Mindfulness at work - how to make regular mindfulness part of your work day routine.
Updated: Jul 8, 2018
It seems to be universally accepted that living in the moment is good, and dwelling in the past or the future is bad.
When you think about it as a concept, it makes perfect sense, right?
All we have is now. Everything in life happens right here, right now. So why spend our days obsessing and worrying about stuff that’s already happened — or what ifs?
So why do so many of us have the best intentions to incorporate some type of formal mindfulness meditation practice into our everyday routine – but fall short when it comes to actually doing it? And how can the workplace help us turn that around.
In my experience – there are two key things that get in the way of us practicing mindfulness meditation. Prioritisation and expectation.
One of the big barriers for many people is finding the time to meditate during their busy day – and this is where work can help.
Any good employer who is worth working for will recognise that happy and content employees make productive employees. So that means a good employer will generally support their people in whatever endeavour they wish to undertake to be happy and content at work (within reason of course).
So when you’ve made a decision that you want mindfulness to be part of your daily routine; do whatever you need to do to make it part of your (and your colleagues) regular work routine. If you practice for at least ten minutes a day at work – and you practice with some colleagues – there’s a much better chance that the habit will stick.
Chances are, something will already be in place at work and it’s simply a matter of getting on board. Find out by checking your intranet; asking your safety and well-being team or HR rep; emailing your leader or your leader’s leader or your CEO.
And if it’s not already in place - start something.
I started a ‘Mindfulness at Work’ group at one of my previous jobs on our company wide Yammer network. We ended up with 500 group members and I meditated with my Sydney based colleagues a number of times during the week. The group also prompted other employees in other locations to start similar local meditation groups.
Our leaders were incredibly supportive and I was able to work with our Safety and Well-being team to make sure that my sessions - and the information on our company intranet about mindfulness and meditation – complemented each other.
For many people, the reality of mindful meditation doesn’t meet their expectation. They may have an expectation that after a few weeks or months of practicing, they will somehow enter a permanent state of bliss – no longer experiencing any negative or destructive thoughts, and untroubled by the everyday struggles of life.
The human mind is a thought making machine. That’s one of the main things it does. That’s it’s job. So expecting the mind to ever be free of negative thinking or troubling thoughts is like expecting a beautiful summer evening to be free of mosquitos. Never going to happen.
Knowing that is actually quite liberating because once you are able to give up the expectation - you can simply get on with the business of becoming more familiar with your mind – which is really the main goal of mindfulness meditation. Specifically – becoming more aware of your thoughts and thinking patterns.
When we have no awareness of our thinking – our thoughts rule us. They take us down whichever path they choose on any given day – happy; sad; depressed; excited; lonely – and we blindly follow.
Eckhart Tolle nailed it when he wrote, “ the greater part of human pain is unnecessary. It is self-created as long as the unobserved mind runs your life”.
By focusing on our breath during mindfulness meditation practice and being aware of (but not following) distracting thoughts as they arise – we gradually become more familiar with our mind and how it works.
It is through this familiarity that we start to experience a sense of freedom. Not freedom from thought. Being free of thought is never the objective – but freedom to choose. Becoming familiar with the mind gradually shows us that our thoughts aren’t real and that we can in fact choose which path we want to follow – and what we ultimately want to focus on.
The familiarity with your thinking allows you to see clearly that thoughts really are like clouds – and a good gust of wind the next minute / hour /day will blow away the dark ones and reveal some blue sky again.
Not sure how to get started?
Try downloading the Headspace app, or another of the variety of apps available. Each has its own point of difference so experiment with them and find the one which works for you. You can play a guided meditation from YouTube when practicing with your colleagues.
Some focus on breathing; some focus on paying attention to sensations in the body; and some do a combination of both. Again, experiment and stick with the one you like. There’s no right or wrong.
Need something a bit more structured? Try the 8-week free on-line mindfulness training course developed by mindfulness thought leader Jon Kabat-Zinn. This comes with videos, reading material and guided meditations.
And if you like to learn by reading – try ‘Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself’ by Joe Dispenza.
But don’t forget – with mindfulness, it is practice that makes perfect.