Want to get started in mindfulness but not sure how to begin? Read our quick tips, accompanied by handy bite-sized videos to kick-start your practice, and dial up your concentration and well-being levels.
We all have a colleague who is able to keep a cool head in times of stress. She’s relaxed, she’s rational, she’s constantly cheery – and thanks to her ability to keep calm in a crisis, she’s often highly productive and rarely side-tracked when things get tough. While some are lucky enough to be wired this way, others can learn the art of ‘mindfulness’, the art of being present in the moment.
The benefits of using mindfulness techniques in the workplace are multiple: as well as building stronger teams, enhancing creativity, and resolving conflict, the practice is scientifically proven to improve well-being, reduce stress, and increase confidence levels. If you’re unsure where to start, take five minutes out of your day to read the article below. We’ve also peppered it with helpful videos (all shorter than five minutes) to squeeze into your coffee break throughout the week – why not commit to watching one a day?
Accept what’s happening around you
When you get stressed out and start thinking of every little setback in catastrophic terms, your mind tends to accept this black-and-white thinking as the absolute truth, which creates even more stress. But really, this thinking is just a product of our emotional reaction to a situation. When you find your stress levels rising, don’t try to force yourself to cheer up or calm down, The first step to returning to equilibrium is to simply accept the way you currently feel.
But this doesn’t mean resigning to a bad situation at work — it’s a matter of accepting how things are at this moment before making a plan to do what you can to improve them.
Try a yoga breathing exercise
One easy way to become more mindful at work, is to periodically take a short breathing space. At your desk or in a quiet space, take three minutes to stop what you’re doing, inhale and exhale deeply and focus your attention fully on the breath and then the body as a whole.
You just need to do that two or three times a day, and it will transform the day. If you’re feeling especially frantic, a three-minute breathing space will help clarify your thoughts, calm down your whole approach to life and will make you so much more productive and on-the-ball.
Don’t fight distractions, recruit them
In open-plan offices in particular, distractions are rampant, whether they’re in the form of noisy co-workers, loud typing or phones going off. But paradoxically, by paying attention to those distractions rather than trying to tune them out can be a good way to prevent them from stressing you out. Gently notice the sounds and see if you can become aware of the effects they have on your body. The observation tends to rob the distractions of their power.
Have a break
There is evidence to support the idea that taking breaks during the workday can boost productivity and creativity. So instead of eating in front of your computer whilst ploughing through your backlog, try taking an email-free lunch break. Also get into the habit of leaving your desk for occasional shorter breaks throughout the day. If you’re struggling to accomplish a task that requires innovative thinking, walk away. A break could be just the creative boost you need.
Breaks give your mind space to digest information. It’s important to daydream, to let your mind run free at the deepest level. You might want to try visiting a park or museum near your office – but you can also let your mind run free without leaving your desk. Why not try exploring a new area with a TED talk as you munch on a sandwich? Here’s one on mindfulness to get you started:
With constant email access, it’s easy to stay plugged in all day at work and outside the office. But this 24/7 connectivity could be taking a toll on our health: Studies have found that excessive reliance on technology could make us more distracted impatient and forgetful.
Technology compresses the time that we have to evaluate information. We’re constantly bombarded with information, and the only solution is to switch off for a while.
It may seem impossible at work, but taking even short breaks from technology can help keep stress levels at bay and boost productivity. Try leaving your smartphone at your desk when you leave for lunch or finding a quiet, tech-free area for a three-minute breathing space in the afternoon. And on the weekends, consider taking an afternoon or a full day to unplug so you can return to work on Monday feeling recharged.
Keep going – even if it’s difficult
Keeping a clear mind is hugely important, with many benefits for our personal and professional relationships, as well as our relationship with yourself. But sometimes, focusing on the present moment brings up emotions or feelings that aren’t so positive. Don’t worry, it’s perfectly normal – and in recognising this negativity, it’s easier to let it go and move on.