The holidays are a nice reminder about the importance and the benefits of slowing down a little. In today’s culture of overwork it can be hard to remember what it even feels like not to be super stressed. Whether in spite of this culture or because of it, it seems that conversations about the importance of mindfulness practices for health, wellness, and success have been popping up everywhere you turn lately. In light of that, here are some tips that might help you find mindfulness practices that work for you, which could be good for you and your career.
1. Don’t just do something, sit there. And, breathe.
Mindfulness practices aren’t all about doing some kind of activity. Actually, just fostering an awareness of life and living that’s a little different from the usual could make a big difference in the way you think and feel. In our current culture, it seems the solution to everything is to get up and do something about it. But, taking action just for action’s sake could be missing the point.
The next time a stressful work crisis comes up and you’re not sure what to do – don’t just do something, sit there. Rather than letting emotions (especially negative ones like fear) do the talking, just sit back and center before jumping to a decision. Take 10 deep breaths, or even just one, and focus on your breathing rather than the problem at hand. Even a mindfulness practice as simple as this could help you make a more level-headed choice.
These days, we’re all pretty accustomed to doing more than one thing at a time. But, when interacting with others, try putting everything else aside. When you’re in conversation with someone, make an effort to really listen to what they’re saying to you, and show them that they have your full attention by looking at them and responding directly to what they have to say. Sure, you have emails to answer and files to go over, but they can wait. When a living, breathing human is standing right beside you, give them your full, undivided attention.
3. Step away from the technology once in a while.
In essence, mindfulness practices are about focusing and being present. Emails, cell phones, social media, etc., all pull us away from that goal. So, simply start by stepping away from the technology. There are other ways to relieve stress. Technology (checking your email on your phone for example) just kind of pauses the stress, it doesn’t reduce it. Get quieter. Try reading a book. If you’re like a lot of folks these days, you might find it kind of challenging at first. But, if you slow down a little, allow for a few idle moments, and take a bit of a break from all your devices, you might just find yourself more relaxed and present. Just like in the olden days.
Again, mindfulness practices aren’t just about yoga or meditation; mindfulness is really about being fully present in the moment. Connecting in meaningful ways with others is a great step toward this, and being kind to someone else is a great way to connect. The gesture doesn’t have to be grand; even just asking someone how their weekend was and sincerely listening to the response is a step in the right direction. Gearing your mind toward being kind to others is a mindfulness practice in and of itself. Try, every day, to do something to make someone else’s day a little easier. You’ll find that you’re doing something good for yourself at the same time.
5. Be aware of transitions when going from one thing to the next.
Things that we do every day, like driving to and from work for example, can become so routine that we do them without any awareness at all. Making an attempt toward better mindfulness helps us remember to be present at every step of the day.
When commuting to work, be aware that you’re moving from one place to the other. Imagine you’re on a bridge from home to work. Work problems and worries lie on one side of the bridge and home/personal issues lie on the other. These kinds of exercises could help you be more present and aware in each space and at each time of day.
You can do the same kind of thing when going from one client meeting to the next, going to and from lunch, etc. The trick is to bring awareness to every turn of the day, no matter how routine those turns may be. This might lead you toward improved focus, and ultimately better productivity. You might even feel more content and relaxed overall. And, these days, who would turn that down?!