Back to Basics - Mindfulness at Work

I was chatting to a friend the other day about how awful her work culture was and we got onto the subject of mindfulness at work and what that means in a practical, every day kind of sense.

The essence of mindfulness is to be present in the now. To leave behind what has happened in the past and stop worrying about what is going to happen in the future.

The past has gone so leave it there and the future hasn’t happened yet. All you really have is now.

Don’t react to something that might never eventuate and stop stewing over the stuff that’s already gone. There is just as much chance of positive stuff happening as there is negative things. Why is it that we always assume the bad will happen? Assume the best! What a difference it will make to your mind set!

There have been about a million blogs and articles written about mindfulness by much more qualified people than me, but the advice I gave to my friend seemed to help her - so here it is.

1. Lose the Negativity

All that negative energy that swirls around a toxic workplace is super bad for you and you need to reduce your exposure to it as much as possible. Here’s how to do it:

-don’t gossip! I know it sometimes feels good to gossip – it creates a weird sense of community – a kind of “we’re all in this together” vibe but it is really negative stuff. The people you are gossiping with will be gossiping about you too. All it does is spread the negativity. Stop it. When you are faced with a gossip saying negative things about others, counter it by finding something good to say about the person they are talking about and then walk away.

-don’t hold grudges. It’s in the past. It’s gone and if you hold on to it, it will continue to affect your now and your future. It is a complete waste of your energy. The only person a grudge hurts is you.

-don’t take stuff personally. It’s not about you. Really it’s not. Most people are busy protecting themselves, responding to their own dramas and trying to jump through hoops for the people above them. It may feel like they’re picking on you but in a workplace, there’s a very good chance that they are just trying to get you to do what they feel you need to do, to make them look good! We’re all human. Even that nasty boss. How do you know what’s happening in her life? What’s she coping with? What’s her boss like? What hoops is she jumping through at Board level?

2. Be more Positive

Be a force for good and spread the love! If you have to, pretend until it feels real and becomes a habit. Try to find the good in everyone and concentrate on that rather than their faults. If you are miserable it will show no matter how much you try to hide it. Other ways you can be more positive are:

-find your mantra. Create a personal mantra that reminds you to be more positive and repeat it to yourself many times a day.

-leave work at work. Create a ritual that you go through every evening that ‘draws a line in the sand’. Once your ritual is over, work is over and home life begins. Don’t spend every evening reliving your workday. Sing a song, go for a swim, walk the dog, play with your kids. Music, exercise, play and getting back to nature are great for your psyche – make sure you get some every day.

-have lunch. Resist the urge to eat at your desk. I know you’ve heard it before so just do it. Get out of the office and eat your lunch in peace. Go for a short walk, eat on a bench or in a café, sit in the park, watch the rest of the world go by even if it’s just for 10 minutes.

3. Live in the Now

Living in the now means creating the life you want to live right now. Ways that we can do this that will have a flow on affect to our work lives are:

-learn meditation. I recently spoke with someone who said they get really stressed by the necessity to learn how to relax using yoga and meditation but they can’t seem to find the time. My goodness – it doesn’t have to be that hard. You can meditate anywhere. It just means sitting still for 5 to 10 minutes with your eyes closed, breathing deeply and not engaging with your thoughts. Let your thoughts flit in and out without thinking about them. Listen to the sounds around you. Feel the sun or wind on your skin, inhale the smells around you. It’s that simple. Just stop and Be.

-do what you like doing. If you have a hobby – fully engage with it. Whatever makes you happy and has nothing to do with your work. Ideally, it would be something that is just about you. Not about your kids or your family. If you like playing tennis, join a club. If you are interested in astronomy, go to an observatory. If you like cooking, buy a new cookbook and cook something from it at least once per week.

4. Schedule your Time

Everyone says how busy they are. They don’t have time for all of this stuff. They are so busy reacting they forget to be fully present and aware. There are 24 hours in a day. If you really want to do something you will find the time – it’s just about commitment.

-block out rest periods in your calendar. These days our calendars are there for most of the office to see. Meetings get booked and your time disappears. Block out your lunch periods and time for yourself morning and afternoon. Close your door if you have one, go for a 5 minute walk, take some deep breaths and recalibrate yourself.

-don’t get lost in emails and social media. Schedule this time too. Respond to your emails in the morning and again in the afternoon. Leave social media for break time if it’s important to you. Your time is precious so don’t let it be sucked up.

-work late only once or twice per week. We all know that it’s pretty normal to have to work late. So make sure that it only happens once or twice per week. Leave on time the other days. Your work will still be there. The sky won’t fall in and you’ll have time to have a life and replenish your soul for better productivity at work.

If we all behaved like this it would be a much healthier and happier place. Good luck with your forays into mindfulness.

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