Mindfulness has become a buzzword over the past few years and for good reason. Practicing mindfulness has been proven to reduce stress, manage eating habits and improve heart health. People all over the world have started implementing mindfulness into their meditation, eating habits, conversations and relationships. With the rise in this practice and the release of popular books like "Mindful Work", people are starting to notice the benefits of mindfulness in career development as well.
Mindful working approaches work from the inside. Rather than letting the stressors of work affect you, the thoughts and feelings of your mind affect your work. The reduced stress that comes from practicing mindfulness can help to strengthen emotional intelligence, which can impact many facets of work including communication, creativity and career development as a whole. Whether you are interested in deepening your mindfulness practice or just want to implement a few exercises into your day, use these tips to establish mindful working.
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1. Make If This, Then That Rules
Wanting to be more mindful at work is easy to say, but harder to put into practice. Whether you have trouble staying grounded in your environment or get pulled back into old habits, it can be helpful to set up reminders for yourself. One of the best ways to remember to reflect is using physical notes.
To get started, create a few daily rules with these “If this, then that.” cards. These rules can be as small as “If you get an email, then take a deep breath.” or as complex as “If you have a meeting, then write down a summary afterward.” Once you have a few rules written down, place the cards in places that will help you remember like your phone, desktop or planner.
2. HALT and Listen
Mindful listening involves making a conscious decision to allow another person to communicate their complete thoughts without interrupting, arguing or discounting. This type of listening makes your peers feel valued and understood and allows you to practice more deliberate mindfulness in every interaction.
Though it seems straightforward, it is a skill that can be hard to master. Next time you are in a meeting or speaking with a coworker or peer, walk through the HALT method we’ve outlined below to stay mindful.
Next time you speak to someone or go to a meeting, focus on listening rather than being distracted by other minute tasks at hand. Multitasking kills your ability to listen.
As you listen, choose to take in the moment. Whether you like what is being said or just appreciate the moment to breathe, you can find something positive.
Ask yourself if you know what they mean, and if you don’t, reach out for clarification.
After the person is finished, repeat back to them what you heard to show you listened. Then, jot down your takeaways to reflect and implement in future work scenarios.
3. Countdown From Five
One of the benefits of mindful working is lowering stress. During tense moments when you feel stress rising, practice mindfulness exercises to ground yourself. Though there are hundreds of exercises you can try, one of the easiest to remember is the 5-4-3-2-1 Method. To try it out, follow the steps below. If you want to deepen your reflection further, write down your observations.
5 Things You Can See
Look around the room and jot down anything that you see. These things can include people, colors, items or anything else that you observe around you.
4 Things You Can Touch
Without leaving your desk, use your fingers and hands to observe the texture of the items around you, the material of your clothing or even the feel of your skin.
3 Things You Can Hear
For this step, close your eyes and look for sounds. You might hear only ambient noise, pick up on conversations or even hear your heartbeat.
2 Things You Can Smell
This step may be tricky if you work in a space without many scents. If that is the case, observe the slight smell of the air, the coffee brewing in the break room or even the smell of paper from the printer.
4. Practice Mindful Lunch
Mindful eating has become a popular practice in recent years due to the proven health benefits that it offers. This practice involves fully acknowledging your food and can help lower cortisol levels, which causes stress. It’s no secret that people often incur work-related stress, and a recent study found that 83% of workers said they feel stress on the job. If left unaddressed, these high stress rates can lead to dissatisfaction and burnout.
To help guide people through mindful eating, Linda Smith of Duke Integrative Medicine created a mindful eating experience that walks you through an exercise where you will observe your food and will all of your senses and consume it thoughtfully. On your next lunch break, sit down and be mindful of each bite. Your mental health and career will thank you.
5. Take Mindful Breaks
Taking breaks during your workday can improve productivity, reduce stress and even increase creativity but what type of break is best. Most people take a quick pause to respond to texts, get some coffee or scroll through LinkedIn which can all lead to increased stress. On your next break, spend a few minutes reflecting over a mantra and coloring instead of looking at emails. Adult coloring has been proven to relax your brain which is ideal for a work break.
6. Try the “Don’t Know Mind” Technique
Stress in the workplace is often caused by unknowns. Whether you feel that your resume is lacking or afraid for a presentation, the fear of things out of your control can cause stress. To practice mindfulness in these moments, try using the Don’t Know Mind technique. This practice helps you get comfortable with the unknown and face it head-on.
1. Settle Your Mind
To start this practice, find a quiet place and sit. Use a few minutes to focus on your breath.
2. Think Ten Years Ahead
Once you feel calm, think of a time ten years in the future. Recognize that you don't know what this will look like. Where you will be, who you will be with and how you will feel are a mystery. Think about these truths and become comfortable with it.
3.Reflect On the Present
Once you are comfortable with not knowing what ten years from now will look like, think of the conflict at hand. Think of every thought you have about the situation. Reflect on how the situation should be, what you want it to be and how you think it will be. Now tell yourself that despite all of those thoughts, you don't know how it will turn out.
This practice takes time, but every time you do it, observe whether or not it improves your situation, makes you more relaxed or doesn't help. This will help you get comfortable with uncertainty.
Mindfulness is more than just a buzz word or meditation strategy, it is a sustainable way of living and working that can be life-giving and stress-reducing. As you pursue your career, carry these techniques with you to make you the best professional, employee and person.