I first started my mindfulness journey several years ago when I was a junior in college.
After getting into a car accident that left me horrified over just the thought of getting into a car again, I found myself in cognitive behavioral therapy.
My prescription? Meditation – a mindfulness exercise. At first I thought taking deep breaths in and out and focusing on being in the moment was a little ridiculous.
I thought, “Can I have my co-payment back?” But I was in pain and had no choice but to stay open minded. After several weeks, the power of mindfulness lead me to do things that up to that point crippled me at just the thought of them.
My meditation practices lead me into exploring mindfulness through taking classes, reading books, and speaking with industry experts. For a time, I was immersed in studying the practice.
As UK based meditation teacher Steve Brisk described it in an interview, “Mindfulness is being intentionally in the present moment without judgment. It helps us concentrate on one thing at a time, thus improving enjoyment and fulfillment.”
Mindfulness can help us in all areas of life, especially in business. But it’s more than that. A study cited by US National Library of Medicine of National Institutes of Health found that mindfulness can change the brain. One can only understand mindfulness by practicing it.
Getting Started with Mindfulness Meditation
Practicing mindfulness meditation often takes patience, especially if you are someone who is used to being on-the-go constantly. While mindfulness meditation can be practiced anywhere, when I was first getting started, I found following these steps helpful.
- Get into comfortable clothing.
- Sit or lay down in a dark quiet room where you won’t be disturbed (make sure your cellphone is turned off).
- Set an intention, something you hope to achieve from your session. Examples: being at peace, clearing my mind, or finding an answer to that one problem that has been eating away at me.
- Take a deep breath in through your mouth, bringing your attention to your breathing.
- Hold your breath for three seconds then slowly release the air out of your nose.
- Repeat three times.
That’s it! You’re done. Feel free to repeat this several times. Some experts have told me to start small then work up into meditating for longer periods of time. If you find that you are having a hard time focusing, don’t worry you’re not alone. Just keep practicing.
The Role Stress Plays on People in Business
According to Health and Safety Executive, stress was responsible for 35 percent of all work related ill health cases in 2014/2015. Workplace stress is on the rise, so much so that Huffington Post calls it ‘the health epidemic of the 21st century.’
Employees say stress and anxiety impact:
- Work performance 56 percent of the time.
- Relationships with co-workers and peers 51 percent of time.
- Quality of work 43 percent of time.
In the book How Meditation Is Changing Business from the Inside Out: Mindful Work, author David Gelles notes, “Stress isn’t caused by what is happening; it is caused by how we respond to it, which determines our happiness at any moment.”
While we can’t control stressors such as traffic or difficult clients, we can control how we respond to situations and become more resilient because of it. As Gelles wrote, “We have the power to change behavior patterns that might seem deeply ingrained.” Later in his chapter on stress, he added, “Ratcheting down stress is an important first step in developing a more mindful relationship to work and life and one that nearly everyone who begins to practice enjoys.”
When we are stressed at work, we are not as engaged and are less productive. In addition, as noted by Business Insider, stress can lead to poor decision making, acting irritable, set us back in achieving our goals, acting unethically, lead us to consuming junk food, and make us forgetful.
Mindful Decision Making
In his book Mindfulness at Work: How to Avoid Stress, Achieve More, and Enjoy Life, Dr. Stephen McKenzie suggests the possibility of us “all working toward making more consistently mindful decisions by increasingly recognizing reality and our true place in it.” He summarizes mindful decision making this way:
60 percent of respondents in a Virgin Pulse survey said their relationship with their employer positively impacts their focus or productivity at work, while 44 percent said it positively impacts their stress levels.
Workplace friendships boost employee morale.
When we work as a team, we can be happier at work.
In developing and maintaining mindful relationships at work, experts suggest focusing on being a team. In his book Mindful Co-working, author Clark Baim writes:
“Looking after the co-working relationship also means that we play to each other’s strengths and shore up weaknesses. If one colleague knows that their co-worker excels in a particular part of the job it makes sense to let them carry that out. … Mindful co-working relationships can become even stronger when co-workers take an anti-fragile approach [things that gain from disorder] to learning from their missteps.”
Mindful Work Enjoyment
Most Americans are unhappy at work, but leaving is not always the answer. So what do we do? We deal with it hoping things will change, a different employer rescues us, we retire, or maybe win the lottery. Winning the lottery sounds like a good plan. When we carry around that unhappiness, we are really only hurting ourselves. It’s best to deal with it. Learn to enjoy your work by doing these things.
- Let go of your ideas about your job.
- Consciously focus on each task at hand.
- Really feel your surroundings – the scents, your office chair, the floor.
- Give thanks. When you start to feel yourself complaining about something at work, name something you are thankful for, even if it’s just being employed. Having an attitude of gratitude goes a long way.
Remember to breathe. Take a few minutes throughout the day to practice mindfulness meditation. Recognize that we cannot control other people. We are in control of our emotions. The stress we feel IS under our control when we choose how we respond to what happens in life.