How often do you hear yourself or a colleague say, “I’m so busy, I don’t seem to have time to think”; too often you might say.
It can be easy to rush through your days, even life, without taking time to pause and notice what’s happening around you. It reminds me of those car journeys where you suddenly realise you have reached a landmark and can’t quite recollect how you got there; sound familiar?
The reality of the world we now live in is that the number of things competing for both our attention and time seems limitless. The impact is that we can spend way too much time living in the past or future and forget the here and now.
Paying more attention to your thoughts and feelings and the world around you in the present moment can improve your mental wellbeing.
This article is the first of a two-part series about what mindfulness is, how it can help wellbeing and start to share ideas on how you can easily use it at work to help you and your team. In part 2 we offer more ideas on workplace techniques.
What Is Mindfulness?
Professor Mark Williams, the former director of the Oxford Mindfulness Centre in the UK, describes mindfulness as, “Knowing directly what is going on inside and outside of ourselves, moment by moment.”
This definition by the Mindful Organisation resonates too, as it describes what can happen in busy organisations.
“Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.”
The demands on leaders and their teams today can be so great that it’s easy to be caught up in our thoughts and not notice how they then drive our emotions and behaviours. It’s at times like this when people ‘react’ that can lead to challenging situations, which we then have to manage.
Mindfulness: Can It Help Wellbeing?
Being more aware of the present moment and what is happening allows us to enjoy the world around us and understand ourselves better.
The more aware we become of what we’re thinking, how we’re feeling and the impact it has on our behaviours, the more choices we have. If a leader worries over a rumour about more organisational change, it will at some level alter how they go about their day to day work and interaction with their team. It will only be a matter of time before some sharp team member notices and wonders, ‘what’s wrong’.
By noticing this unhelpful thought, the leader can choose a different though, one of which could be: Based on the facts I know today, it’s business as usual.
As a result, they can refocus and engage with their team and their job in their usual way, without additional stress or anxiety.
Remember, there is significant overwhelming research that demonstrates mindfulness improves cognition, reduces brain distraction and may even prevent depression. You can learn more about the science behind mindfulness in this post in the Harvard Gazette here.
How Practical Is It To Use Mindfulness In Work?
While mindfulness may seem like a great idea in an ideal world, can you become more mindful during the working day? After all, it’s usually jam-packed with meetings, calls, one to ones, emails, client meetings… the list goes on.
The simple answer is yes and contrary to a few misperceptions you don’t need a meditation room. So, here are some practical ways you can incorporate mindfulness into your workday.
Take A Relaxing Lunch Break
The Excel training team deliver training in many organisations across the globe, and while cultures approach lunch breaks differently and companies encourage employees to take breaks away from their desks, it is still common to see team members eating lunch in front of their screens or skipping it entirely.
Taking a deliberate break where you can both physically and mentally detach from work, improves concentration and minimises that afternoon dip. If you are thinking, “but I don’t get a dip”, that may be because you reach out for that bar of chocolate or fizzy drink to keep your energy levels up and have forgotten that’s the reason you are doing it in the first place!
Use Short Mindful Exercises
There are some simple exercises you can do to train your brain to be more mindful. The more mindful exercises you do, the easier your brain finds it to drop into a mindful state. Even a 3-minute exercise as explained by ‘mindful’, in the link we have provided, will make a difference.
The process helps to rebalance your nervous system, toning down the fight-or-flight response and engaging the wise part of your brain, so that you make reasoned decisions rather than automatically react to situations.
‘mind’ has a range of easy to action exercises ranging from mindful moving, walking and running to colouring and drawing. If you’ve ever been to our head office, you’ll have seen a number of large colouring canvases which we use as just one way to support our own mindfulness.
Adopt A Growth Mindset
According to Carol Dweck and her team at Stanford University, people essentially adhere to one of two mindsets—a growth or a fixed mindset. I have linked to our post and podcast here.
People with a fixed mindset believe that their basic qualities, such as their intelligence and talents, are fixed traits. Instead of developing their intelligence and talents, they spend their time hoping their traits will lead to success. They don’t seek to develop themselves because they think that talent alone leads to success. They turn out to be wrong—brain science has proved otherwise.
Mindfulness is about adopting a growth mindset and giving attention to the present moment rather judging your innate talent or intelligence and therefore consequently being open to new possibilities.
What new possibilities are you now open to about mindfulness and how it can help you and your team?
Next time, I will be sharing a few more practical ideas you can use with your team and clarify a few myths about what mindfulness isn’t.
About Excel Communications
Excel Communications has a 30+ year history as a global leadership and communication skills organisation dedicated to exceeding the expectations of clients through the training and development of their business and people. You can view our case studies here.
We have a team of expert trainers delivering programmes across four continents in multiple languages. Isn’t it time you got in touch? Call us now on +44 (0) 1628 488 854.