5 Tips for Practicing Mindfulness at Work

Mindfulness at Work

It's a typical Monday morning, and as you look around your desk, you start to get anxious about all the things you need to get done before Friday rolls around. But you know you can’t let stress or worry distract you if you’re going to have a productive week. So how can you get your concerns under control? Practicing mindfulness is one answer.

You’ve probably heard the term lately, but you might not know what it means. In a nutshell, mindfulness is about being nonjudgmentally aware of what you're thinking, feeling and sensing and how you’re experiencing external events or stimuli in your surroundings. Or, in other words, it's focusing on the moment rather than thinking about the past or future.

People often equate mindfulness with meditation, even though they’re not the same thing. Still, taking the time for meditation can be a soothing part of your mindfulness practice; recent research findings from Johns Hopkins University indicate that meditation can indeed lower stress and anxiety. These five additional steps toward mindfulness can help you keep a calmer mindset in the office all week long.

1. Start before you arrive at work.

On Sunday night, before you go to bed, take five minutes to sit quietly and focus on your breath. Close your eyes. Notice your breathing without trying to change it. When your mind wanders, gently bring it back to noticing your breathing. When you wake up Monday morning, do the same exercise.

As much as possible, go through your morning routine mindfully, noticing everything you're doing. If you drive to work, let traffic stops remind you to notice your breathing. If you use public transit, use headphones to listen to music that promotes in-the-moment focus. When you arrive at work, walk slowly to the office, observing your breathing and the sensation of walking. When you arrive at your desk, take a few breaths before doing anything else.

2. Choose a task and do it.

Do one thing at a time, and do it deliberately and without rushing. If you must multitask, be consciously aware of what you’re doing. But try to avoid it: Research indicates that multitasking makes you less productive.

3. Use your lunch break for mindfulness practice.

During your lunch break, eat alone in silence, savoring your food slowly and really noticing the taste and texture of your food. This practice is also good for your digestion. Or take a slow walk and notice the sensations of your feet on the ground. Alternately, find a quiet place to meditate or simply to sit and do nothing. Just five to 10 minutes of this kind of activity can make a big difference.

4. Create triggers.

A hectic workplace makes it easy to forget to focus, so create triggers that remind you to be mindful during routine work tasks. For example, place a sticky note on your telephone that reminds you to pay attention to the person on the other end of the conversation without doing something else at the same time.

5. Stop and breathe.

When you feel rushed, or you notice continuous mind chatter interfering with your focus, stop, take a breath, and refocus your thoughts. Move deliberately into your next action.

As you attempt to become more mindful, remember that you won't get it all right at first. It’s crucial to avoid judging yourself when you fall short. Mindfulness takes practice, but it will bring rewards through fewer feelings of stress, greater peace of mind and increased productivity.

How do you practice mindfulness in the workplace? Share your thoughts below.