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Mindful or Mindless?

Mindfulness has been on global trend lists for some time now. Whether you’ve boarded the mindfulness train by now or not, it looks like the trend is here to stay. Calming the mind as chaos and stress rage all around you can be tough, so this article provides guidance on becoming more mindful at work.

Mindlessness

Have you ever been driving somewhere and arrived at your destination only to realise you remember nothing about your journey? Most people have!

How many times have you gone to the office with a clear plan for the day and then before you know it you are on your way home 8-9 hours later, and you have only managed to accomplish a few of your priorities, and you really don’t know what happened to all those hours!

These are common examples of ‘mindlessness,’ or ‘automatic pilot.’ In our busy lives, we are constantly multi-tasking. It is very easy to lose awareness of the present moment especially when we are trying to juggle lots of conflicting demands and being bombarded with distractions.

Research shows that people spend almost 47% of their waking hours thinking about something else other than what they are actually doing. So if we are spending 47% (or 4+ hours) per day distracted – this means we are not truly effective

This is where mindfulness can help.

What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is about being more aware of the present and
paying attention on purpose.

Mindful people make an effort to develop a sharp, clear mind and consciously focus on paying attention on purpose.

Experts claim that people who are more mindful have higher levels of Emotional Intelligence, improved relationships, and reduced stress levels. Because they are more focused, present and aware, they have more sustained attention, increased creativity and memory capacity. Being mindful helps us make good decisions and helps us respond more and react less.

Benefits of Mindfulness

There are many benefits to becoming more mindful. In a work situation these include:

  • Enhanced focus and attention
  • Increased self-awareness
  • Increased ability to handle stressful situations
  • More control over thoughts, moods and emotions
  • Greater cognitive effectiveness and capacity for decision making
  • Increased creativity
  • Greater ability to relax
  • Having more energy and enthusiasm
  • Enhanced self-confidence

How Can I Be More Mindful at Work?

Your brain is a muscle, and like every other muscle in our body, we need to train and exercise it. You can train your brain to slow down and be more focused with practice and effort. You don’t get a six pack just by joining a gym, and you don’t improve your mindfulness just from reading a post! It takes time and continuous mindfulness on being mindful.

  • Take a walk
    When you are losing focus simply going for a 10-minute walk can help calm the mind and gain a new perspective. Obviously, moving your body regularly has many other health benefits, so it’s win-win for mind and body.
  • Be creative
    Engaging in challenging creative work will heighten your awareness and consciousness. If a task is new or difficult, we are forced to focus our minds on completing it.
  • Focus on your breathing
    Some people find silent meditation difficult (especially in a work environment) but mindful people take time out each day to focus on calming their breathing and therefore calming their mind.
  • Uni-task
    Multi-tasking is the enemy of focus. Research shows that people spend almost 47% of their waking hours thinking about something else other than what they are actually doing. So if we are spending 47% (or 4+ hours) per day distracted – this means we are not truly effective. Rather than dividing your attention, try to focus completely on one task for a given period and then take a short break before moving on to the next task.
  • Turn daily tasks into mindful moments
    Mindfulness isn’t just about meditating; you can practice being mindful by simply paying a little more attention to your daily activities.
  • Limit your device checking
    Mindful people have a healthy relationship with mobile devices and email! Set realistic, specific parameters for use. Do you really need to check for emails and messages as soon as you wake up and every 10 minutes thereafter? If you are tackling a difficult task or having an important conversation, turn off all electronic devices so you can’t be tempted to take a quick look when you hear the notification buzz!
  • Seek out new experiences
    To awaken our senses, it is good to try new things, meet new people, and visit unfamiliar places and step into the unknown.
  • Accept your feelings
    Mindfulness isn’t about being happy and jolly all the time. It’s about acceptance of the moment we’re in and feeling whatever we feel without trying to resist or control it.
  • Relax/meditate
    Meditation isn’t for everyone, but all the experts tell us that it is the most effective way to become more mindful. Meditating for just a few minutes each day can help to reduce stress, improve cognitive function, and boost well-being. If you find meditating uncomfortable, just take some time to close your eyes for a few minutes, relax and focus on your breathing.
  • Be conscious of what you put in your body and your mind
    When we are busy, and on the move, we often grab food without paying much attention to what we are actually eating and whether we feel full. Mindful people listen to their bodies — and they consciously nourish themselves with healthy foods, prepared and eaten with care. But mindful eating is all about taking your time, paying attention to the tastes and sensations, focus fully on the act of eating and eating-related decisions.
    We also need to be mindful of what we are feeding our minds. Like ‘junk food’, mindless television, social media, internet surfing, gaming, etc.. are just empty calories and add little to our wellbeing.
  • Let your mind wander sometimes
    While mindfulness is all about focusing on the present moment, allowing our minds to wander occasionally also serves an important psychological function, and conscientious people are able to find the happy medium between these two ways of thinking. Engaging in imaginative thinking and fantasising may even make us more mindful.
  • Don’t take yourself too seriously
    ‘Angels fly because they take themselves lightly.’ An important factor in becoming more mindful is the ability to remember to laugh and keep control of emotions through the ups and downs we inevitably face during our busy working lives.

 

Recommended Reading

If you are interested in learning more about Mindfulness, we recommend reading:

Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Finding Peace in a Frantic World by Mark Williams and Danny Penmanor The Mindful Workplace by Michael Chaskalson

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