may not think it, mindfulness can really help especially to increase productivity.
In recent years, many companies including enterprises such as Google have started teaching mindfulness in the office. And whether or not your company offers this benefit, there are simple ways to reduce the impact work stress can have on your mind and body.
One way mindfulness can help in the workplace is by allowing us to improve our focus. When we constantly change from one task to another, the quality of our work can suffer. By practicing mindfulness – simply coming back to the present moment over and over again we can train ourselves to become more focused.
Staying focused at work is just another way mindfulness can help as it simply allows us to improve our focus. When we constantly flit from one task to another, the quality of our work can suffer. By practicing mindfulness — simply coming back to the present moment over and over again — we can train ourselves to become more focused.
If you feel you need some help to get you started while at work, try downloading BlockSite and using the ‘Work Mode’ feature. The work mode feature on BlockSite allows you to become really productive by blocking distracting sites while you’re in the zone. Based on the Pomodoro method where you work and then take short breaks maximising your focus and mindfulness all in one!
Today, mindfulness is more important than ever. We live in over stimulated, technology-driven worlds that while often are to our benefit can also be overwhelming at times. The American Mindfulness Research Association defines mindfulness as the “state, process and practice of remembering to observe moment-to-moment experience with openness and without automatic patterns of previously conditioned thoughts, emotions or behaviors.” The practice, which often involves meditation, has been shown to have a range of health benefits from improved sleep to decreased anxiety in multiple studies.
- Mindfulness doesn’t have to take up a lot of time to be beneficial. Start small and take a few minutes at the beginning of each day to reflect, be still and practice gratitude. Try to remember the bigger picture before getting wrapped up in emails and other daily tasks.
- Smartphones, apps, computers, and tablets make multitasking too easy. With a lot going on, and a lot to get done in one day, thoughts can jump from A to B to Y to Z, quietly sabotaging productivity and exhausting the mind. When the workday gets overwhelming and stress starts to creep in, focus on only one thing for a little while. Think about things to be grateful for such as your health, friends, and family or anything else. Taking the mini-break will help relieve stress and provide a refresher.
- Take time-outs. With constant emails, endless tasks on the to-do list and fires to put out, taking breaks seems counterintuitive. But working through lunch and forgoing all breaks may do more harm than good. Without breaking, the brain never gets time to rest and refresh, and opportunities to reflect and gain new insight are lost. BlockSite
- Eating too many sugary or fatty foods affects not only the waistline but also emotions and overall feelings of well-being. Eating healthier can power the mind and body to feel better and more at ease. When eating these healthy meals, practice mindfulness. Turn off the TV, close the laptop, stop Netflix and focus on the food. Enjoy the meal, focus on the flavors in each bite and appreciate the food. Think about its journey and where it has been. Appreciate it and give it respect while eating.
- Although mindfulness is an introspective activity, the practice affects the ways individuals interact with those around them. Take the time to think about others and do something nice for someone else. Helping and giving to others is perhaps the most refreshing and expansive activity one can engage in.
Practicing mindfulness not only benefits the self but also can bring peace to employees, colleagues, and everyone around us. What could be better?