Your phone dings nonstop, chat windows pile up and you’re running to your next meeting. A hectic pace is the norm for many of us, and that means finding new methods to stay focused and sharp. Enter mindfulness.
This may sound like the latest buzzword, but the centuries-old notion of enjoying the present moment is more than trendy philosophy. In practice it can do wonders to enhance productivity and happiness in the workplace.
Also, creating an environment that encourages employees to be more adept at working with their minds, promotes betters performance, benefiting the larger team, clients, customers and stakeholders alike. These benefits are why big-name companies like Google, Apple, Aetna and General Mills have jumped in the world of mindfulness. And, you can now add my company, enso, to the list.
We recently completed a five-week mindfulness workshop with InsightLA, which gave us firsthand experience in meditation and tools to get zen in the workplace.
As we all think about how to create healthier, more balanced work environments, here are some of our learnings and tips for merging mindfulness into your routine.
1. Make it a routine Mindfulness is called a practice for a reason. Though the effects on stress levels are immediate, consciously setting aside time and sticking to it can amplify its effects.
Plan for 30 minutes a week and let co-workers know you’ll be off the grid. Whether you use this time to get away to a more relaxed space or simply shut down the computer and close the office door is up to you.
2. Get zen with friends. Like kickball or happy hour, meditation works as a group activity. Even though you’re silent, participating as a group means you can sit quietly, laugh and discuss your insights together. While it creates a great bonding experience, it also makes it harder to forget (or skip out on) a session.
3. Don’t try to succeed. One of the trickiest parts of practicing mindfulness in the workplace is setting aside the achievement-oriented attitude that has always helped you get ahead. Once you shut your eyes, your brain will likely chime in with the frantic question: Are we there yet? Instead of immediately reacting by giving up or judging yourself for not reaching enlightenment, take a moment to just notice those thoughts. Tell yourself, “this is what impatience feels like.” Then return to your breath. Settling into a place within yourself that isn’t trying to become accomplished is one of the quickest ways of establishing your practice.
4. Find a guide. Guided meditation is a perfect gateway for beginners. There are plenty of teachers who publish audio tracks at varying lengths. Check your local yoga or meditation studio or go online.
5. Count it out. Close your eyes, and count 10 inhales and exhales through your nose and see what that does. Find a minute to give yourself at least three to five deep breaths. This is an immediate injection of calm for the mind. On a chemical level, this reduces activation of the sympathetic nervous system. It also decreases stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol, making room for more "fuzzies" and less worries.
6. Put insomnia to rest. Meditation contributes to a good night’s sleep, which does wonders to improve mood, creativity and overall well-being. Tonight, avoid looking at digital screens 30 minutes before bed. Lie down and check in by using your mind to examine and relax your body. Your joints, knees, eyes, elbows, ankles -- everything.
7. Sitting not required. Mindfulness is not a sedated, boring activity. It takes focus and diligence to turn off the thought faucet and live in the present moment. It’s also a state of mind not confined to the cushion. Try taking a daily 10-minute walk with a co-worker to clear your head and connect.