The phone on your desk is ringing. Your cell phone is vibrating. Someone is standing at your cubicle waiting to talk to you.
Rapid pinging sounds signal emails arriving in your inbox. It’s hard to prioritize when everything is important and everything needs to be done right away…or does it?
Mindfulness is a mental state achieved by focusing awareness on the present moment while acknowledging and accepting thoughts and feelings.
The practice can relieve stress, improve focus, and improve emotional and physical health.
Here are 4 tips on how you can practice mindfulness at work:
1. Be consciously present
Pay attention to your surroundings. The biggest distraction for most people is their cell phone. According to a study by Nokia, the average cell phone user checks their phone about 250 times a day. Try not looking at your phone when you walk to lunch or down hallways and take notice of the details around you.
Instead of scarfing down your food at your desk, savor it. Pay attention to the taste, the smell, the temperature, the colors and the textures of your food.
If you cannot get away from your desk but need to reset, take some time to check in with your body. Work your way down your body noticing where you are holding muscle tension and then release it before returning to your task.
When we get stressed and unconsciously hold our breath, it can mess up the body’s balance of oxygen, nitric oxide, and carbon dioxide and exacerbate stress-related conditions.
Deep breathing increases the supply of oxygen to your brain and stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which promotes a state of calmness.
2. Be a single-tasker
If your job allows, focus on one task at a time. During your time with that one task, fully focus. To be most effective, we should focus on each task for 90 minutes, with a break in between, according to Tony Schwartz, founder of The Energy Project.
If distractions are interrupting your work on big projects, try turning off push notifications on email or social media.
Benefits of being a single tasker include improved focus and increased information processing speed. Single tasking requires a decreased task effort meaning you will not have thoughts unrelated to your present task ruining your focus.
3. Make stress your friend and adopt a growth mindset
Choose to see challenges as opportunities instead of another source of stress. Filling in for a co-worker? This is a way for you to further expand your skill set. Stress is not the enemy.
If you change your mind set about stress, it can even become your friend.
The next time you are stressed, think about it as your body preparing you for your next challenge.
Kelly McGonigal, a health psychologist, gave a TED talk entitled “How to Make Stress Your Friend” (below). Kelly refers to a study which tracked 30,000 adults in America for eight years and asked them questions such as “How much stress have you experienced in the past year?” and “Do you believe that stress is harmful to your health?”
The people who had said they experienced a lot of stress in the previous year had a 43 percent increased risk of dying, but that statistic was only true for people who viewed stress as harmful. This is proof that your mindset can change your physical health.
4. Feel gratitude
Realize how your work fits into the “bigger picture”. If you work with customers, realize that the way you treat them impacts their day. If you run payroll realize that getting the checks processed on time allows employees to put food on the table for their family.
Remember that you have the ability and responsibility to impact everyone’s day that you encounter and make it a little brighter, both in work and outside of it.
Psychologist Robert Emmons said, “There is scientific evidence that grateful people are more resilient to stress, whether minor everyday hassles or major personal upheavals.”
Mindfulness is a skill to practice. Try listening, observing, and appreciating more intentionally. You may be surprised that you have a less stressful and a more productive workday. Incorporating mindfulness into your workday can help you become more productive and centered.
By Jessica Carraro
HR Generalist and coffee addict by day, wellness blogger by night
1. American Institute of Stress
3. Huffington, Arianna, Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well Being, Wisdom, and Wonder. New York, Harmony Books 2016
4. Kelly McGonigal’s TED talk:
5. Five Ways to Cultivate Gratitude at Work, Greater Good Magazine