How to Practice Mindfulness at Work
They say on average you will spend ten to fifteen years of your life at work. This ends up being about 1/7 of your life. Can you believe it? Sit in this thought for a moment. Recognize what this means for you and where you are spending a major part of your life. You may find yourself asking the following questions: Does my work make me happy? Is this atmosphere a healthy place where I feel safe? And most importantly; is this job, this place, and these people really worth 1/7 of my life?
Now that we feel the weight of this reality, let’s grow from it. No matter where we find ourselves in this moment, we can make sure this job/profession/environment is something that will add to our lives, not take away from it. The solution is mindfulness!
Mindfulness has a few definitions, but the one I find most helpful is this; mindfulness is a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations without judgment. Perhaps this is easier said than done. Maybe you have a coworker who isn’t very nice, a boss who puts you down, or terrible pay for really hard work. Or maybe you actually love your job and are happily learning constantly—naturally leaving you feeling very fulfilled. The reality is no matter what the 1/7 of time adds up to, you have control over how it affects you.
Let’s break down mindfulness and discuss the why’s and how’s to it.
Illinois State University conducted a study that showed observing mindfulness practices could do the following:
- Increase positive emotions while decreasing negative emotions and stress.
- Boost the immune system.
- Change our brains for the better. It increases the density of gray matter in brain regions linked to learning, memory, emotion regulation, and empathy.
- Help to fight obesity by encouraging healthier eating habits and truly savoring the food while you eat.
- Aid in regulating emotions by decreasing emotional reactivity and increasing cognitive focus.
- Increase relationship satisfaction.
- Allow the immediate ability to accept a situation, momentarily process the emotion, and then let it go.
In conclusion, it is noted that mindfulness can bring clarity, happiness, learning, and healthy change to every facet of life. If it is so beneficial, why don’t more of us know of or practice mindfulness? Why isn’t this something we are taught as children? With only a few steps and daily practice, mindfulness can become a great habit.
I have listed the best tips and tools to help you practice mindfulness below:
- Basic mindfulness meditation: Quietly focusing on your natural breathing or on a word or “mantra” that you repeat silently. Allow thoughts to come and go without judgment and return to your focus on breath or mantra.
- Body sensations: Notice subtle body sensations such as an itch or tingling (without judgment) and let them pass. Acknowledge each part of your body in succession from head to toe.
- Sensory: Notice signs, sounds, smells, tastes, and touches. Name them without judgment, feel them, and then let them go.
- Emotions: Allow emotions to be present without judgment. Practice a steady and relaxed naming of emotions. Accept emotions as they come, acknowledge them without judgment, and then let them go.
- Urge surfing: Cope with cravings and allow them to pass. Recognize how your body feels as the urge enters. Replace the wish for the craving to go away with the certain knowledge the craving will subside and you will have control over the urge.
In theory, mindfulness shouldn’t be difficult, but most of our lives have been spent pushing our emotions/feelings/thoughts to the side without acknowledging them, accepting them, and letting them go. These emotions can begin to build inside of us causing stress, depression, anxiety, worry, fear, etc.
In the beginning, there may be some perceived roadblocks to living mindfulness. We should not let this stop us! One way around these roadblocks is tackling it with a non-judgemental attitude. Living in a space without judgment is liberating for us and those around us. This allows us to forgive quickly (ourselves and others), move on, give people the benefit of the doubt, and boost our own morale in whatever situation we find ourselves.
Mindfulness has been proven to positively affect every aspect of life, not just the 1/7 of work time. My goal is to help others discover and apply mindfulness in the workplace, helping them turn every situation into a positive life experience.
No matter where you find yourself with your current job, living situation, relationships, trials, etc., mindfulness can give you the ability to destress and find fulfillment, joy, pleasure and can even increase your emotional intelligence. Life is too short to let a stressful job take its stresses out on you. Give mindfulness a try and discover the wonderful effects it can have on you.