If you’re anything like me, when you hear the term “mindfulness”, you picture enlightened monks outside a Tibetan monastery or a light-saber wielding Jedi. Not wrong, you would be – but mindfulness can also look like you sitting at your desk right now. It looks like you paying attention to the way your neck is craning a bit forward, or how your shoulders are hunched over a tad. Did you just notice how your shoulders are positioned? You’re off to a good start.
Though mindfulness has its origin from Buddhist religion, it has become a secularly popular practice today in order to increase productivity, decrease stress, and take back control of your thoughts and emotions. Read on for some actionable ways you can practice mindfulness throughout your work day.
Sit this one out
After you pull your car into your office parking lot, turn off your engine and the radio and just sit in silence for a few minutes before office stimuli tries to pull you in a million directions. If sitting alone with your thoughts for a few minutes feels a little out of your comfort zone, here are some things to focus on:
- Notice your breathing
- Do a body scan
- Check-in with your feelings
- Observe the light, sounds, energy
Remember that the point of this exercise is not to shoo thoughts away; but to notice, embrace, and appreciate your thoughts in a way that is kind to yourself.
Settle down before firing up
On the short jaunt from your car into the building, you’ve probably checked your phone at least once, or ran into a coworker with a stress-inducing question. Give yourself another calm, conscious moment and challenge yourself to pause for 30 seconds before firing up your computer.
Out of sight, out of mindfulness
The average smart phone user checks their phone 200 times a day, and 12% of the population is considered truly “addicted” to their phones. Those are disturbing statistics considering in the workplace, people are 26 percent more productive when not distracted by their phone. If you prefer to be on the productive side of the statistic, here are some tactics to avoid the pitfalls of smartphone dependency:
- Put your phone out of sight. Not only will you avoid distraction be being blind to incoming emails, or Instagram notifications — not having your phone in front of you during meetings shows coworkers it is important for you to be present. This raises their level of respect and positive view of you in the workplace.
- Unless they’re time-sensitive, wait 24 hours to respond to emails. Unfortunately, in this culture, time is money and being available immediately is paramount to the success of many business models – because it’s what the consumer expects. If you can afford to set this response rate precedent, your inbox has less control over you and your stress levels.
- Monitor your phone usage. It’s quite easy to get sucked into the social media vortex without realizing it. Not only have you interrupted a task at hand by picking up your phone, you’ve also wasted time not doing something productive. Try downloading an app like BreakFree – which gently reminds you after 10 minutes of phone usage.
- Be aware of your posture while looking at your phone. Body language is a very powerful communication tool. At work, your body language should be confident and powerful, not small and insecure. The longer you look at your phone the more your back or shoulders may hunch over unknowingly.
Have you ever been listening to someone talk while simultaneously day-dreaming about what you’re going to have for dinner…only to find out you didn’t hear a word they’ve said? Then, you start to panic as you try to figure out how to respond? Yeah, me neither. But, *just in case* that happens someday, here are some ways to curb inactive listener tendencies.
While someone is speaking:
- Ask questions
- Write down notes (careful not to doodle)
- Provide feedback
- Defer judgment
Been chair, done that
It’s easy to slouch back into bad habits when you feel comfortable. One way to force your body (and thus, mind) to stay alert is to ditch that swivel chair for a bouncy ball. Sitting on an exercise ball increases productivity and attention while working out your abs and adjusting your posture. (Multiple new year resolutions, one stone! Er, ball).
Snap out of it
Googling “rubber band for mindfulness” actually yields real and plentiful results. Research shows that wearing a rubber band around your wrist and (gently) snapping it when you’re feeling overwhelmed is one way to trigger an interruption of thought patterns. So, grab a rubber band out of the supply closet and literally snap out of a bad or anxious mood.