Five months ago, I left the family business to write semi-full-time (with freelancing jobs on the side to help pay the bills).
It was a scary shift for me and my family, but a huge step forward towards my aspirations of writing full-time and growing Buddhaimonia into a valuable resource for others.
And while I’ve now slowly grown accustomed to my new schedule, I had worked in an office of some sort for the previous 8 years and knew all too well how difficult it was to maintain a mindfulness practice within a hectic office environment.
With practice, time, and patience though I was able to implement my mindfulness practice into my workday. And that didn't just bring me much relief from the daily stresses, it made me more effective at my job as well.
At first, it can seem like there’s no use. Most days you forget to be mindful altogether, and when you do remember it’s not always clear what you should be mindful of.
But by getting creative, you can not only bring mindfulness to your workday, you can downright transform your workdays with your mindfulness practice.
6 Great Ways to Implement Mindfulness in the Workplace
Below, you’ll find 6 great mindfulness practices and strategies to help you turn your workday from 8 hours of stress and mindlessness to 8 hours of nourishing and wakeful mindful living.
1. Go Home
No, I'm not talking about packing your bag and driving home!
Depending on what you do for a living, we can all generally become quite mindless at certain points in our day. Taking a minute every hour or so to go home to your breathing and wake up to the present moment can be an invaluable tool for your well-being as well as your effectiveness at work.
And going home to your breath is easy. It takes just 4 simple steps:
- Turn your attention inward to your body. Whether standing or sitting down, become mindful of the weight of your body and any other sensations that arise.
- Become aware of your breathing. Now, turn your attention to your in-breath and out-breath. Follow the length of each in-breath and out-breath from beginning to end. Your concentration will be broken from time to time and that's OK.
- Acknowledge that which arises. While following the length of your breath, thoughts, feelings, and sensations will arise and distract you from concentrating on your breathing. Mindfulness works like a field of awareness which acknowledges everything within a given moment, so simply acknowledge what arises with your mindfulness and don't treat it as a distraction or anything negative.
- Return to your breath. Simply return to following the length of your breath just as before.
Practice going home for just 30-60 seconds at first, lengthening to 2 minutes after a while if you prefer. No matter how busy you are, you have a few seconds to breathe mindfully a couple times a day.
Do this every few hours in the beginning to "break up" the activity of your day and give yourself a jolt of wakefulness. After a while, this will begin promoting more mindfulness throughout your day by reminding you to be mindful.
2. Notice mental formations
This is one of my favorite mindfulness-in-the-workplace practices. This refers to noticing specific emotions, biases, and attitudes that arise when coming in contact with others, whether communication occurs or not.
This is one of the most powerful and valuable practices on this list because it can begin to help clue you in about hidden biases and harmful perceptions you hold within you.
To do this, simply make it a focus to at least be mindful when first approaching someone, and then consciously acknowledge whatever arises within those first few moments.
Even this short period of mindfulness can be very telling for ourselves in our own practice.
3. Walk mindfully to and from your workspace
Walking meditation is one of the, if not the, most convenient mindfulness practices.
Think about it: we walk everywhere, all day long, every single day. Therefore, to focus on walking as being a moment in which you remember to be mindful can have a big impact on improving your mindfulness practice and helping you find more peace and relief throughout each day.
But we often don’t think about the workplace as being a place for walking mindfully. And while it may not be ideal, it’s absolutely viable. And if you think you have to do walking meditation slowly, think again.
Some Zen monks and students, depending on the school and lineage, walk at a very fast pace (literally a power-walk) while doing walking meditation, so with a little practice it’s absolutely possible to bring a little walking meditation into your workday.
4. Communicate mindfully
I’ve often mentioned mindful communication with regards to loved ones, but it’s an effective tool for improving the quality of the communication between you and co-workers while simultaneously deepening your mindfulness practice.
What’s more important in the workplace than communication? To communicate mindfully isn’t just to improve your mindfulness practice, it’s also to make communication between teammates and co-workers more clear and effective. This makes mindful communication invaluable in the workplace.
The only thing about mindful communication is, it can be a bit of an advanced mindfulness practice. If you're just starting out in your practice and want to immediately take advantage of the practice of mindful communication, my suggestion is this:
- When listening, really listen. This means that when someone is talking to you, whether directly or to a group through a meeting, be fully present for their words. Don't pick up your phone, purposely distract yourself with "What should I make for dinner today?", or stare out the window. Don't seek to judge their words either, simply listen to everything they have to say first and let it sink in before chiming in (do this whenever possible).
- Become aware of the effect of your words. Mindful speech, to some degree, means to become aware of the effect the words you speak can have on others. If you're just starting with mindful communication, I'd suggest to focus on this for a moment before you speak and be aware of their reactions as you're speaking with them. The main intention is to communicate clearly and in a way that doesn't intentionally hurt the other person.
5. Change how you engage with technology
This point is all about using technology in a way that supports your mindfulness practice and overall well-being.
The main idea here is to stop mindless use of technology by stopping you at the moment you go to engage with it. Here's a few resources, all of which I personally use:
- Momentum Chrome extension. This is a really awesome Chrome extension I started using recently. When you pop up a new tab, instead of showing either a list of your most commonly visited webpages or your collection of Chrome apps, it shows a page that's meant to focus you instead of distract you. You could use this for anything, but in this example clicking on the line under "What is your main focus for today" and typing something like "be mindful" is a really effective way of surfing on your desktop or laptop more mindfully:
- Bell of mindfulness Chrome extension. At this point, you can probably tell I browse the internet with Chrome. I've written about this second Chrome extension a few times before because of how incredible it is. This extension rings a traditional Buddhist bell on a timer to help break your workflow up for a moment of mindful breathing (this can be used very effectively when paired with your practice of going home to your breath). You can set the timer for whatever period of time you'd like.
- Make a mindful smartphone wallpaper. This isn't a specific app of any sort, but simply the act of making a wallpaper for your smartphone that will remind you to be mindful every time you pick up your phone. You can use the Over app on an iPhone and the Phonto app on Android to add text such as "be mindful" or "connect mindfully" to a picture. This is very effective because you see it every time you go to pick up your phone.
6. Break-time meditation
Utilizing your break positively can be a very effective strategy for bringing your mindfulness practice into the workplace.
Whether this is a meditation session in your office or car or a mindful eating session by yourself or silently with another, this can be a very effective break from your day that further supports working mindfully the second half of your workday.
The more you’re mindful, the more you remember to be mindful, so this can be a valuable addition to your practice.
If you go home to your breathing throughout each day, take a mindful break, walk mindfully to and from your work area, focus on being mindful of what arises when coming in contact with others, and make sure to communicate mindfully whether that be with a teammate, co-worker, leader, or boss your days will be guided with mindfulness.
It takes work to get to this point, but if you work on each area, one step at a time, you’ll be able to transform the environment within your mind, which will transform the environment of your workplace.
Clarity, relief, and peace don’t have to be reserved for a few minutes at the end of each work day. You can find time to breathe and be mindful throughout each day, whether at work or home, by using these 6 simple mindfulness practices.