By Dana Brownlee
Simple habits like mindful breaks can enhance workplace joy and reduce stress. -GETTY
Mindfulness is widely regarded as an effective practice for not just reducing stress and increasing joy but also for enhancing overall productivity and performance. While many of us would love to become more mindful, it can be a little intimidating to actually get started (not to mention challenging to carve out the time for yet one more thing). The great news is that developing consistent habits that encourage enhanced mindfulness, organization and clarity of thought may be easier than you think. Here are some simple recommended daily habits from mindfulness thought leaders.
Shonda Moralis, MSW, LCSW — Women’s Mindful Empowerment Coach
· Mediate for 5 Minutes: Use an app or download a guided meditation to get started. Meditation is not woo-woo or a new age fad—it is simply daily mental training that lowers our baseline of stress and boosts our awareness and focus.
· Take Mindful Breaks: Mindful breaks are opportunities and reminders in the midst of the day to pull our attention out of autopilot and back to the current moment. Start with one and practice it daily for a week. Then, progressively stack on one more per week. Eventually, the breaks will require little effort and your days will be infused with mindfulness. The combination of daily meditation + mindful breaks = your ultimate mindfulness edge.
Moralis shares these mindful break options:
Desk Body Scan – Sit up tall in your chair. Beginning with the feet, slowly scan upward through the body, noticing sensations in each part as you do. Soften and relax tight muscles. Stretch the neck, shoulders, arms. Breathe deeply in the chest. Move through this break in thirty seconds or stretch it out to a few minutes.
Tracking the Energy – Scan your schedule for the upcoming day. Notice which pieces you look forward to and which you dread. As you move through the day, pay attention to which meetings, tasks, and people drain your energy and which invigorate you. Which of the energy drainers can be removed from your schedule? What can be delegated or farmed out? How can you take on more of what rejuvenates and lights you up? Use this data to inform your future decision-making.
Unmute Yourself– Recognize where in your professional or personal life you hold back and mute yourself out of fear, self-doubt, or habit. Identify one situation in which you will unmute yourself and speak up. Get clear on why it is important that you assert yourself. This can initially feel quite uncomfortable—feel the fear and do it anyway. Applaud your courage and remember it will get easier with practice.
Oxygen – Step outside for a moment of fresh air or head to the closest window. Use your senses to observe sights, listen to sounds, inhale while feeling the temperature and movement of air on your skin. Look up and take in the vast sky. Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. Head back to your desk refreshed and refocused.
· Silence notifications: Too many people allow themselves to get distracted throughout the day by notifications. Take back control of your attention by checking your device when you want to see if you have messages versus letting your device distract you throughout the day.
· Stop multitasking: As much as we would love to be able to do multiple things at the same time, science has demonstrated that our attention is a one lane road, and when we try to multi-task we end up making more mistakes, taking longer amounts of time and increasing stress.
· Get enough sleep: In our experience, one of the biggest detractors of individual performance and well-being is fatigue. Get to bed in time to have enough sleep, avoid screens for an hour before bedtime and practice 5 to 10 minutes of mindfulness meditation just before bed.
Gary Simonds, MD and Wayne Sotile, Ph.D. — Coauthors of Thriving in Healthcare
· Stop Telling Yourself a Story: When involved in important communications, shut off your own mind chatter and assumptions about the motivations of others and focus in on the conversation itself. Listen. Process. Reflect.
· Use a Worry Parking Lot: If besieged with anxiety over issues that are extraneous to the activity at hand, agree with yourself to put the concerns away in a “parking lot” or a box. Allot time in the day or week to give thought to, and attend to these concerns, but only during the allotted time.
· Learn About Your Co-workers: Make an effort to get to know your co-workers better. Actively ask them about homelife, likes, dislikes, hobbies, activities, concerns. Challenge yourself to know multiple facts about each of them, and ask follow up questions: “How did your son’s little league game go the other night? How was that concert last weekend?”
· Identify the 10%: In a stressful environment, there is the temptation to see all problems as the result of other people’s action or inaction. Grant yourself that indeed, 90% is external, but ask yourself, “What is the 10% that I own, or that I can at least positively affect?” and focus in on that component.
Vish Chatterji — Executive Coach and co-author of The Business Casual Yogi: Take Charge of Your Body, Mind & Career
· Leisurely Stroll: Take a 10 minute leisurely stroll after stressful meetings quietly observing nature and the sky above.
· Spine Stretch: Stretch in six directions periodically throughout the day to relieve tension.
· Brain Dump: End the day by conducting a “brain dump” journaling about any difficult interactions. This will help you enjoy your leisure time and sleep better that evening.
Practicing these types of mindfulness activities can become an important part of a professional’s overall wellness strategy, and those wellness benefits extend well beyond the individual. Indeed, many companies support wellness programs because they recognize that the positive benefits don’t just enhance morale but also contribute to improved productivity and organizational effectiveness. Zeamo CEO Paul O’Reilly-Hyland echoes this sentiment.
“Companies today have truly started to focus more on improving the quality of life of their employees. Not only do workplace leaders want their employees to be healthy, they want them to feel less stressed, more engaged and eager to come to work. Companies with strong wellness programs see how positive change in their employees directly correlates to positive change in their business.”
Indeed, for most professionals work days are often super busy, filled with tasks, deadlines and distractions. But, taking a few minutes throughout the day to center yourself can help you better focus and prioritize, maintain a better mood with colleagues and most importantly lift your own spirits and sense of calm. Some may argue that they don’t have the luxury of incorporating these techniques into their day, but the risk of spiraling through each day feeling frayed at the end may be too great. Mindfulness practice is not a cost but an investment in yourself.
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This content was originally published by Forbes Magazine. Original publishers retain all rights. It appears here for a limited time before automated archiving. By Forbes Magazine