The Non-Hippy’s Guide to Workplace Mindfulness
Say the word “mindfulness” and many people will picture chakra beads and tie-dye, alongside an Instagram account filled with Mahatma Gandhi quotes and yoga poses in front of waterfalls.
When you’re less “spiritual vegan” and more “kebab with Blind Date”, it’s easy to dismiss mindfulness as the exclusive domain of people who can tell their chi from their chai latte. But you’d be wrong to do so.
The world we live in is hectic, busy and streaming constant information at us. With smartphones in our pockets and computers in every room of our home, being constantly plugged in can be exhausting. This is particularly true in the workplace, where reported stress levels are sky-high.
Mindfulness mantras can help you destress and put everything in perspective. Using these techniques can make you happier, boost your motivation, and up your productivity… no bare feet or group chanting required.
“Slow It Down”
We’re all busy, busy, busy. But no matter how much we rush to get everything done, more and more stuff just keeps getting piled on, until we feel overwhelmed. Sound familiar? Pause. You may think that racing through a lot of work is the definition of a good employee, but rushed work is sloppy work, and that helps no one.
Instead, be willing to take time over important projects. Take a step back from your workload and evaluate it. The usual or obvious way of doing things is not always the best – reflect on similar projects in the past, and think about what worked well and what didn’t. What previous mistakes or difficulties could you learn from?
Avoid becoming obsessed with crossing absolutely everything off your To-Do list. Steady, high-quality progress is what you should be aiming for.
“Be in This Moment”
We all have a tendency to fixate on the future while at work. We talk about what we will do and enjoy “when this workday is over…” “when I go on holiday next year…” and even “when I retire…” But by constantly relegating any source of pleasure to the distant future, we end up essentially wishing our life away.
Of course, not every aspect of each workday is enjoyable enough for you to want to focus on it any more than necessary. But some should be, so seek out or create those moments. If a task is going well and you’re feeling satisfied, take the time to pause and enjoy the feeling. Allowing yourself to acknowledge your own achievements builds up the sort of positive thought patterns that will make you much happier day-to-day.
Similarly, when you take breaks from work, really take breaks from work. If there’s a fancy brand of coffee or a particular snack you enjoy, make a point to move away from your desk and really savour the treat. If you work near a picturesque outdoor space, slip out for a walk at lunchtime and take the time to really take in and enjoy your surroundings. The point it to switch your brain off from work stuff, giving it a chance to relax and recharge.
“It Is What It Is”
In the workplace, there will always be decisions and situations that you disagree with. Sometimes you’ll have the opportunity and/or authority to change them, but often you will not. In these instances, one of the most valuable skills you can learn is to just let it go. Stressing, sulking or bitching about it will change nothing, and put you in an unnecessarily negative mindset.
Either ignore it or, if you have to partake in it, do your share of the work as quickly and gracefully as possible, then move on.
(The only exception is if the action or request appears so egregious to you that you will not comply with it under any circumstances. If you’re willing to lose your job over it, you have the capacity to push back politely but firmly.)
“You Are Enough”
Everyone sometimes feels that they are just not good enough. In the workplace, where career progression is expected, this feeling can be exacerbated. Sometimes something as simple as having a bad week, making a mistake or being overshadowed by your colleague can leave you feeling morose and insecure.
When you find yourself getting hung up on negativity, remind yourself that you are only human and have flaws, weaknesses and bad days like everybody else. Think about your strengths and contributions and try to reframe your mindset in a positive way.
If you’re struggling to do this, make a point of writing down three positive thoughts or accomplishments each day. Forcing yourself to think about positive things will help you maintain a more constructive perspective. Another good idea is to keep records of trackable tasks so you can see your progress over time – it’s easy for us to forget how far we’ve come if we’re solely focusing on how far we still have to go.
“This Too Shall Pass”
No matter how terrible things get at work, remember that nothing lasts forever. Horribly awkward situations eventually blow over. Awful co-workers eventually leave. Mistakes are eventually forgotten. When you’re wading through a difficult project that seems never-ending, remembering that there is an end goal and it will eventually arrive can help you get through it.
Similarly, when things are good, appreciate them, because good times don’t consistently last either. Understanding that our careers – like our lives in general – will be full of ups and downs and being okay with that will ultimately leave you a happier and more resilient person.
Beth Leslie is a career and lifestyle writer. She is also the editor of the Inspiring Interns blog.