Have you ever tried to be more present at work? To be more mindful? Here are a few ways you can inject mindfulness into your day so you can de-stress and boost your performance.
One of the most straight forward definitions of mindfulness is that it is the ability to know what’s happening in your head at any given moment without getting carried away by it.
Super, right? Seems like a great idea to become more mindful and not being carried away by our busy days, whatsapp messages, emails, meetings and – last, but not least – by our imagination! But how can one apply the principles of mindfulness without meditation? Maybe I don’t have the time nor the interest for it, right?
What if I told you that it is possible to feel more alive and present without taking too much of your time?
To help you boost your work performance using mindfulness I’ve listed a few ways to be more mindful and have a positive reflection in your life.
1. Be Consciously Present
Mindfulness is about knowing what is happening, right? For that, you need to be consciously present in what you’re doing while you are doing it, managing your emotional and mental state. Pay attention to the most ordinary activities like opening doors or breathing. Each time your mind wanders about why your friend have not yet replied to your whatsapp message or that client meeting you’ll have by the end of the day, gently accept your thoughts and bring your attention back to what you were doing.
Starting your day, think about your desire to be more present and renew this intention as day goes by. Every minute is a new minute to be present. Be open to that possibility.
2. Use Short Mindful Exercises at Work
We can learn how to get fit by reading a book, but the only way we will get fit is exercising. We often underestimate the need of training our brain as much as we train our bodies. The more we train our body, the fitter and healthier we get, right? With mindfulness is no different.
The thing is that we keep thinking that to be mindful and to meditate takes too much time and we end up prioritizing other things. The truth is that mindful exercises can be as short as you wish. Even one minute of consciously connecting with one of your senses can be classified as a mindful exercise. You don’t need to close your eyes. You don’t even need to be sitting down. Be creative about finding slots in the day to practice mindfulness exercises. At times of excessive pressure at work, practicing a short mindfulness exercise can be a saviour. The process helps to rebalance your nervous system, toning down the fight-or-flight response and engaging the wise part of your brain, so that you make reasoned decisions rather than automatically react to situations.
3. Use Mindful Reminders
A note, a picture, an alarm in your phone or a note in your calendar can help you to remember to be mindful. The word “mindful” means to remember. But it is so easy to forget that! We have lots and lots of no brainer activities like closing our home’s door or brushing your teeth every day. The reason you forget to be mindful is because your brain’s normal (default) mode is to be habitually lost in your own thoughts—running a sort of internal narrative. When you’re going about your usual daily activities, your brain switches you into this low energy state, which is unmindful, almost dreamy. Doing some things automatically, without thinking, is fine but a research undertaken at Harvard University showed that 47 percent of a person’s day can be spent lost in thoughts. The same research found that day dreaming can have a negative impact on well-being.
Being on autopilot can make you miss that great project conversation on the hall because you were wandering about – what was it exactly?
So, everytime you look at the picture or the phone alarm rings, take a moment to connect with your body sensations and gently bring you back to the present moment. There is also the option of downloading Mindfulness apps like Headspace and Calm.
4. Feel Grateful
We have the power to select our thoughts like we select our clothes everyday. However, we have a so called “negativity bias.” Essentially, this means that we’re much more likely to focus and dwell on something that’s gone wrong than on things that have gone well. This scenario has been build by our society and it is intrinsic to our collective unconscious.
You’ll celebrate joining that great company for a while but after the initial excitement goes away you’ll tend to focus on all the minor details that might not be so great.
When was the last time you celebrated a great achievement you had in your life?
Gratitude is the answer. Practicing it makes you feel better and has a positive impact on your creativity, health, working relationships and quality of work. Gratitude makes being at both, work and home, more positive experiences.
Focus on the good part, focus on what you have – your grass can look less green, but maybe it is because you have more parties in the garden. =]
5. Accept What You Can’t Change
Acceptance lies at the heart of mindfulness. To be mindful means to accept this present moment just as it is. Loving yourself is the greatest revolution. Accept yourself truly – your feelings and thoughts.
Having said that, what is the difference between acceptance and resignation? “Resignation literally means the act of giving up, to surrender or relinquish. When we look at the events and people in our lives with resignation, we forfeit our powers to improve upon how these events and people can or will affect us in the future. When we look at the events and people in our lives with acceptance, we release ourselves from the burden of trying to change that which we can’t control. We also empower ourselves to focus on that which we can control in order to positively affect the situation.” (Joe Caruso)
6. Adopt a Growth Mindset
According to Carol Dweck and her team at Stanford University research, people essentially adhere to one of two mindsets—a growth or a fixed mindset.
People with a fixed mindset believe that their basic qualities, such as their intelligence and talents, are fixed traits. Instead of developing their intelligence and talents, they spend their time hoping their traits will lead to success. They don’t seek to develop themselves, because they think that talent by itself leads to great results. They turn out to be wrong—brain science has proved otherwise.
People with a growth mindset believe that they can improve their intelligence and talents with effort. By applying themselves, they think that they can get better. They see brains and talent as just the starting point, and build on them with hard work and determination. Brain scans have actually revealed that effort does lead to growth in intelligence and enhancement of initial talent over time. People with this mindset have a love of learning and demonstrate greater resilience. Success at work depends on having a growth mindset.
Mindfulness is about adopting a growth mindset. Mindfulness is about giving attention to the present moment and not judging your innate talent or intelligence, but being open to new possibilities.
I think this aligns perfectly with Elizabeth Gilbert Physics of the Quest:
“A force of nature governed by laws as real as the laws of gravity or momentum. And the rule of Quest Physics maybe goes like this: “If you are brave enough to leave behind everything familiar and comforting (which can be anything from your house to your bitter old resentments) and set out on a truth-seeking journey (either externally or internally), and if you are truly willing to regard everything that happens to you on that journey as a clue, and if you accept everyone you meet along the way as a teacher, and if you are prepared – most of all – to face (and forgive) some very difficult realities about yourself… then truth will not be withheld from you.”
When you adopt a growth mindset at work, you don’t mind getting negative feedback as you view it as a chance to discover something new. You don’t mind taking on new responsibilities because you’re curious about how you’ll cope. You expect and move towards challenges, seeing them as opportunities for inner growth. That’s the essence of mindfulness at work—believing that you can improve and grow with experience, moving towards challenges, living in the moment, and discovering new things about yourself and others.
7. Loving kindness
After reading “Search Inside Yourself” by Meng, I realized I already practiced loving kindness but not as often as I could.
When you enter a meeting room or look at any human being at the first time, your first thought should be: “I want this person to be happy”. That’s it. This will reflect unconsciously in your life and people might think: “I like her. Not sure why, but I like her.”
In addition to wishing people to be happy, during my day I like to take a mental photograph of random people I encounter in a fulfilling blissful moment – a happy moment with their family, having fun at the beach or dining between their loved ones.
I keep taking more and more mental photos everyday. <3
8. Human similarity
Also from “Search Inside Yourself” by Meng, this is one of the latest practices I’m adopting for my life.
Loving kindness goes like this – if you have a hard moment with a co-worker or a client, take a moment to calm down and do this exercise in stealth.
Think about the other person. Remind yourself that this person is just like you, wants to be free from suffering just like you, wants to be happy just like you, and most of all – wants to succeed like you. Wish that person wellness, happiness, success, growth and so on.
After you do this, you’ll feel better about the whole situation and a large part of your anger will dissipate.
Loving kindness can be really hard, but I believe that what you desire to others will come back to you, someday, somehow.
This blog post was partially adapted from 10 Ways to be more mindful at work by Shamash Alidina.