Throughout the year, work consistently ranks as one of the nation’s top stressors. In fact, a recent American Psychological Association study found that work-related stress significantly outranks other leading stressors like family obligations and health concerns. And, the holidays are no exception. With the mad dash to fulfill all the commitments in our personal lives and finish out the year strong at work, it’s no wonder that people feel an inordinate amount of stress during this time of the year. Consequently, it may be the time to start practicing mindfulness at work to reduce stress levels and increase productivity to handle the extra work that goes along with the end of the year. University of California – Berkeley researchers have found that mindfulness allows us to feel more alive and present so that we can handle everything the daily grind brings and find serenity in a virtual sea of stress.
Mindfulness is simply remaining focused on the present. This means you’re not thinking about what may or may not happen tomorrow or stewing on the events of yesterday. Being present in the moment allows us to step back and make clearer decisions. Research has also shown it helps creativity, productivity and focus. Furthermore, you don’t need to start incorporating lengthy meditation into your daily routine to be more mindful. You can get started at work today with eight simple exercises.
8 Easy Ways to Incorporate Mindfulness at Work
1. Make a Daily Decision to Be Present
Above all else, mindfulness is being alert and present in the moment rather than operating on auto-pilot. At work, when you’re actively present, you are more fully aware of what’s happening around you and within you. This means you’re focused on what you’re doing while doing it, as well as managing your emotional and mental state. Make a conscious decision before you start your day to be as present as possible. Pause for a few moments in the morning to solidify this intention in your mind.
2. Set Mindfulness Reminders
When we’re going about our daily routines, our brains tend to switch onto autopilot. While doing some things this way is fine, Harvard University research indicates that 47 percent of our day is spent lost in our thoughts in this state. Furthermore, day dreaming can negatively impact well-being and means that you’re not fully present and aware of the choices and opportunities around you, hindering creativity and innovation. To combat autopilot mode, set an alarm on your phone (vibrating if necessary) to go off every so often to shake you back to the present. Also, use your phone as an opportunity to take a small step back and reflect. When your phone brings, take a mindful breath and pause to take stock of your surroundings and the present before reacting.
3. Focus on Breathing
Focused breathing isn’t just for the yoga studio. Consciously slowing down your breathing can help put you in a calm emotional state and be done anywhere at any time. Simply concentrating on individual inhalations and exhalations can be relaxing. During times of stress, practice this easy exercise – breath in deeply through your nose to the count of three, hold your breath for three, and release through mouth for three. Then, repeat. It can also help to keep your eyes closed during this process.
5. Nix Multitasking
Multitasking is a myth. No one really multitasks. Your brain is actually rapidly switching from one task to the next, often losing time and information in the process. While multitasking can make us feel more productive, it makes us unproductive. So, remain focused and present on each task until it is complete before moving on to the next task.
6. Practice Gratitude
Humans tend to have a negativity bias. Consequently, we’re much more likely to dwell and focus on things that have gone wrong rather than what has gone well, creating unbalance in our thought process. To combat this, at the end of each day, write down at least one positive thing from your day and reflect on why it made you happy. This helps train the brain to focus on the positive each day. Research also indicates that gratitude increases mental fortitude, making you even more prepared to tackle tomorrow.
7. Slow Down
Stopping or slowing down to be more productive seems counterintuitive. However, this can make you more happy, efficient, productive and healthy at work. Generally, we tend to kick into high-gear during times of stress. However, being in a rush can lead to bad decisions and a misuse of energy. Slow down to speed up. Pausing, focusing on actively listening and taking your time will invariably lead to better decisions and actions.
8. Give Yourself a Deliberate Break
It can be tempting to power through the day in the name of productivity without ever leaving your desk. However, it’s more beneficial to take a step back and relax for a moment. Go take a walk outside or find a quiet place where you can be present with your thoughts for 15 minutes. Detaching from work with deliberate breaks can help improve concentration and awareness.
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