Go confidently in the direction of your dreams.
Live the life you have imagined.
~ Henry David Thoreau
What is Mindfulness at work?
We were sitting on an old log overlooking the beautiful landscape; cattle grazing, drifting clouds, green fields, the sound of birds and a gentle breeze. He looked harassed and stressed. I asked him what he was hoping to feel once the project that he was working on was completed. He hesitated while thinking about the answer…Appreciation? Success? Happiness? After a pause he replied: “No. Contentment”. I asked him to listen to the birds, feel the log beneath him and the breeze on his skin, to look at the green grass, and suddenly the expression on his face shifted. “Wow,” he said. “It is right here. Contentment is right here, right now.” Mindfulness at work takes us to this realisation.
Often people say to me that they feel overwhelmed and they want mindfulness to help them become more efficient and effective. The belief is, “If I can be more effective and focused then everything will be completed and I will feel calm”. Hmmm. This is a delusion. Contentment is not a result of becoming more effective, focused and successful. Experiencing calm and contentment is an inner journey and this is where mindfulness shines and leads the way.
Yes, we need to de-stress and become more resilient and less reactive, but not so that we can be more productive and work harder. We need to live like this simply because it is good for us and for the earth.
The benefits of practicing mindfulness at work
There is no doubt that mindfulness training is one of the methods we can rely on when it comes to reducing stress, depression and anxiety but also when it comes to experiencing life with more kindness, contentment and joy. More than 150000 pieces of research, overall state that when we engage in mindfulness training we experience less stress, more joy, more creativity, an increased ability to concentrate and focus, less depression and fewer bad moods and conflicts.
Cultivating mindfulness is often described as a homecoming or like the waking of an old known truth that had been forgotten. There is no leap of faith required; it all originates from careful and attentive observation. Mindfulness turbo charges other learning; in a way it gives us the ‘how’. It can be seen as what enables us to make the changes that we wish to make.
Mindfulness is both very easy and very challenging. It can be seen as a tool, as a life practice, as a life philosophy and as a method for reducing pain and suffering while making us kinder and wiser.
A mindfulness program requires that you do the mindfulness exercises on a regular basis. In fact, there is a direct correlation between experiencing the positive effects of mindfulness and the amount of time you practice on a daily basis.
Mindfulness has been described as ‘the familiar and joyful way’. It is not hard work but it does require that you outsmart the mind enough to integrate time for practice in your daily life. Bring to your practice an attitude of curiosity, openness and vigour!
Claim back your life! Mindfulness Works
You have set the alarm for 5 AM; you really must get into the office early to get a few things done before the others arrive. You arrived home late last night, and then had a glass, or two or three. At five the alarm rings. On some days you get up, but on other days you’re just too tired. If only you could wake up with a coffee in your hand!
If this is a bit like you, you are not alone! Coffee is the second largest global commodity, propping up our energy levels and camouflaging our tiredness.
Work pressure is only one of your potential “stressors”. Others are information overload, job uncertainty, social media, a highly reactive 24 hour input cycle, and too much coffee! To top it off, we humans tend to be masters of generating the stress internally by fuelling thoughts of worst-case scenarios, self-deprecation and placing the most negative experiences we have had on continuous replay.
The feeling is, “Once I get it all done, then I can relax. I just need to complete this and that, and then…” To try to get it all done we walk a little faster; we multi-task; we get up early, sacrificing a little sleep; we don’t exercise as much as we would like; and we use coffee as our constant source of energy. Then we don’t sleep well, we feel overwhelmed, we can’t think clearly. We feel torn between home and work: at work we feel bad for the family, and when we are with them we can’t wait for them to fall asleep so we can get more work done.
We easily internalise and personalise stress to “I am not keeping up” and, even worse, “I am not good enough”. Our body systems are not designed for one big stream of high intensity work tasks and our attention is not designed for constant bombardment. It is not you: this is a cultural and societal problem and your reaction to this is natural, normal. Constant stress does, however, not serve you. It is hard on your body, on your mental and emotional wellbeing, on your relationships and even on your performance.
