Between answering emails, checking FB Messenger, paying for the coffee you just ordered and experiencing a mild panic attack because of a meeting you completely forgot about, it’s almost impossible to be present at the moment.
The problem is, constant pressure increases stress, and stress is very detrimental to our personal and professional lives.
What is mindfulness
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.”
“Mindfulness is awareness of present experience with acceptance.”
“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
Although often considered a trendy Eastern movement in the Western world, the principles of mindfulness can be successfully incorporated into workplace too.
Practicing mindfulness teaches us that stress is temporary.
By acknowledging those small things that frustrate us, we are learning to let them go and move on to the next task that we can actually solve right now.
And that’s how mindfulness makes you more productive.
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 the definition of stress at work.
A simple exercise to begin practicing mindfulness or being present at this very moment is to sit quietly and focus on your breathing for at least two minutes.
There’s nothing else to do. Just focus on your breathing.
In the last decade, mindfulness has been used in 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 also entered the office with companies like Intel, Google, Aetna and others building extensive programs to encourage mindful practices among their employees.
How do I practice staying present at work?
You don’t have to meditate at work, but you can do your mind a favor and meditate before or after instead.
You don’t need special cushions from Morocco, scented candles and low-key Instrumental Music for Yoga beginners.mp4 playing in the background.
All you need is the time you take for yourself.
Put 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 that feeling, not on your thoughts.
The most important thing is not to get frustrated when your brain inevitably starts doing something silly like singing the national anthem for no reason. 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, let it go and go back to breathing.
Soon, you will realize that you can apply the same technique to your work. Instead of frustrating about the task you are not able to finish now, acknowledge the problem and go to the next one.
Apply that technique on practicing meditation because, as Dan Harris, the ABC correspondent, and author explained in the video below, meditation is a skill that can be learned.
2. 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 the phone keeps beeping, but you have to ask yourself: “What is the worst thing that could happen if I don’t answer an email right now?”
Finish what you started, and then go to the next task. The quality of your work will blossom.
3. Stop chasing happiness like a crazy person
I will be happy once I achieve something great for the team.
I will be happy once I start earning more money.
I will be happy once I finish all my tasks.
We all have these thoughts. We all believe that success brings happiness when it actually the other way around.
Happiness brings success.
By learning how to be happy at this very moment about things you already have in your life, you “attract” success more easily. Or maybe you just “get better” at being successful. Gratitude is the keyword here.
“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 educational outcome we know how to test for improves 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, mindfulness isn’t something you try once and stay relaxed forever. Mindfulness takes time and practice, just like everything else.
There will be a lot of days when staying in the present moment won’t be your priority, and that’s fine. Remember, it’s not about feeling guilty for being stressed out, it’s about working on yourself and adapting to the noisy world that surrounds us.