If you have been on social media sites, reading publications such as Time or Forbes, listening to radio programs, or attending a wellness conference, you’ve likely heard about mindfulness in the workplace. Magazines, social media pages, books, and conferences are completely dedicated to the subject. Check out Wisdom 2.0 Conference schedule (http://www.wisdom2summit.com/) and you’ll see that mindfulness is not just a stress reduction technique anymore – it’s a part of doing business, impacting social and economic change, maintaining and improving mental health, and building effective relationships. So the question is not should you have a mindfulness program, it is… where do you begin?
Mindfulness is individual. But it impacts everyone. So whether it’s an individual choice or an organizational initiative, mindfulness begins here. Now. With you. As you are. Where you are. It’s that simple. Oh, but it’s not easy… nope. A sense of humor is a definite requirement.
Mindfulness is intentionally being present and non-judgemental. When we pay attention to our thoughts and behaviours on purpose, we will notice all kinds of things about ourselves that we were not aware of before – some of which we won’t really like. Often, this awareness leads to intentionally changing how we respond to situations so that we are kinder, more compassionate, more loving, and more accepting –of ourselves and others. Raising mindfulness improves relationships, lessens stress, and strengthens focus. All good stuff! But where do you begin?
Here are five things you can do right now to begin a mindfulness practice:
- Breathe. Yes, of course… you already breathe. In this case, breathe with purpose many times a day. Pay attention to your breath. And when you take that moment to consciously breathe, pay attention to what you are feeling and thinking at that moment. Don’t label it as good or bad. Just be aware of it and get curious about why you might feel that way. You might even change how you were going to respond to a situation in that moment because of that simple purposeful breath.
- Meditate. People often ask why meditation is so important to mindfulness. Our minds are typically as calm as a dozen four year olds on Christmas Eve hyped up on sugar and in a jumping castle waiting for Santa. It’s called the Monkey Mind, which means your mind is restless and uncontrollable. We often try to control everything external to us, yet our minds go uncontrolled for long periods of time. Well, most of us don’t want to ‘lose our mind’ anytime soon, so if you haven’t already mastered a daily meditation practice, start now. Start with two minutes and lengthen it as you can.You do not need music or any special props – although you can find free or purchased guided meditations to get you started. Just sit (Warning for all you readers juggling a million balls in the air: Don’t lie down! You might fall asleep!). Close your eyes – or not. And pay attention to something. Focus on something. Your breath. The sounds around you. A mantra if you wish. Just pay attention to something. One of the benefits of mindful meditation (as opposed to relaxation meditation… the kind that we CAN fall asleep doing!) is training the brain to pay attention. How many of us say focus is one of the most important things for being productive and successful? Well, your brain has to pay attention for that to happen. Distractions today are in excess, and our minds are trained to NOT pay attention. We need to build new neuro-networks and meditation makes that happen!
- On that note… reduce distractions. Surely, you’ve read about this and may have even attempted to do this. Turn off the red, flashing light on your phone. Turn off all beeps. Shut down all programs on your computer that you are not currently working on. Turn off the ringer on your phone if that’s feasible. Commit to a certain amount of time each day in a ‘No Distractions Zone’ – that means no checking your social media. How many times have you opened Facebook or Twitter or LinkedIn to complete a business task and you’re still there 30 minutes later?! Your ‘No Distraction Zone’ may last five minutes the first time you try it. Start where you are and extend your zone time over time. Practice being really present.
- Embark on a kindness journey. Last Fall, my coach inspired me to start intentionally carrying out random acts of kindness. I’m a pretty kind kinda woman, so it wasn’t that I was mean or selfish to begin with, but we do tend to get self-centered and dwell in our worries and frustrations. Oh, OK… I admit it, I festered. This is our mind spiralling out of control and to be mindful, we need to control that monkey mind. We’ve all heard that worry is a wasted emotion. When you focus on others, you forget about your own ‘worries’. It builds compassion, which is a mindful leader trait, you’re doing something good, and, frankly, it feels great!
- Get curious. If something bothers you, frustrates you, angers you, disgusts you (insert any negative emotion here), ask why. This is an indication that you may need to let go of something – a judgement of self or others, an intolerance, or an insecurity. We are human and we will experience a whole range of emotions. Being mindful doesn’t take our emotions away and it doesn’t mean we ignore them – it makes us aware of them, makes us aware of why we have them, and helps us to respond more effectively, more lovingly, more compassionately. It’s good for everyone.
To create a mindful culture in your organization, team, or group, start with you. Join a group for support, learning, and encouragement. When you have others wanting some of what you have, you’ll have a few champions that can begin the culture shift in your organization, and then the real fun can begin!
Tina Pomroy is the President of Pomroy Consulting and is a Harmony and Wellness Partner. She uses a holistic approach for helping leaders and managers create healthy and productive workplaces. She provides group and individual coaching, consulting, and training, with her key programs including Mindful Management, Business Buddha, and Create Your Culture. Tina is a Certified Human Resources Professional and has completed a Bachelor of Commerce, Master of Business Administration, and a Certificate of Mastermind Executive Coaching. Her mission is to create workplaces in which people are happy contributors and businesses that thrive. To learn more about Tina, you can find her on LinkedIn, or visit Pomroy Consulting on Facebook or Twitter.