These days, we’re working longer hours than ever and spending less time with our families and friends, at our hobbies, and on our health. In the United States alone, we now spend an average of 47 hours a week at our jobs, and being digitally connected 24-7 can make us feel like we never quite get to leave. With emails, mobile phones, the web, and texting, work has completely bled into our home lives. How can we bring life back into balance without sacrificing success in the increasingly demanding workplace? Can practicing mindfulness help?
Study after study suggest that mindfulness is an essential component of professional achievement. Dr. Ellen Langer, a professor of psychology at Harvard University, has studied the effects of mindfulness for over 35 years. She finds that mindfulness is a common denominator amongst people who are tops in their fields.“At the very highest levels of any field—Fortune 50 CEOs, the most impressive artists and musicians, the top athletes, the best teachers and mechanics—you’ll find mindful people, because that’s the only way to get there,” said Langer.
In fact, the latest science shows that people who practice mindfulness demonstrate increased memory, are more focused, and have better relationships with their co-workers, all key ingredients of workplace success. Mindfulness, however, doesn’t just help at work; it can also help you achieve that seemingly elusive work-life balance. How?
Regular mindfulness and meditation practice enables you to become less reactive and more adaptable to pressure. It also helps to reduce stress. In other words, you won’t be reacting to issues blindly as they arise; you’ll learn to slow down, prioritize, and find optimal solutions. In other, other words, you’ll work smarter, not harder, leaving more time for your life away from the job. Less stress means you’ll actually enjoy that extra time, not spend it worrying about what’s going on back at the office.
“At the very highest levels of any field you’ll find mindful people, because that’s the only way to get there.”
Companies like Google and Apple already offer mindfulness courses to their employees, but what can you do if your company doesn’t yet offer mindfulness training? Not to worry; it’s possible to incorporate mindfulness into even the most hectic schedule. Here are five simple ways:
1. Stop. Just pause for a moment – you can stop what you are doing, or you can just pause for a moment in your mind.
2. Breathe. If you find yourself stressed at your desk, stop and take a few deep breaths, paying attention to your breath as it goes in and out. You’d be surprised at how well this can recharge you.
3. Think. With openness, curiosity, and without judgment, just notice the thoughts that are running through your mind and the quality of your inner dialogue (e.g., about a project or a coworker). Become aware of any emotions or physical sensations you may be feeling. If you notice any tension in your face, shoulders, hands, or body, just take a moment to breathe, let go of the inner dialogue, and relax your muscles. Then, just go back to whatever you were doing. This simple practice can be done as much as you like, and whenever you remember.
4. Plug in. You can meditate anywhere. (Yes, really!) So find an empty office, take a seat in your parked car, or take a mindful walk at lunch or while on a break. Pop in your earbuds, and use a mindfulness meditation app before, during, or after work for just a few minutes (or more!) to reap the benefits.
5. Go deeper. A self-paced online course offers a convenient way to learn mindfulness skills on your own schedule, deepening and reinforcing your practice.
After you’ve taken the time to refresh, you can go back to whatever you were doing. Remember, you can take time to stop, breathe & think as often as you’d like. It’s an always-available tool for your stressed-out moments. Happy meditating!