If you have any interest in psychology, meditation, yoga, or mental health, you’ve probably heard the word “mindfulness” being tossed around. Some think it’s a relaxation technique, others feel it’s self-actualization that only truly enlightened individuals can achieve.
Mindfulness is being aware of your present experiences, and acknowledging your feelings in a non-judgemental manner. It involves stopping what you’re doing, looking internally and noticing thoughts/feelings/sensations, and accepting them as they are.
It sounds a bit hippie-dippie, or something that seems impossible to achieve, but this self-awareness is very important to your mental health. Mindfulness grounds you, it keeps you from ruminating about the past or future. It allows you to safely observe your reactions to potentially distressing situations, understand what you’re feeling, and then continue with what you’re doing. It’s not avoiding painful emotions or difficult situations, but instead staying with the emotions until they become less intense. It’s important to notice what’s going on in your life, coming to terms with what is going on, but not letting it consume you.
Mindfulness helps improve your focus, allowing you to pay attention to the world around you. Even as you’re reading this, take a moment and see how you’re sitting, what you’re feeling. Are you carrying unnecessary tension somewhere in your body? What sounds and sensations are around you? Is there an anxiety-provoking thought that has been running in the back of your mind? Take a minute to look at these thoughts, acknowledge them, and then move on. Let them be and continue on with your work, bringing your focus to the task at hand.
The workplace is a great opportunity to practice mindfulness, especially when you find yourself losing concentration or motivation. They don’t take a lot of time or energy, and can easily be done without distracting others around you.
This exercise takes less than five minutes, and involves paying attention to any physical sensations throughout our body. Start at the top of your head, and slowly move down to your toes. Notice what’s cold or hot, whether you’re feeling a strain or comfortable. You’re not trying to relax or improve your posture, but just take in account what is going on and acknowledge it.
This activity is a great break from your day when you’re feeling overwhelmed and feel like you’re losing control. Take a minute and acknowledge the following:
- 5 things you see
- 4 things you feel
- 3 things you hear
- 2 things you smell
- 1 thing you taste
This exercise is a quick way to ground you, and help you reorient to where you are and what you’re doing.
Sometimes at work we go into autopilot, we keep chugging along and lose track of time and what’s going on around us. This exercise is meant to bring you back to the present and increase your awareness of yourself and the environment. The first step is sitting in the moment and noting the thoughts going through your mind. Pull yourself out of auto pilot and make note of what you’re feeling and thinking. Afterwards, begin taking slow deep breaths, focusing all of your attention on the rise and fall of your chest. After 5-6 breathes, expand your awareness to your body as a whole. Feel the breathe through your whole body, noting any tightness or other sensations. After a few more breathes, open your eyes and resume what you were doing.