by Kara Baskin
We live in an age of distraction. This is especially true at work, where we have to juggle competing demands on our attention all day long. "We often rely on multitasking to get everything done," says meQuilbrium CEO Jan Bruce. "However, this splinters our attention, and, according to research from Stanford, makes us less effective." In the fog of endless email, ringing phones, and shifting deadlines, it's easy to feel frayed -- and this hamster wheel erodes our physical and mental health.
The good news: the practice of mindfulness has been scientifically proven to reduce burnout and boost wellbeing. Mindfulness helps us to focus more sharply and perform better, and studies show it can boost creativity, reduces stress, and even promote better decision-making.
So what exactly is it -- and how do you do it?
Mindfulness is about knowing what's on your mind and cultivating awareness through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment. While it's often associated with mediation, there are many ways to be mindful that go beyond meditating. Meditation coach and speech pathologist Kimber Green explains -- and shares some tips on how to build a mindfulness practice at work:
1. Deepen Your Breath. Just one deep breath can slow your heart rate, improve blood pressure, and help cultivate a sense of control. "When you consciously bring focus onto your breath, you'll begin to relax," says Green. Take one minute twice a day to take 10 deep breaths. Inhale to a count to five, and exhale to a count of five. You'll be amazed at how this simple practice can halt anxiety and stress in its tracks and focus the mind. The best part -- no one will even know you're doing it!
2. Melt Your Muscles. Are you hovered over your desk with your jaw clenched and shoulders hunched? Try to catch yourself when you fall into a tight, stressed posture and take a moment to adjust. Drop your shoulders down, away from your ears. Relax your jaw by stretching it wide open several times. Sit up tall, pushing your shoulders back. "This helps open up space in your chest and diaphragm so that you can take calming, cleansing breaths," says Green.
3. Smile! Showing our pearly whites brings a sense of wellness to our entire body. "Physiologically, smiling brings awareness and almost everything else relaxes," she says. In fact, it has been shown to lower stress -- even in challenging situations. During the workday, take a few short breaks to watch a silly video, call your funniest friend, or share a joke with your co-workers. It won't just lift your mood -- it will brighten the mood of everyone around you.
4. Make the most of your commute. Use your time in transit to relax and unwind. If you drive, make a point to explore different radio stations and actively listen to some new music. If you take public transportation or walk, try an on-the-go meditation. These actions will help you calm your mind and destress from the day.
5. Spread joy. Our brains are wired towards negative thinking--but we can train our mind to be more positive by mindfully choosing to focus on our happier thoughts. Challenge yourself to come up with at least one positive story about your day to share with your partner or family at dinner. Sharing our joy with others leads to a heightened sense of wellbeing, increased overall life satisfaction, and even a boost in energy.
By practicing these simple tips, we can build our mindfulness muscles -- making workplace interactions more peaceful and purposeful.