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Practicing Mindfulness At Work

Work/Life Balance
BY: Amy Marsh
mindfulness at work

Take a moment to pause from what you are doing. Sit up tall in a comfortable posture.  Begin to notice your breath.  Watch your inhalation moving into the body and your exhalation moving out of the body.  Start to become aware of your surroundings.  Pay attention to what you are feeling and how you are feeling.  Take notice without making any judgement.  Continue focusing on your breath for five to 10 more breaths while you continue to notice the sensations that you are experiencing.  Close your eyes and rest in this space of open awareness and open your eyes when you are ready. Reflect on your experience.

You have just practiced a mindful moment.

Mindfulness is the experience of being open and aware in the present moment without automatic judgment and criticism. There are a wide variety of mindfulness practices which train the mind and help cultivate the ability to be fully present in the moment. Some of these include noticing the breath, sitting in meditation, walking purposefully and taking intentional pauses.

Mindfulness is a subject that is starting to get a lot of attention in the workplace. According to a January, 2016 article in the Journal of Management, interest in mindfulness is growing and has shown to have positive impacts on attention, focus, cognition, emotions, relationships and overall performance and behavior.  Individuals who practice mindfulness have reported reduced stress and anxiety, diminished brain chatter, improved focus, enhanced creativity and deeper connections with those around them.

Encouraging employees to slow down, pause and focus on the present can seem incongruent with a workplace culture that tends to value speed, constant activity and goal attainment. Yet research shows that employees who take time to recharge regularly can regain focus and productivity.  It also can enhance employee confidence which ultimately helps contribute to the success and shared vision of the entire organization.

In today’s hyper-paced and constantly-connected work environment, pressures mount causing the workplace to be stressful, draining and uninspiring. Mindfulness practices can address these challenges and foster greater productivity and creativity while having a positive impact on the organization.

Through mindfulness training, we can discover tools and techniques that can teach us to be in the moment, practice non-judgement and ultimately free us from the habitual patterns and reactive responses that create so much tension in our lives.  These techniques can help reduce stress, cultivate curiosity, improve performance and increase attentiveness to our needs and those around us.

You can begin to implement mindfulness into your work day with the simple practice that I like to call “Smoke Break” below.  It’s a way of bringing awareness to the tensions you are experiencing and allowing them to move out of your mind and body.  This is an useful practice when you feel you have pent up tension in the body, have had a difficult encounter with someone or are facing a tense situation.

TAKE A SMOKE BREAK

Step 1: Find a comfortable place to sit and take a posture that is both alert and relaxed at the same time.  Straighten the spine without stiffening the body.  Allow the natural curvature of the spine to be there.

Step 2:  Close your eyes and take a few slow breaths.  Allow your body to relax with each breath.

Step 3:  Place your hands face down on the top of your legs.  Allow your arms to rest comfortably by your sides.

Step 4: Call to mind any tensions that you are feeling.  They could be physical sensations in the body or emotional feelings.  Consider any frustrations, aggravations, confrontations… anything that feels like tension.

Step 5:  Imagine those tensions gathering around the torso of the body like a ring of smoke.  As additional tensions come to mind, add them to this ring of smoke.  Try to visualize, in whatever way works for you, a ring of tension smoke around the torso. It may appear thicker.  It may show up as a particular color.

Step 6:  On the next inhalation, imagine that the smoke is traveling up the sides of the torso, toward the under arms and to the tops of the shoulders. On the exhalation, imagine the smoke traveling from the shoulders down through the arms and out through the fingers.  It may be possible to envision smoke flowing out of the fingertips.

Step 7: Repeat Step 6 for a few breaths.

Step 8: Return your awareness to a regular inhalation and exhalation.  Then gently return to a regular breathing pattern when you are ready.

 

Organizations that promote enterprise growth while tending to the emotional well-being of their employees create cultures that are unique, rewarding and inspiring. When the best intentions of the workers are aligned with the work being done, success is evident and is shared throughout the organization.  Bringing mindfulness into the workplace allows the entire organization to learn, experience, attend and ultimately flourish. Practicing awareness, compassion and clarity bring about well-being and foster a true sense of workplace success.

 

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