Top 10 Tips for Mindfulness at Work

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Mindfulness: Finding Peace in a Frantic World by Mark Williams and Danny Penman is the international best-seller that put the practice of mindfulness on the map. Although the book advocates the ability of Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) to treat depression, the life-changing meditations have been adopted by millions as a way of coping with the trials and tribulations of everyday life, particularly in the work place (stress-related illness remains the most common cause of absenteeism).

At The Mindfulness Exchange, Oxford, a team of experts are using up-to-date scientific understandings and adapting them to an office scenario: “We don’t offer therapy, but skills training to manage a busy, distraction-filled working life more effectively,” says Marina Grazier of The Mindfulness Exchange. “Mindfulness – a focus on being entirely present in the moment and optimally aware of our minds and bodies – improves decision making and increases productivity and creativity. Taking just 10 minutes a day to practice mindfulness over four weeks will result in long-term neuroplastic change in the brain.” Here, Marina offers her top 10 mindfulness tips and meditations for maximising productivity (and staying serene) at your desk…

1. Am I good enough? Mind the gap! Mindfulness is about seeing things as they really are rather than how we want them to be, so treat self-critical thoughts as though they were black clouds in the sky – observe them with curiosity as they drift past.

2. Become aware of your toxic thinking habits, but don’t try and stop them. Mindfulness helps us deal with stress by becoming aware of negative thoughts without buying into them – realise that they are not necessarily facts. Take a deep breath and let them go.

3. Practice coming off autopilot. Choose a habit releaser – sit in a different position in the weekly meeting or log off Facebook and twitter before starting that conference call. See what you notice…

4. Make the most of your moments of pleasure during the working day. Savour that cappuccino rather than drinking it and checking your emails at the same time; try and draw the most happiness out of your day.

5. Listen mindfully to prevent misunderstandings. When in a conversation with a colleague be fully present and practice mindful listening – imagine you had to paraphrase back what you had just heard. Ask the other person to check your understanding.

6. Rewire your brain for enhanced performance. Mindfulness reprograms the brain and this develops improved personal productivity – better memory, problem solving ability and job satisfaction. Develop your attention muscle by practicing counting 10 full breaths. If you lose track don’t worry, just carry on counting

7. Understand the patterns of your mind and restart. When frustration builds up, emotions take over, so take five minutes to reset. Tune into your thoughts, your feelings and the sensations in your body, then just count three breaths; check into how your body feels afterwards and start afresh.

8. Mindfulness is not just in the mind, it could be anywhere in your body. Focusing on the present moment means focusing on our senses, so concentrate on your feet, your arms…just try and notice how your body feels and be in the moment.

9. Studies show that we are distracted 47% of the time, during which time we’re multi-tasking - the only thing we get worse at with practice. Switch off Facebook, put the mobile on silent and close the email during your meetings. Try a day when you actively stay on task, one task at a time, and watch your productivity soar.

10. Develop compassion. Mindfulness is about observation without criticism, so practice self-acceptance first – don’t get frustrated and tip into a downward spiral if you feel you’re not coping. Understand that all negative thoughts are transient. Change the dynamic at work by practicing compassion for others and watch it flow black. Remember, what message do you want to send out?