Our jobs play a significant role in our lives. From paying the bills to advancing our careers, and giving us a sense of purpose. And yet, even if you love what you do, it can get stressful. We are only human after all. So deadlines, presentations, phone calls, and unexpected obstacles can cause stress and anxiety. In this context, a few minutes of inner calm can make a huge difference. That’s why many business giants like Google, Apple, and Nike are turning to mindfulness to preserve mental health while keeping productivity up. The benefits of mindfulness are many. Here’s how to get started and encourage mindfulness in the workplace.
You are sitting at your desk. Yet, your mind is far away, wandering aimlessly. You think about the meeting for tomorrow, Anne’s argument with the boss, or Peter’s promotion. And if this wasn’t enough, office chat tools and social media bombard you with information, constantly competing for your attention. Whether you are daydreaming, stressing about the future, or distracted by news or memes, your wandering mind sabotages you. It jeopardizes your productivity, which ultimately leads to more stress and anxiety as your to-do list keeps growing and growing.
Here’s when we talk about mindfulness. Based on Buddhist principles, this practice helps us cleanse our minds of unwanted thoughts and emotions. In simple terms, mindfulness is the act of being fully present in whatever you are doing. Being mindful in the workplace consists of being aware of a specific task, and bringing your attention back to it whenever your mind wanders somewhere else. With time, this simple skill helps you gain a better understanding of how your mind works. What’s more, it enhances concentration and allows you to identify your own biases and negative thought patterns. Sounds quite amazing, right? But does it actually work? This is what science says!
How mindfulness in the workplace is changing the 21st century
In 2018, approximately 52% of companies taught mindfulness, especially through meditative techniques. Many top companies integrate it into daily organized practices for their employees. Some others allocate quiet places for their workers or give them access to mobile apps. After the COVID-19, interest in mindfulness grew significantly. Now, employers and employees are eager to combat the stress of working remotely, burnout, anxiety, and more. And why so much interest? As previously mentioned, mindfulness has many benefits which have been proven by several scientific studies.
A recent article in the Journal of Occupational Health and Psychology, for example, looked at the effects of practicing mindfulness in the workplace. An instructor with eighteen years of experience delivered mindfulness training to sixty employees at a marketing firm. Participants learned to be mindful while seated. In addition, they learned how to use mindfulness skills while eating, conversating, and listening to music. Then, participants were assigned to a group that didn’t practice mindfulness and a group that did practice mindfulness daily.
The results showed that, while both groups managed to positively shift perceptions of job productivity, long-term mindfulness practice reaps more benefits. For instance, the mindfulness group demonstrated increased job satisfaction, greater ability to focus, and less work-life conflict. What these and many other studies demonstrate is that continuous mindfulness practice can radically transform workplaces. If you are interested in bringing mindfulness to the workplace, you might be wondering where to find an instructor with eighteen years of experience in the field or the best program. Luckily, mindfulness is easy and inexpensive.
How to practice mindfulness in the workplace? 5 Easy Steps
Mindfulness meditation is not the only way to become mindful. In fact, there are lots of hacks that can make a difference. Here are five of them:
1. Be consciously present
Work is all about being focused on whatever you are doing. But when was the last time you were 100% engaged, doing deep work? It isn’t easy, especially when you are multitasking and taking care of a whole bunch of things. So the goal here is to pay attention and be as present as you can be. Ditch multitasking in favor of doing one task. At the start of your day, decide what task you would like to focus on. If your mind wanders to any distraction or unrelated thought, just acknowledge it and go back to the activity.
2. Focus on your breath
When your mind is plagued by negative thoughts, or when your heart races at the sound of your phone, just take a deep breath. It sounds simple, but it works! The action of breathing deeply sends a message to your brain — “calm down and relax”. Then, the brain sends this message to your whole body. As a result, all of these reactions you experience under stress (frenetic heart rate, high blood pressure, and quick breathing) decrease.
To start, just close your eyes and relax your body. Inhale deeply through your nostrils (2 or 3 seconds). Hold your breath for a bit (but don’t overdo it!). And then, exhale out. Your mind may wander somewhere else, but don’t worry. Acknowledge that and gently bring yourself back to your breathing. Repeat as many times as you need. And the great thing is that you can do it anywhere, at your desk, standing, or while sitting on the floor.
3. Acknowledge and let go
Stress and anxiety harm our productivity. Similarly, resentment and anger impact workflow and lead to even more stress and anxiety. Instead of silently swallowing your anger or venting to your coworkers, acknowledge it. Stay in the present and recognize that anger. Try to look for the root of it. Or, if it’s a colleague who is feeling frustrated, try to discover what caused that reaction in the first place. This way, it will be easier to forgive them or forgive yourself. If you’d like, go back to your breathing. As you breathe in, think “I am absorbing my frustration”. And, as you breathe out, say “I am releasing my anger and I’m forgiving myself for feeling that way.”
4. Say YES to a growth mindset
Many people believe they can succeed professionally just by being talented. Research proves otherwise. According to American psychologist Carol Dweck, those who believe that their skills can be developed (through hard work, feedback, and smart strategies) are more likely to succeed. These individuals have a “growth mindset”. And what has this to do with mindfulness? Everything! Being mindful consists of focusing on the now without judgment — judgment of your abilities or skills. In other words, mindfulness is about being open to possibilities (aka having a growth mindset).
So, next time you get negative feedback or feel like you can’t cope with a challenging project, pause for a moment. Realize that this is a “fixed mindset”. Instead of dwelling on negative thoughts, ask yourself: how will this help me grow further?
5. Go for a mindful walk
If you prefer something more physical, mindful walking or walking meditation may be perfect for you. It’s all about paying attention to the physical experience of walking. You can do it as you walk to the office, at the park, or even indoors. This increases awareness of your inner sensations and connects you with your surroundings. As a result, you experience a greater sense of control over your thoughts and feelings.
Start by choosing a place for your walk. Then, start moving. You can practice mindful breathing, or simply focus on sensations. For example, become aware of your legs’ movements. Expand your awareness of the sounds, smells, and visuals surrounding you. Don’t label anything as “bad” or “good”. Just notice, without judging.
Need an extra hand?
The digital revolution has come with many advantages. Nowadays, with the swipe of a smartphone, anyone can access a virtual version of the kind of mindful workshops offered by the likes of Google and Nike. Not only do wellness apps benefit a person’s mental health and well-being but, by doing this, they also benefit the whole team’s mental health. Studies even suggest that this kind of resource can positively impact the company’s overall financial health.
Synctuition, for example, offers 3D sound journeys that make mindfulness easy, effective, and entertaining. By incorporating spatial audio from natural locations, original music, and binaural beats, the program promotes deep relaxation, better sleep, and many other positive wellness outcomes. The journeys can be accessed on a daily basis to create the habit of self-care.
Needless, to say, it is impossible to avoid all sources of stress at work (and we wouldn’t want that!). And it’s also important to bear in mind that mindfulness isn’t a magical fix for everyone, nor is it the way to eliminate the structural issues that make a workplace stressful. What mindfulness can do is build inner resilience and teach us how to efficiently respond to the challenges that are under our control.
Interested in a personal development tool to take care of your mental health? Try out Synctuition! Developed by sound experts, the app features over a hundred spatial audio meditations to promote deep relaxation and cultivate a mindful mindset. Our program offers a 30-days free trial for businesses looking forward to supporting their team’s well-being. No strings attached!