Mindfulness at Work
Mindfulness is a clinical course proven to reduce stress and is usually delivered over weekly sessions. Everybody’s doing it – from Google to the NHS. So what is mindfulness? When you put it in its simplest form, mindfulness means self awareness.
The birth of mindfulness sits firmly in Buddhism but it’s increasingly taught in a secular form. Mindfulness can help to reduce stress and anxiety and conflict, and increase resilience and emotional intelligence, while improving communication in the workplace. Its main aims are to target and help self improvement in the following ways:
- Greater well-being
- Clearer thinking
- Effective communication
- Enhanced creativity
- Stronger leadership skills
- Greater teamwork
- Improved ability to address conflict
- Personal stress awareness and how you can prevent it
- Enhanced ability to focus and improved productivity at work
When trying to decide whether you are already mindful why not consider the following points.
In the last week have you found yourself?
- Not remembering what others have said during conversations you’ve had?
- Not being able to remember your commute to work?
- Eating at your desk without tasting your food?
- Paying more attention to your phone than to people you are actually having a conversation with?
If you answered yes, the chances are that you’re zoning out on a regular basis, you are spending a lot of time on autopilot. This not healthy; you will spend your life wandering around and not really living.
Get your company involved
Unfortunately the current economic climate is causing employers to ask more of their staff; working long hours with increasingly heavy workloads (and don’t we know it). Leading mindfulness academic, Mark Williams, who is a professor of clinical psychology at the University of Oxford, suggests that:
“working in a culture where stress is a badge of honour is counterproductive.”
The neurological benefits of mindfulness have also been linked to an increase in emotional intelligence, specifically empathy and self growth. It’s the development of these areas that contribute to our ability to manage conflict and communicate more effectively – hence having a harmonious work place and more importantly a happy work force!
Mindfulness enables us to take a step back and consider alternative perspectives rather than simply reacting to events and using the least intelligent area of our brains to make decisions. Mindfulness enables everyday busy people to flick the switch back to the smart parts of our brain, putting us back in control of our emotions, thus enabling us to choose a more appropriate response rather than just an instant snappy reaction, which when we are stressed – we all give!
Regular practice of mindfulness at work will increase the brain’s ability to repair itself and grow new neural connections – however, this has to be kept up, because if you don’t use it, you lose it! A simple mindfulness practice is the one minute meditation. It tends to work best if you can find a quiet place and focus your attention on your breath. If your mind starts to wander (as it almost certainly will), bring your concentration back to your breath and then relax as the calm unfolds, feeling the muscle relaxation throughout your body.
Mindfulness in the workplace tips and hints
The easiest way to become more mindful at work is to periodically take a “three-minute breathing space.” At your desk or in a quiet space, take three minutes to stop what you’re doing, inhale and exhale deeply and focus your attention fully on the breath and then the body as a whole. This will put all of your worries into perspective allowing you to continue with your work, or change course as necessary, in a more calm and professional manner.
In open-plan offices in particular, distractions are many and often, whether a noisy co-worker, loud typing, or phones constantly going off, it can be hard to find a piece of quiet time. However, you don’t need a quiet space in order to become mindful and less stressed, a study has shown that by paying attention to those distractions rather than trying to tune them out can be a good way to prevent stress. The observation of the noises will steal the distractions of their power.
Take a break
Ensuring that you and your staff take regular breaks during the workday can actually boost productivity and creativity. So instead of eating in front of your computer while ploughing through your to-do list (which, let’s admit it, we all do)! Try taking a tech-free lunch break all the while remembering to leave your desk for several shorter breaks throughout the day even if it’s just to pop to the toilet and offering to make the tea.
Unwind and unplug
With constant internet access, it’s easy to stay plugged in all day at work and outside the office. But this continuous connectivity could be taking a significant toll on our health. Studies have found that extreme reliance on technology could make us more preoccupied, intolerant and forgetful. For those working at a computer desk all day (guilty), owning a mobile phone that is attached to our hand (also guilty) and then finishing work and coming home to sit in front of the TV (once again guilty!), this is the time to change your routine, break the mould and become a better, healthier and happy version
This post was written by Mindfulness CIC, a not-for-profit meditation community interest company specialising in mindfulness training, courses and mindfulness at work.