How Practicing Mindfulness at Work Can Increase Performance

By September 17, 2015May 1st, 2019Published Articles
Sea shells lined up in patterns expressing mindfulness

Mindfulness is showing up everywhere – as a topic and as a practice. There is nowhere it should be more welcome than in the workplace. What better place to fully experience the benefits of mindfulness? Work is where we strive to do our best and struggle with overwhelming deadlines and stress. Through practicing mindfulness, we can achieve: happiness, stress reduction, better memory, focus, calm, more maturity – i.e., self-regulation, better relationships, increased brain processing, and a myriad other health benefits.

Just what is it?

By definition, mindfulness cannot get much simpler. Yet within the concept there is an abundance of ironic confusion. Mindfulness is merely having one thought or one action at any one given moment. That’s it. Just be fully present.

The other part of the equation is to accept what comes up in that given moment, and then let it go, within that same instant. Whatever thoughts bubble up will float away, leaving room for only one breath, one action, and one thought at one given time.

The Practice – Plain and Simple

To illustrate the simplicity of this, consider the ways in which you can begin practicing mindfulness at work:

  1. Do one thing at a time. Take your to-do list for the day and consciously do one thing at a time, paying attention to each and every element of the task at each moment.
  2. In a meeting, listen fully when someone is talking before considering your response. Give your total attention to their contribution.
  3. Simply give your full, total attention to your given tasks. All day. Give up multi-tasking.
  4. Use a bell every hour to bring your attention to your breath for one minute. Pay attention to only your breath for that minute.
  5. When an emotion comes up in a team interaction, accept it without judgment and let it go. Keep working on the task at hand and release the emotion.

Is it meditation… or is that mindfulness?

There is a difference between mindfulness and meditation, although both practices are gaining traction in our culture. They are not mutually exclusive and they are not the same. They do co-exist and foster each other exponentially.

Mindfulness, again, is merely being fully present – and accepting what arises. Ideally, it is a state of awareness that we cultivate continuously. It isn’t reserved as a practice to be done with special props in a reserved room at home or in a shrine (although that is a lovely way to practice, also). Practicing in that way isn’t conceivable in every workplace.

Meditation is a more focused practice of chosen technique to train the mind. While it cultivates a state of mindfulness, it is not mindfulness. Within both practices are many shared benefits and a retraining of the mind and overall healthy brain hygiene.

The World Unfolding Now

However, being fully present in the workplace is something we can all do, and the benefits for both the individual and the company are widespread.

Consider a workplace in which employees are creatively engaged, responsible communicators, have focused clarity throughout the day, and practice superior self-regulation. With fully engaged workers as a result of practicing mindfulness, companies experience lower health care costs as well as greater productivity, fewer errors, lower turnover and greater innovation.

The Beauty is in the Doing

There is one thing not to do in the practice of mindfulness, and that is to expect perfection. Perfection is in the practice. Just making the effort to start over, whatever the previous results is perfection.

Our answers come in the times when our thoughts are messy, when we aren’t able to clear our heads enough to have one single thought at one given moment. As we practice clearing the mess away to get through and focus, we are achieving mindfulness.

There comes a point in practicing mindfulness when a deep calm is felt, while your mind is laser sharp. It is so reassuring it feels like that is the only right sensation to feel during the practice. Yet, if we were in that mental state all the time there would be no need to practice! The art is in practicing and clearing the mess away so we have the ability to return to that clarity. Our objective is being able to create and achieve that state.

Life will toss occasions at us that will send our emotions spinning: changes, death, opportunities, etc. By practicing mindfulness, we can clear the details away and attain clarity once again.

The practice of mindfulness, although currently a collectively beneficial phenomenon, is deeply personal. First, you choose how you want to practice. And when you practice at work, choose what you are going to transform through your newly focused clarity. As you focus your attention on that one single act, the one single thought in each given moment, know you are making a difference. And isn’t that one reason why we all want to work – to make a difference somehow?

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