According to the American Psychological Association, stress has become a major health problem in the United States, especially work-related stress. Most of us have to deal with work-related stress at some time or another, but are we fully aware of the consequences?
Research has shown that too much stress leads to higher blood pressure, heart disease, overeating, and several other health problems. It also leads to various psychological and emotional problems. When we're stressed out, our lives are consumed with worry and insecurity. The bottom line is that stress will lead to an unhealthy and unhappy life. Fortunately, there is a simple solution.
I'm sure you've heard all the talk about how mindfulness meditation is sweeping the nation. There are good reasons for this. Over the last few years, scientists have confirmed what meditators have known for thousands of years, that mindfulness meditation leads to happier, healthier, and more fulfilling lives.
The way it works is simple. By calming your mind, you will be able to see the world with much greater clarity, and make better decisions in your life. Furthermore, less agitation in your mind results in more steady emotions, and greater inner strength.
So how do you beat stress with mindfulness meditation? Here are some simple suggestions for helping you get started with the practice, and for bringing mindfulness into the workplace.
At the core of mindfulness, is being in the present moment, because that is where all of reality is taking place. The past no longer exists, and the future always remains in the future. All of life experience is in the present moment.
Mindfulness meditation is the primary tool for developing mindfulness. Find a quiet place (at home or work) where you can sit for a few minutes without being disturbed. Close your eyes and begin following your breath. Focus your attention on the sensation of the air passing through the tip of your nose. Count your breaths 1 through 5 silently in your mind. When you get to 5, simply start over again.
When you get distracted, immediately bring your attention back to your breath, and continue counting. What the counting does is help you stay focused. After a few minutes, your mind will begin to slow down.
You don't have to meditate for long periods of time to realize the benefits of mindfulness meditation. You can start with 10-15 minute sessions a few times a week, then gradually work your way up to longer sessions.
You can even start a small meditation group at work. All you need are a couple of coworkers to meditate with you either before work, or during lunch for just a few minutes. Many successful companies are already doing this.
Practice Mindful Breathing
You can practice mindful breathing at any time of the day, no matter where you are. Simply stop what you're doing, and take 3-5 mindful breaths, then continue what you were doing. By mindful breaths, I mean pay close attention to your breathing, while you avoid thinking about anything else. What this does is interrupt the acceleration of your mind, so that it doesn't get too agitated. It will also help you stay calm in tense situations.
Practice Mindful Walking
How much walking do you do during the course of your day? Quite a lot, probably. Each time you walk is an excellent opportunity to meditate. Just use the same techniques you use with mindful breathing, only take each step with deep awareness. And if you're not in any particular hurry, then slow down. By slowing down your body, you force your mind to follow.
Practice Deep Listening
Most of us do not listen closely when we're engaged in conversation. Stephen Covey once said, "Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply." We are usually thinking about how to interject our opinion, or of something entirely different.
To practice deep listening, start by looking into other people's eyes. Then pay close attention to what they're saying, and resist the temptation to let your mind wander off. This will dramatically improve your communication and relationships, because people will see that you're sincerely interested in what they have to say. It shows appreciation and respect, and works wonders for healing and transformation.
Practice Mindful Speech
Many of us do not think carefully when we're about to speak. We usually just say what's on our mind, without considering how our words will be interpreted, or what the consequences will be. Sometimes, we even regret saying some things.
Our speech can have a significant impact on our interactions and relationships. When you're around other people, consider how they feel in your presence. Do they seem tense, or at ease? Our words can either create chaos, harmony, or have little impact. Of the three, isn't harmony preferable for our work environment?
We can practice mindful speech by choosing our words more carefully, instead of just reacting to what other people say. Try choosing words that are more loving, healing, and respectful, especially in tense situations. As with deep listening, mindful speech can bring about a tremendous amount of healing and transformation.
As your mind becomes more calm and serene through mindfulness meditation, these mindfulness practices will come to you naturally. Imagine what it would be like if everyone at your job practiced mindfulness. With greater awareness, everyone would clearly see how to work together to achieve their common goals. There would be better communication, more cooperation, less tension, and greater productivity. And that means a more pleasant work environment, and less stress on you.