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The Power Of Mindful Work – 8 Ways To Boost Well-Being And Productivity

Written by: Stephanie C. Hodges, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

 
Executive Contributor Stephanie C. Hodges

In our fast-paced, high-demand work culture, mindfulness may seem like a luxury we can't afford. However, research and real-world examples suggest otherwise: mindful work contributes to individual well-being and stronger work teams.

business people meditating and doing yoga in office

This article outlines eight ways to develop mindfulness in our personal and professional lives. Whether you work alone or lead a team, read on to reduce workplace stress and operate with greater peace and joy!


What is mindfulness for work?

Mindfulness means being fully present and engaged in the moment; this concept isn't new. The quest to find peace and joy by being present and attentive has existed for centuries. However, workplace mindfulness is challenging in today's hyper-connected digital environment. Constant pings, notifications, and distractions bombard us from every angle. So, is mindfulness a reliable method to combat workplace stress and increase productivity? Starting in the 1970s, Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn popularized the concept of mindfulness through his 8-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center. Hospitals, treatment centers, and workplace wellness centers all successfully use this program today.


Why should we practice mindfulness?

Research suggests that mindfulness exercises benefit our physical and mental well-being. Studies have shown that mindfulness meditation, practices, retreats, and breathing exercises can help individuals regulate negative emotion, and stress responses, plus benefit the immune system. Mindfulness involves paying attention to the present moment without judgment. Core values of mindful awareness include compassion, non-judgment, and acceptance. When we approach our experiences with these values, it supports us in developing a healthier relationship to work. What do I mean by this? When we are more aware of the thoughts that cause anxiety or stress, we can better understand how certain situations make us feel and react and make smarter decisions about how we respond. Mindful leaders understand the value of personal development in all areas of life. When we practice mindfulness in the workplace, we find:

  • Improved focus and productivity

  • Enhanced emotional intelligence

  • Controlled stress response

  • Heightened awareness of our thoughts and feelings

8 Habits for practicing mindful work

When we operate with improved emotional regulation, self-acceptance and practice gratitude, we can transform our workplace environment and team dynamics. Here are eight practical ways to make the shift and become a mindful leader at work.


1. Practice mindful breathing

Mindful breathing is an excellent starting point to increase your conscious awareness. When you receive negative feedback from your boss or an aggravating email from a co-worker, take a deep breath and pause. Focused breathing allows us to pause, reconnect with the present moment, and control our reactions. Slow, deep breathing immediately activates the parasympathetic nervous system to produce a calming effect on the body. You can do a simple breathing exercise anywhere. Take a few minutes to breathe at your desk, before team meetings, or when tackling a challenging task.

How to practice mindful breathing:

  • Start by noticing your breath; simply observe.

  • Scan through your body, noticing physical sensations and intentionally relaxing any places of tension.

  • Begin to lengthen your inhale and exhale, dropping your diaphragm and breathing into your belly.

  • When your mind wanders, bring your attention back to the breath.

You can also try counting your breath using one of the following patterns:

  • 2 to 1 - exhale twice as long as you inhale; for example, inhale four counts and exhale eight counts

  • Box breath- inhale four counts, hold four counts, exhale four counts, hold four counts

  • 4-7-8 - inhale four counts, hold seven counts, exhale eight counts

2. Make time to reflect and set intentions

Are you checking emails at every stoplight on your way to work? Are you constantly rushing from one task to the next? You will ultimately accomplish less if you cram work into all your waking hours. Make reflection, focus, and planning part of your daily practice. The review helps you stay mindful and recognize stress-inducing patterns in your thought processes or work habits.


Setting an intention helps shape your direction, focus, and purpose. Intentional priorities and planning help us make daily decisions that align with our values. Your intention might be a word, value, or inspiring quote. Let that guide your thoughts throughout the day.


