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Mindfulness as a Career Tool

Posted by Robin Walters on Mar 13, 2018 12:00:00 PM
Robin Walters

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If job frustrations are making you take a deep, cleansing breath, you are practicing the art of mindfulness.

Mindfulness is a stress management tool that is being applied in workplaces around the world. It's a practice of living in the moment while stopping the flood of thoughts and worries that bombard a lot of us every day.

 The Oxford Mindfulness Centre defines this practice:

Mindfulness is moment-to-moment awareness of one’s experience, without judgment.

Mindfulness has its roots in Eastern philosophies like Buddhism. According to Mindful Moments, the practice is more than 2,000 years old. Mindful Moments defines the technique as a simple yet profound state of mind and body, focused and self-aware.

With the harried pace of today’s work world, mindfulness offers practitioners some clear benefits that stem from exercising the art.

This article will walk you through how to use mindfulness at work and help you understand the real benefits of this stress-relieving practice.

What is Mindfulness?

The art of mindfulness teaches practitioners how to meditate and center the body by breathing and focusing carefully on each individual moment in time.

Mindfulness exercises include careful attention toward our self-awareness of each activity as it occurs. For example, if you have days where you’re running around on autopilot at work, and rushing from task to task, mindfulness helps you slow down, and calm the mind (and your stress levels), by taking each task as it occurs and thinking more carefully about the steps you’re undertaking.

Simply slowing down enough to think about what you’re doing right now is something most of us have forgotten how to do. We are always rushing to the next event or the next task. Living in the moment is as foreign to us as putting down our cell phones – but mindfulness brings back the simple pleasures and clarity that come from living for today.

Mindfulness practice teaches us to notice how we’re breathing, what we’re thinking at the moment, and how our bodies feel. Most days we even eat quickly; mindfulness slows that process down, too, allowing us the simple pleasures of tasting and smelling the very food that nourishes us.

The problem most people will experience is that they’ll find their minds rushing ahead to the next task or dwelling unnecessarily on something that happened in the past. Mindfulness forces us to exist in the space we’re in right now, slowing our thoughts and calming our minds.

3 Great Ways to Practice Mindfulness:

  • Set aside your digital technology for 10 minutes every day
    Sit comfortably upright and concentrate on breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth. Close your eyes and turn your attention inward. How do you feel?
  • Pay attention to what is around you
    Look at the people around you. What does the chair feel like under your body? What sounds do you hear? What smells are in the air?
  • Concentrate on one task at a time
    This is very hard because digital technology has taught us to multitask. Turn off the ringer on your phone for a half-hour and just concentrate on responding to emails. Try picking just one task for 30 minutes and focus on it and nothing else. Focus on filing paperwork, for example, as a routine task. Concentrate on breathing deeply in and out while you sort and file. How does the paper feel against your hands? What sounds are happening all around you?

Can you imagine how much calmer your work could be ifthe art of mindfulness was practiced – even for a few minutes every day?

Benefits of Mindfulness in the Workplace

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Today’s work world is a constant stream of digital and human distractions. Emails are coming in. The phone is ringing. Someone sticks their head in your cubicle. Each time you are taken away from the task you’re concentrating on, it takes more time to get back into it.

Recent research shows that workers waste about $997 billion in lost productivity due to the almost constant disruption that the American work world has become. Fast Company interviewed a University of California professor who says that people switch their activities every three minutes. Each time we’re interrupted or an activity switches, it takes 23 minutes to regain concentration on average. As you might imagine, this adds to worker frustration and stress. It’s making us sicker and unhappier, according to the BBC.

Part of the reason mindfulness is growing in popularity is because of the health benefits that the practice can bring to your life. MindTools suggests there are five key benefits to mindfulness in general, but they can certainly be applied in the workplace.

They include:

  • A better ability to focus by minimizing distractions and lowering stress.
  • It can help us lower production of cortisol, the stress hormone, and helps us regulate our emotions.
  • Studies have shown that regularly practicing mindfulness can improve our immune system and overall health.
  • Improving emotional intelligence, or the ability to listen calmly and kindly to other people.
  • Just 10 minutes of mindfulness increases creativity both on and off the job according to a Harvard Business Review study 

Are Companies Actually Doing This?

If you’ve been scoffing at the concept of mindfulness as a useful tool in the workplace, consider that companies such as General Mills, Goldman Sachs, Apple, Medtronic, and Aetna have all introduced mindfulness training.

In an article called, “Developing Mindful Leaders for the C-Suite,” the Harvard Business Review points out that the employees of these high-powered companies are under intense pressure to perform. Mindfulness gives them a way to focus more clearly on their decision-making. The article suggests mindfulness brings “focus, clarity, creativity, compassion, and courage” to these executives.

Having a daily practice that includes mindfulness is one way of coping with today’s increasingly hectic and challenging work worlds. In fact, The Harvard Business Review says, “by doing so, you will not only be more successful, you will be happier and more fulfilled in the long run.”

Still Stressed Out?

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Pew statistic revealed a startling finding, in 2016 only 49 percent of Americans said they are happy with their job. 

If you are experiencing a bit of a career burnout, don't worry. It's perfectly normal. Take a little time to yourself, find ways to manage stress, and seek out time with friends and confidants. Sometimes a short vacation is all that's needed. Once you're feeling less burned out, a simple career recharge can be all that's needed to keep you happy and healthy.

Here are three ways to recharge your career:

  1. Take a Class

    Unplug, even if it's just for an hour long class. "While communication technology can promote productivity, it can also allow work stressors seep into family time, vacation, and social activities. Set boundaries by turning off cell phones at dinner and delegating certain times to check email," says Forbes.

    Want to feel creative? Take a painting class with your BFF. Need to take time for exercise? Join a cycling club or schedule a 5K. Looking to work on a new skill? Find an immersion class on photography, coding, or writing. No matter what class you join, find one that makes you forget the time and enjoy yourself. Need a place to start? Check out Dabble or General Assembly.

  2. Find a Side Gig/Passion Project/Hobby

    "Nothing beats a hobby, especially a creative one because it acts as a powerful antidote to burnout," says The Guardian. "Take up something new, like painting or knitting, to give your mind a rest, and make sure you choose an activity that is completely unrelated to your profession." Think back to what you enjoyed doing when you were younger. Building things? Playing musical instruments? Collecting or traveling? Why not start an Instagram page or Etsy shop?

    Who knows — you could turn this hobby into a side hustle and make some extra money.

  3.  Volunteer

    Similar to the benefits of having a hobby, volunteering can make you feel better. The Atlantic reports people who volunteer lead longer, healthier lives. "Some public-health experts believe the time has come for doctors to recommend it alongside diet and exercise," James Hamblin writes. Pick a cause that is close to your heart that allows you to get involved easily. Maybe it's at a museum or animal shelter. You can even offer up budding skills like web design to small non-profits in your neighborhood.

    "What's in it for me?" The answer is: plenty! Here are some of the things you might get in return for your giving.

Tried the above tips? Getting your "om" on at work and still stressed out and unhappy? 

Then it might be time for a new job.

Conveniently, we have some you might like. Check out our current job openings in New York, Chicago, Denver, and more cities across the U.S. 

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Tags: Career Resources, Work-Life Balance

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