According to a Harvard University study, nearly half of people’s time (47%) is spent thinking about something other than what they’re doing. What are they thinking about instead? Anything and everything – dinner last night, an upcoming meeting, or speculating about what might happen or what could’ve happened in the past.
The study also tracked happiness levels and found that the more often a person’s mind wandered the more likely they were to be unhappy. Being present in a particular moment is a predictor of increased happiness. And organizations are taking notice of this – from Google to the US Army, mindfulness at work has become a hot topic. Not only does mindfulness impact mood but also personal health, resiliency, and effectiveness.
Here’s a few easy ways to incorporate some mindful strategies at work, without looking too silly to your coworkers, some only taking 30 seconds:
I love taking a 5-minute break at my desk to stretch and increase blood flow to re-energize and re-set. I don’t even have to get up from my chair with this short 5 – minute chair yoga sequence.
A lot of mindful activities bring your attention to something that’s typically on auto-pilot every second of your life – your breathing. This exercise and the next both focus on being intentional about your breath. This one only takes 30 seconds or so:
If you watch a baby breathe, you’ll see his or her belly rise and fall with each breath. This is our natural state of breathing but as we get older our breath becomes more shallow and we breathe more into our chests than our stomachs. Return to your natural state of breathing for anywhere from 30 seconds to 5 minutes – or more!
Bring both hands to your stomach and perhaps close your eyes or find a soft gaze at a single point in front of you. Breathe deeply and feel your belly rise and fall with each inhale and exhale. Notice the changes in shape your torso takes with each breath for as long as you like. Try for at least a minute.
A lot of us have a picture of loved ones or loved places in our offices or on our desks. Since they become a normal part of our everyday landscape, often we skim over the picture without really looking at it. Spend a couple of minutes looking at a picture and incorporate all your senses into really experiencing the place or the moment the picture was taken – where were you, what did you see, what did you hear, do you remember any smells from that time, any tastes?
If you don’t have a picture in your working space, you can still do this exercise, thinking of your “happy place.” An example might be the beach – imagining the feel of the sand in between your toes and the sun on your skin, the sound of waves crashing, the smell of sunscreen. Allow yourself to be transported fully for a minute or so.
There’s a quote I love, attributed to Dr. Sukhraj Dhillon:
“You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes every day – unless you’re too busy; then you should sit for an hour.”
There are lots of different ways to meditate, in fact all of the other 4 techniques shared so far are forms of meditation. Most require no skills, props, or tools other than a willingness to try. I recommend starting slow, 1 to 2 minutes at first and building up from then. A guided meditation is a good place to start. Your only goal in meditation is to notice when your mind wanders, and invite it back to the present moment. You may notice it wandering 50 times, and that’s okay; just come back to the present without judgment.
I encourage you to try incorporating one of these techniques into your workweek this week and see how you feel afterwards. If you’re interested in establishing mindfulness into a formalized wellness program at your workplace, Purple Ink can help create a program that makes sense for your organization.