So it’s the first day of your working week – how are you feeling? Mindful or Mind Full?
Admittedly on the surface reconciling mindfulness with the demands of a busy working day may be viewed as a nigh-on impossible task. If mindfulness is the antithesis of multi-tasking and multi-tasking is how many people get through their working day then how can mindfulness be incorporated into someone’s daily routine? Some time ago I wrote a post offering advice about how to incorporate mindfulness into a day of parenting little ones. This time I thought I’d make some suggestions to help with a day in the office, or the classroom, or wherever your work takes you!
Before going any further it may be helpful to explore what mindfulness actually is. Jon Kabat-Zinn defines mindfulness as:
“paying attention, on purpose, to the present moment, non-judgementally.”
Dr Mark Williams adds that mindfulness can help us to examine ‘the weather pattern in the head’. It can be viewed as ‘checking in’ with yourself like a compassionate friend or family member might.
There’s no reason why we can’t all try to gently introduce mindfulness into our own lives as we go about our daily routine at work. Here’s three ways to get started:
Now this may sound incredibly obvious but it is amazing how often we hold our breath or breathe fairly shallowly. So next time someone or something is testing your patience try tuning in to your breath and noticing the ‘in’ and the ‘out’ for a few moments. You may even want to start to lengthen the out breath, which is said to help lower cortisol levels. Connecting with the breath is a fundamental part of mindfulness practice. One of the most effective tools a busy professional can use is a STOP practice. This ‘does what it says on the tin’ and is a mini practice which can be fitted in to a busy schedule. Next time you STOP remember to:
- be Still
- Tune into the breath
- Observe your thoughts and any feelings in that moment (but try not to get involved in them)
- Proceed with your day with a little more moment-to-moment awareness and self-kindness
Go for a mindful walk
Set your mobile phone timer for 5 or 10 minutes at lunchtime and take yourself out in the fresh air for this time. Get out of the classroom or the office or where ever your place of work is and try to look at the world with a child-like curiosity and as this article emphasises we can learn a lot about mindfulness from children. Walk without a purpose. This activity may give us time to tune out the constant thought stream in our head and to try and use our senses more, focusing on what can be seen, heard, smelt and touched. Take the opportunity to have a fresh perspective on the paths that are trodden everyday, notice new things if you can. This will, most likely, refresh you for the afternoon.
Regular gentle movements like shoulder rolls, side bends, or raising the arms over the head can help people to notice areas of tension and discomfort in the body and respond accordingly. You may also choose to breathe into these areas of tension and bring your awareness to the different sensations that there are in the area that you are moving. Always be aware to not push yourself too hard and only do what feels comfortable. These movements can be done at a desk or on the move and are a way of counteracting the idea of us living like a ‘brain on a stick’. They go some way to re-connect mind and body if done with awareness and curiosity.
Do you do any of these things during your working day already?
I’d love to hear your thoughts.