Mindfulness, a concept and practice inherited from Buddhist traditions, has found its way into mainstream psychology and medicine – and slowly into the workplace.
Mindfulness is being fully present in the moment, moment-by-moment with awareness, without judging and is best described by Jon Kabat-Zinn, a Western Buddhist practitioner as:
- Paying focused attention
- On purpose
- Without judgment
- To the experience of the present moment
According to Kabat-Zinn, at its essence, mindfulness is the “confluence of intention, attention and present time experience.” It is the awareness of awareness.
The benefits of mindfulness are many
- It helps with depression, alleviation of pain, quicker recovery from surgery, relationship issues, sleep problems, eating disorders, anxiety and phobia issues and overall stress management.
- You catch negative thought patterns before they tip you into a downward spiral, learn to tune in to what is going on in your mind and body without getting caught up in your experiences
- You develop resilience and resourcefulness to meet challenging issues with renewed energy and enthusiasm
- You will improve your concentration and focus plus manage strong feelings in a less reactive way
- It helps you be more insightful and compassionate about yourself and others
How to practice mindfulness
A practice is an activity or exercise we do over and over – this repetition helps us shift our way of being and these changes help us evolve into new ways of being but it is not easy which is we need to be committed to the practice.
Developing mindfulness in everyday life takes effort. Many related practices (meditation, yoga, some martial arts, time spent away from media and technology, time spent in the natural world) will help to cultivate mindfulness. But the mind needs the focus and consistency of a regular practice if it is to undo old neural patterns and learn new ones.
In the workplace people look for yet another tool – to be more productive, effective and less stressed; a tool to formulate solutions to problems. People in the work place generally work long hours often not taking a break with stress levels reflecting the flight or fight mode.
There is no magic tool however we can use practice mindfulness using power from within and in essence we are the tool.
- Self awareness – observe your ‘self’ without judgement, merely become more aware of your emotions, thoughts feelings and behaviours.
- It is a journey and not a destination – reflect on what it is you are observing and what you are becoming more aware of – simply focus your attention on that and when you find yourself caught up in business or feelings of pressure or perhaps resentment bring your attention back to the practice of awareness and observing.
- Conscious awareness – when you get up in the mornings reflect on how you feel and focus your intentions for the day. Access your inner power by focusing on your breathing to keep your mind calm and peaceful. Breathing techniques or prana is a good way to start the day and distress.
- Active listening – practice really listening to others without pre-empting what it is you think they are going to say; without jumping to solutions before hearing the problem. Practice active listening which means really listening to others and focussing your attention and energy on them.
- Recognition and gratitude – practice simple acts of recognition of someone else’s accomplishments; take time to say ‘thank you’ when necessary, exhibit acts of kindness and empathy; generate goodwill and gratitude.
- Language – focus on what words you use to express yourself. The cliché self fulfilling promise comes to mind as invariably what we say and think determines what happens. There is a direct correlation between the way we think and the way we feel – body and mind relationship so practice focussing on your choice of words .
- Pause and reflect – if you are ‘busy being busy’ and rushing to meet deadlines focus your attention on slowing down, pace yourself and regulate your energy, take time to pause and reflect.
- Somatic consciousness – the meaning in this context is ‘of the body’, relating to the body distinct from the mind, soul, or spirit. Practice awareness of your body and your body language. When you are walking to a meeting walk mindfully. Tap into your body-mind intelligence and reflect on how you are feeling, how are you showing up, pay attention to your way of being and reflect whether you are closing down or opening up.
- Your purpose – pause and reflect on your purpose; your objective – your desired outcome from a phone call or perhaps a meeting and focus on that purpose; practice awareness and intent rather than being caught up in yet another day of ‘busy-ness’ and stress.
- Reflection – you may want to diarise 5 min during your day to remind you to practice being mindful; at the end of the day reflect back on what you noticed without judgement. You may wish to journal your thoughts.
Practice mindful living every day including the workplace – what can you bring to your attention now? What habits can you let go of now that are not mindful? Uncoupling from these habits takes conscious effect and consistent attention to live a meaningful life.