Mindfulness—the practice of being aware of where you are, what you’re doing, and why you’re doing it—has become trendy lately. Talk show hosts are discussing it, newspapers are putting it in headlines, gurus are popping up on YouTube. But mindfulness is more than just a fad, and it turns out the workplace can really benefit from it.
A growing number of companies are acknowledging the power of mindfulness and bringing the practice to the office with meditation sessions, mindful lunches, and more. In fact, a recent survey of over 100 companies found that 35% of employers currently have or will have a mindfulness program at their organization in 2017—up from 22% in 2016. And 26% of employers are thinking about introducing one in the future.
Because of meetings, deadlines, presentations, and more, it’s only natural to feel the inevitable stress that comes with your job. But mindfulness can act as a tool to help you manage that stress and take on your day with ease and confidence. Several recent studies have indicated that there could be health benefits to mindfulness, including stress reduction (by decreasing levels of the stress hormone cortisol) and improved focus (by helping the brain have better control over processing emotions). Strategy of Mind, a Boston-based leadership and team development firm that builds something they call the Human Quotient, goes so far as to incorporate mindfulness components in their regular programming. “When team members pause from their frenetic daily routine and ask each other open-ended and agenda-free questions that promote novel forms of dialogue, they deepen their personal and emotional bonds,” says Strategy of Mind co-founder Ryan Stelzer. Other companies, including Google, have found these meaningful relationships to be critical for organizational success, too.
Ready to make room in your workday for a mindfulness practice? Even if your company doesn’t offer an official program, you can still reap the benefits. Here’s how:
4 Ways to Practice Mindfulness at Work
Just breathe. Simply breathe in and out. If your mind starts to wander, notice what you are thinking about and work on bringing your attention back to your breath. No need to resist your mind’s natural tendency to wander, but with practice, you can train yourself to return to the present and focus on your breath. Check out more breathing tips that you can do at your desk.
Do nothing. Sounds simple right? It’s actually harder than you think. Try to spend 5 minutes a day doing nothing—literally, nothing. Just sit in silence, become aware of your thoughts and most importantly, step away from any distractions—your laptop, phone, iPad—and just be.
Eat mindfully. Instead of racing through your meal, slow down and simply enjoy the food in front of you. Observe the smells and tastes that you are taking in, bite by bite, and think about how your food is making you feel. Step away from your desk, put away any distractions, and focus on each delicious bite. You’ll end up appreciating and enjoying your food more.
Take things one at a time. When you’re overwhelmed with a long to-do list, you might find yourself half-doing everything at once. You’re drafting an email, while reading an unrelated message, while trying to read the New York Times. Slow down! Instead of juggling several items at once, try to focus on completing each task one at a time. You’ll end up feeling more productive and focused on your work. And before starting a new task, consider taking a break—do some stretches or get some steps in.
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This article is not intended to substitute for informed medical advice. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or condition. Always check with your doctor before changing your diet, altering your sleep habits, taking supplements, or starting a new fitness routine.