I am terrible at meditating: I don’t like to sit still, I fidget, I can’t keep my eyes closed, my mind tends to wander about and worry about the next thing on my calendar, and my legs just won’t twist into the pretzel-like lotus position if you paid me a million dollars to do it (although, I’d really try hard to get there if someone wanted to pay me that much to do it!). Meditating is weird. And, for me, it feels weird to meditate at work.
Mindfulness has become a buzzword among businesses and leaders in the last few years, and many businesses and organizations are incorporating mindfulness practices at work as a way to help their employees reduce stress and become more productive. When we hear the word, mindfulness, many of us (myself included) conjure images of workers in our business attire silently sitting in a dimly-lit room while struggling to balance in lotus position and sitting on those thin yoga mats, trying to meditate in silence while we struggle to keep our minds from wandering to our next task. Over the past year, however, I’ve learned that my imagination is very inaccurate when it comes to mindfulness at work.
What is mindfulness?
There are many definitions and descriptions of mindfulness. Simply put, to be mindful means to be aware of how you are experiencing the present moment.
For example, take a moment to focus on your physical self:
- Right now, how is your posture? Check to see if you’re slouching over your computer or mobile device: are your shoulders hunched? are you looking downward at your mobile device? are you sliding down in your chair? are your legs crossed or are your feet both on the ground? Try repositioning your body so your posture is in alignment and your muscles relaxed.
- How does your physical self feel? any soreness or stiffness in your neck or back? If so, maybe now is a good time to look away from your screen for a little bit and stand up to stretch your muscles a bit.
- How’s your breathing? do you feel short of breath? are you feeling a little tired? While you’re standing, take a deep breath—as much as your lungs can hold—and exhale. Try this one or two more times.
- How’s your thirst? would a drink of water make you feel better? do you have that dry feeling in your mouth that we are so good at ignoring? Since you’re standing, maybe it’s a good time to take a little walk to get a quick drink of water.
As we get absorbed in our work, it’s easy to let our bodies slump down and succumb to gravity. But it’s important to take some time throughout the day to allow ourselves to be aware of our bodies and how they are making us feel.
And this type of practice—simply running through the above physical inventory of our physical self, and adjusting our posture and breathing for a few minutes—is mindfulness. In fact, I like to think of it as taking a moment of self-care.
The Science of Mindfulness
Sure, mindfulness includes meditation or similar practices. This article published in Mindful magazine, Rewiring Your Emotions, is a useful piece that provides some information about how mindful practices can help improve our neurological health. Ultimately, simple habits like this can help us to do well in all areas of our lives: work, home, hobbies, self.