As I watch the application, and acceptance, of Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction , I am impressed by the in-roads mindfulness has made into corporate America, in particular. Google, Apple, Yahoo!, Texas Instruments, Aetna and General Mills are but a handful of Fortune 500 firms that have integrated mindfulness training into employee wellness benefits, including on-site classes. And even more progressive firms – from start-ups to main-street storefronts – are embracing the productive influences mindfulness has in the workplace, delivering MBSR training and creating a more engaged and inspired workforce.
While mindfulness-based programs are working their way into our cubes and offices, many companies have never been exposed to, much realize its many benefits. If your employer is one of those who are not offering to its employees and your co-workers, there are mindfulness practices you can apply on your own to relieve the pressures of deadlines, corporate politics, even distractions outside the work place that may be affecting your workday performance.
For the most part, mindfulness in the workplace is no different than mindfulness in life outside the office. It takes practice and a commitment to living in the present. The next time you feel overwhelmed in the office, try one, if not all of these three tips.
Focus on the Breath. Take a few minutes to focus on your breathing. Inhale deeply for through your nose, inhaling until your lungs are full Then exhale slowly until your lungs are completely empty.. This simple breathing exercise – which takes about a minute, or longer if you wish – brings your mental focus into the present, relieving your mind of stress-inducing distractions, and can create an immediate sense of calm, like pressing the “reboot” on your computer.
Sitting with Purpose. Take a moment, once in the morning and once in the afternoon, to notice how you are sitting. Where are your hands and arms? Are you slumped or upright? What angle does your head hold? How are your feet and legs resting? Once you’ve taken inventory of your posture, adjust it so your back is straight, your neck and head aligned with your spinal column, which should be straight, but not stiff. Keep your eyes focused a yard or so in front of you. Notice your breathe and surrender to gravity as best you can, paying particular attention to letting the muscles go in your face, hands, arms and legs. Sit like this, comfortably for five minutes.
Make it Routine. Mindfulness is not a quick-fix to the pressure of business in the 21st century, although its impact on stress levels may be relatively quick , we can only reap its long-lasting effects through consistent practice. Consciously set aside 5-10 minutes a day at your desk to practice what you’ve learned.
Want to take it to another level in your office? Invite co-workers to join you for a 30-minute session every week when you commit to decompressing in a more relaxed environment outside your personal work space. In the process of developing a group practice, you may be surprised at the number of your co-workers already practicing mindfulness and meditation.
Finally, if you’d like to introduce a mindfulness-based program into your workplace on a broader level, give me a call. Long-term success from mindfulness practice, regardless of the environment, takes practice and training. Guided meditation, washing away competitive and achievement-oriented mindsets, even molding a group experience, tend to be much more rewarding when led by a trained instructor. And relative to other employee benefits, the costs for in-office mindfulness-based training are low; the returns many.