What are the benefits of mindfulness at work and how can we train ourselves to be more mindful in the workplace?
Have you ever missed important information in a meeting because you were thinking about something else? Or eaten your lunch at your desk without even noticing what it tasted like?
If this sounds familiar, you're not alone. Research has shown that 47 per cent of the time, people are thinking about something other than what they're doing. People's minds wander, whether they are trying to read important emails, speaking to clients, updating the sales figures, or talking to colleagues. Interestingly, it was also found that people were less happy when their minds were wandering than when they were not. Being mindful and paying attention to the present can not only improve our focus, but it can also help us reduce stress, improve relationships and allow us to feel more connected with the present moment.
But what exactly is mindfulness?
According to Psychology Today, mindfulness is a state of active, open attention to the present. When one is mindful, one observes one's feelings and thoughts from a distance without judging them as good or bad. Being mindful means living in the moment and actually experiencing what life has to offer. There are different ways that we can train our minds to do this. One easy and effective way is through meditation and mindfulness exercises.
So, how can we learn to be more mindful at work?
1. Make time for short mindfulness exercises.
You might not have time to sit down to do long mindfulness meditations every day, but you can take a moment to focus on your breathing and become conscious of your senses. In A Monk's Guide to Happiness, Gelong Thubten recommends practising micro moments of mindfulness. One way to do this is by sitting with a good posture and becoming aware of the sounds you can hear. Through exercises such as this one, you can learn to focus your attention and train yourself to become more mindful.
2. Be aware of what you're doing.
Mindfulness is about being present and consciously experiencing every moment.
When you're talking to your colleagues, pay attention to their body language, their intonation and what they're really saying. When you're sitting at your desk, be aware of the sensation of contact between your body and the chair. If you find your mind wandering from what you're doing, notice those thoughts and bring your attention back to the present.
3. Make a list of things you are grateful for.
In our busy day-to-day lives, it's easy to only focus on things that have gone wrong and be negative about the people and the things around us. By making a list of things we're thankful for, we can have a more balanced view of our reality. Being mindful of the things that are going well can also help improve our motivation, creativity and productivity.
4. Avoid multitasking.
Do you sometimes try to reply to emails while attending a meeting? Or look through your work chats while having your lunch? Doing multiple things at a time might make you feel more productive, but it often means you are not concentrating fully on any of the things you are trying to do. This makes you inefficient, more likely to make mistakes and worse at ignoring things that are not important. It can also make you unhappier as you lose connection with the present moment. So the next time you find yourself shifting your attention between multiple things, allow yourself a moment to decide what you really need to focus on and try to give that your full attention.
The more we practise doing these four things regularly, the more we can train ourselves to be more mindful at work and the more we see its benefits. So, bring your mind back from whatever you're thinking about and turn your attention to the here and now.