5 Steps to A Mindful Working Day
The practice of mindfulness can have a strong positive impact in our daily life. As we look to develop health-giving habits, we often turn our attention to the obvious things: exercise, diet, a good sleeping pattern. And all of these things are good. But what I want to propose is that the practice of day-to-day mindfulness is also an activity that can offer tremendous benefits.
What is Mindfulness Anyway?
Mindfulness is generally defined as non-judgemental present moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, body and environment.1 It’s as simple as that. To be mindful simply means to be fully-present to whatever’s happening. Whether you’re making a cup of tea, working on a computer or driving a car, mindfulness is being fully aware of what you’re doing.
The question that usually follows this definition is, “Why all the fuss?” How can something as simple as just being present have a significant effect on our lives? Whilst mindfulness has been scientifically shown to have a variety of positive psychological and physiological benefits, there are also many changes that we can immediately notice in our own experience.
Sharon Salzberg, in her book Real Happiness at Work explains the positive dimension of cultivating awareness: “…it can have a beneficial effect whatever we’re encountering at work. It helps us to appreciate easy and joyous times more by reminding us to recognize and focus on them. It helps in times of stress to give us greater resiliency so that we are not overwhelmed by difficulty. And it helps in ordinary, repetitious, routine times, too, so that we have a more acute sense of awareness and connection than we otherwise might.”2
Mindfulness urges us towards a fuller realization of the richness inherent in the present moment. Equally, it provides a means of stepping out of the stress-inducing worry and rumination that is so common.
All of the following little activities will help foster feelings of connectedness and fulfillment throughout the day.
1. Start the Day Well
Our morning routine symbolises the commitment we make approach our day in a particular way. Will we be engaged and fully attentive or thrown to and fro by endless rumination and stress.
If we cultivate good morning habits we can set ourselves up for the rest of the day. These can be simple things like carefully making the bed, brushing our teeth with full attention or sitting down to eat a healthy breakfast.
2. Make Some Breathing Space
Take a few minutes to try a simple breathing exercise. “Coherent breathing” is a technique that has been developed by Drs. Richard Brown and Patricia Gerbarg. It is useful for alleviating feelings of stress and anxiety alongside fostering more awareness in the moment. It involves lengthening each in and out breath by a count of five, which is the optimal breathing rate for most people. Start with a count of three and build from there:
Breathing in, two, three
Breathing out, two, three
Breathing in, two, three, four
Breathing out, two, three, four
Breathing in, two, three, four, five
Breathing out, two, three, four, five
3. Eat Mindfully
“Mindful eating” is another phrase that’s becoming more well-known. Before you begin your lunch or dinner, pause for a moment and bring your attention into the present moment.
Savour each mouthful.
4. One Small Act of Compassion
Acting with compassion achieves two things. Not only do we feel better about ourselves whilst contributing to the happiness of somebody else, it also helps us become more aware of how we interact with others.
5. Set A Technology Curfew
Set aside thirty minutes without any television, laptops, phones or ipads before you go to bed tonight. Just be with your thoughts and feelings.
(2) Sharon Salzberg, Real Happiness at Work, p229