The benefits of practicing mindfulness in the workplace have been garnering more attention than ever, and it’s not hard to see why. According to industry data, employee stress and burnout is estimated to cause businesses as much as $300 billion a year in lost productivity and healthcare costs. On an individual level, unmanaged stress and anxiety can hurt your career, impact your personal relationships and social life, and even take a toll on your physical and mental health and wellbeing. Understanding how to apply mindfulness techniques to your professional and everyday life can help with everything from effectively managing stress and burnout, to increasing personal and organizational productivity.
What Is Mindfulness and How Can it Help?
The concept of mindfulness can be described as cultivating a sense of awareness of the present moment, from your thoughts and feelings to distractions – and even preconceived notions and judgements about your thoughts and feelings. Being grounded and focused in the moment and your immediate surroundings is especially relevant in the current climate of minute-by-minute distractions and competing factors for your attention. Have you ever found yourself checking an email on one device while typing a separate message on another device and trying to maintain a conversation all at the same time, for example?
Still, there are those who have some difficulty envisioning the relevance of mindfulness in the workplace. In fact, I’m often asked, “Isn’t mindfulness and meditation something that people practice in yoga studios and ashrams?”
While mindfulness is rooted in Buddhist tradition and meditation often does go hand in hand with other relaxation practices like yoga, it actually a secular practice. And it’s been catching on with busy executives and professionals from all walks of life for a reason. According to the Harvard Business Review, practicing meditation can improve and enhance a number of key leadership qualities such as:
- Emotional intelligence
- Relationship building
But even if you are not a CEO, embracing mindfulness can still help you achieve your personal and professional goals.
What If I Hate Yoga and Don’t Want to Know How to Meditate?
Like any trend, there are many misconceptions about what mindfulness is, how to do it, and whether or not it is actually worth your time. For busy professionals who are generally already over-stressed and over-scheduled, the thought of adding yet another thing to an overflowing to-do list can be a recipe for even more stress and anxiety. Although the concept can be a little difficult to grasp at first, think of mindfulness not so much as a state of doing, but as a state of being.
How to Get Started
There are a number of resources available to help you get started on the journey towards slowing down and being present:
There’s an app for that – if you’re ready to give meditation a try but not sure where or how to get started, there are a number of apps and resources available to guide you through the process (or you can go the old-fashioned route and pick up a book). My app of choice is Calm, and a good book to start with is Pema Chodron’s How to Meditate: A Practical Guide to Making Friends with Your Mind.
Take a walk – Getting up out of the office and into the present moment will take some effort. Don’t have time (or the desire) to take a yoga class or meditate before, during or after work? Start small and set your alarm for a regularly scheduled break. Go outside for a mind-clearing walk. Try to pay attention to your surroundings and forget about work until you get back to your desk.
Take a deep breath and get out of your head – “Minding your breathing” is another core concept of practicing mindfulness. Try pausing throughout the day to see what’s happening with your breathing, breathe in a few deep breaths and see what happens.
Still not convinced? Consider the fact that billionaires like Oprah and Jeff Weiner swear by meditation and even firms like Goldman Sachs have jumped onboard the mindfulness train.