The meaning of mindfulness in the work place

Tips to find and keep calm, even when stress threatens to overwhelm you

By Nancy Plummer, Columnist, The Times

NancyGoingProWork is stressful for all of us. But how is it that we all seem to have that one colleague who’s always able to stay calm, even during the most challenging days? Chances are they’re practicing mindfulness. So, what is mindfulness, and how does it help in the workplace?

Mindfulness has its roots in Buddhist culture. It is the practice of having moment-to-moment awareness, of body, mind, and spirit. It is also the practice of detachment; being aware of your thoughts and feeling without judgement. Mindfulness practice, through meditation and yoga, is becoming more and more popular in America. Many corporations have even brought mindfulness practices into the workplace and for good reason; it helps with stress.

Current studies are revealing amazing results with people who are practicing mindfulness; from CEOs to construction workers. In studying people who were in meditative states, from novices to Buddhists monks, they discovered slight brain changes which rendered the practitioner less susceptible to stress. Moreover, the more experienced the meditator, the quicker they were able to return to a state of calmness in stressful situations.

Here are a few activities you can do to help reduce some of your stress in the workplace:

  1. Mindful Breathing. Mindful breathing is just that; being mindful of each breath you take. It is your life source, and in just concentrating on each full breath you take in and out, you’ll become calmer. As you calmly focus on your breathing, note how you connect a little more deeply with your body. With time, this practice will help you train your focus and attention span, thus quieting the distractions in your mind and your workplace.
  2. Mindful Listening without Judgement. Not only will this practice stop you from making a scene when you’re tired of listening to petty office gossip or a “know-it-all” colleague, it will also help you become more accepting and compassionate. Instead of jumping in with the group standing around the water cooler, or making a snide comment to one of your colleagues, just stay quiet and listen without passing judgment.

In irritating work situations it’s important to keep our cool, and remember the words of Thich Nhat Hanh: “Breathe in deeply to bring your mind home to your body. Then look at, or think of, the person triggering this emotion: With mindfulness, you can see that she is unhappy, that she is suffering. You can see her wrong perceptions. You can see that she is not beautiful when she says things that are unkind.”

  1. Get out in nature. I know that sounds like odd advice for someone in the workplace, but just go out to the parking lot if you must and appreciate the outdoors. Moving, stretching, and just being in nature a few times a day will improve your physical stress. Studies have also shown that looking up towards the sky can significantly improve one’s mood.
  2. Listen to music. Take a quick break and listen to one of your favorite songs. However, as hard as it might be, remember that you’re still in the work place, so resist the temptation to sign along (unless you sound like Taylor Swift)! Just enjoy the rhythm and words, and sit with appreciation. Appreciating our indulgences helps ease our stress, and incorporating our passions into our day can help work feel a little more like play.
  3. Sit quietly. If you suddenly feel overwhelmed or exhausted, take just a few minutes to sit with no distractions and close your eyes. Take a quick inventory of your whole body from head to toe; sense if you’re thirsty, hungry, tired, moody, or sick, and then help yourself out – get some food, water, medicine, or just schedule a little time with one of your favorite songs.

Dealing with stress through mindfulness takes a lot practice, but it’s worth it. It will help you stay calm and handle even the most stressful work days. Moreover, being mindful won’t just help you at work. It will allow you to approach each day free from the chains of stress, and instead, focus on the positive aspects of every part of your life.

Nancy Plummer is Founder of the Elite Empowerment & Education Council, empowering individuals and groups to transform their personal and professional lives.

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