Mindfulness corporate training and coaching
Much of the focus in corporate training and coaching is on ways to be more productive, more efficient – to get more done. The truth is you will never get it all done, you are most likely already at capacity and there is no magic trick that will give you more time. Are there ways to work more efficiently? “Yes”, and there are ways to manage our attention, but all this will only get you so far. Also, might some of those not-so-efficient moments have been when you had a laugh or experienced connection?
Mindfulness is however not a performance tool, it is a life quality and truth-finding practice. Mindfulness does increase our capacity, but more importantly, it makes it unacceptable to live in ‘everlasting go, go, go’ and ‘anxiety’. The practice of mindfulness will enable you to see the delusional treadmill that you are on and want better for yourself. After many years of mindfulness practice, I am no doubt more productive than ever, I also have more complete time off, and I don’t allow myself to do rush, drama nor stress. Life is too short for
With high stress and little
How do you introduce mindfulness at work?
A good place to start is to reclaim your relaxed body state (the parasympathetic) throughout the day by simply taking ‘Five Magic Breaths’. You do that by focusing on the breath, then counting on the in breath and then counting twice as far on the out breath.
Start practicing mindfulness. Just ten minutes a day will make a substantial difference both immediately and over time. You can start with the ABCD mindfulness practice on our website: Mindfulness practices
You can also introduce starting meetings with The Five Magic breaths, a simple exercise where you close the eyes, focus on the breath and then gently allowing the out-breath to be longer than the in
Mindfulness Exercises and Activities
Here are the basics in claiming your life back!
Practice Mindfulness and Mindful Mini Moments
• Get enough sleep – if your work life is regularly affecting the time you have to sleep, something needs to change
• Connect, relax, have ‘doing nothing time’ with no tasks other than perhaps a little gardening, reading, enjoying the sun or a long bath.
• Check in. Life is not a race. It exists in the NOW and that is now, right now. This moment matters. What is the quality of this moment for you? Are you making it a means to the next? Can you sense the body, the breath right now? Incorporate Mindfulness at work.
• Remember that out there is a rainforest, beaches, galleries, music, art,
Mindfulness at work and family relationships
A letter to the editor.
I left early one morning for the office. My workplace, located right in the heart of the city can be a nightmare with peak hour traffic. As I drove through the central business district I noticed I’d gone into auto pilot. I was thinking about my relationship with my son. Instead of being mindful of the traffic Infront of me, I was thinking about the impact social media was having on him and his friends at Highschool. I’d recently noticed that my son, who has ADHD was spending hours upon hours on his phone.
I had started to observe a daily addiction developing and had concluded that it was leading to depression. I had tried to point it out to him for a few weeks now in the hope that it might create more self-awareness. I had even suggested getting therapy to address the issue but he had shrugged it off with some comic joke saying that I didn’t understand him anyway. Last night, I was filled with empathy for my son when he admitted that he was feeling lost and social media distracted him from sitting with his feelings.
“Perhaps you could spend more time in nature like you did when you were a boy. You used to be so happy hugging a tree!” He smiled and his face lit up with gratitude as he remembered his love of the forest.
As I drove through the urban landscape I ponder the deep issue of how to stay connected to the Earth in modern day life and I observe how beautiful everything looks after a heavy downpour of rain. All the city streets are washed clean and the sky is brighter than ever despite the white fluffy clouds obscuring the sun.
I felt the answer intuitively come to me. Education. There needs to be a workplace PDF or training of some kind in every organisation, institution and every business that supports every human being to practice meditation and mindfulness. We must incorporate mindfulness at work. If we stay connected to the truth within us, instead of seeking instant gratification from the world around us, true and lasting happiness will be ours.
Mindfulness at work makes the world a better place!