3. Create mindful routines

Consistent routines or rituals help you focus, eliminate procrastination, and get in the flow as you begin your work day or a project. They can also help you relax and re-center when work stress arises. Added benefits of these rituals include eliminating procrastination and getting in the flow. We all crave that flow state – when work is easy, and you're so focused, you lose track of time. Instead of absent-mindedly scrolling through email and social media feeds when you sit down to start your day, create a routine that prepares you for deep work. Activities to put you in a mindful state might include:

  • Turning off notifications on your phone

  • Closing all extra tabs and applications on your computer

  • Turning on uplifting music (if that helps you focus)

  • Writing down a to-do list and your goals

  • Taking five deep breaths and getting started

4. Establish boundaries and prioritize your tasks

Mindfulness in the workplace means setting appropriate boundaries and establishing priorities. It's the only way to stay sane. Most people have more items on their list than they can accomplish in a day. Mindful work means acknowledging what's possible and realistic and prioritizing accordingly. Learning to say no and respectfully speak up for your needs may feel challenging but becomes easier with practice. Your boundaries also help you stick to healthy habits like taking regular breaks and getting enough sleep.


5. Embrace mindful listening

Mindful listening is a positive challenge that will strengthen your relationships. Imagine being in a meeting where everyone was engaged in listening – not checking email on the side! In personal interactions, attentive listening builds trust and fosters a more compassionate work culture. You can apply this when conversing with your boss, co-workers, or customers. (Plus, conscious listening does wonders for personal relationships and family dynamics.) Mindful listening isn't a tool to manipulate or get your way. Instead, you can understand the other person's experience and perspective. Tips for being a better listener include:

  • Turning off all distractions, putting your phone away, and giving the person you're talking to your full attention

  • Taking time to listen before speaking

  • Noting nonverbal cues and body language signals

  • Asking questions to clarify understanding

  • Practicing active listening by repeating back what you heard

6. Take mindful breaks

It may seem counterintuitive, but you're more productive when you take regular breaks. One study of college students found that students taking systematic study breaks had mood and efficiency benefits compared to students who were self-regulating their work-break intervals. So, set up a work-rest rhythm instead of forcing yourself to power through for hours. The key is working long enough to get into a flow and taking intentional, short breaks with a purpose – so you don't get distracted or lose momentum. The popular Pomodoro method divides work sessions into short, timed intervals. Using this method, you work for 25 minutes and rest for 5 minutes. Read more about the Pomodoro technique here. Incorporating mindfulness into your breaks can help you relax and recharge. Take mindful moments to connect with nature or do deep breathing or meditation. Eating lunch without looking at your phone or taking a mid-day walk is a great way to decompress.


7. Establish a mindfulness meditation routine

People often think of formal meditation practice when they hear the word mindfulness. Mindfulness meditation helps to promote a relaxed state of mind while providing an opportunity for self-reflection and insight. You want this mindful exercise in your toolbox! As a beginner, you can experience benefits with five minutes a day of simple meditation. Focus on your breathing and allow your mind to rest. As thoughts arise, observe them without judgment and let them pass through and float away. A meditation app like Headspace, Balance, or Calm can be a great starting point for mindfulness training. These apps contain guided meditations and background music to help you stay focused.


8. Keep a growth mindset

How does mindfulness continue to be a part of your day-to-day work for the long haul? Keep an open mind and curiosity about yourself and the world around you. You don't arrive at perfection; you embrace continual growth. When challenges arise, develop a growth mindset: view failures as opportunities to learn and grow from experience instead of seeing them as personal inadequacies. To continue growing, explore the full range of mindfulness practices beyond meditation. Feel free to get creative with your approach! Rock climbing, Pilates, or dancing will cultivate a deeper sense of balance and awareness. Crafting, artistic hobbies, and new games can provide fun challenges and foster creativity.


Finally, invest in yourself. Consider hiring a Health and Wellness Coach or other professional to support you in creating mindful work habits and a life of balance. Making that investment can be one of the most important steps you'll take to make a long-term transformation.


How to start your work mindfulness practice


Now, we have eight ways to foster mindfulness in the workplace. Whether you work solo or want to develop mindful leadership skills, you can start here and see where the journey takes you.


But trying to cram all eight techniques in tomorrow isn't an ideal mindfulness program. Here is a better way to get started:

  • Take a few moments right now to review this article and see which 2 to 3 ideas stand out the most. Whether mindfulness meditation or active listening, see what appeals to you most because everyone is different.

  • Next, it's time to experiment with one or two short mindful exercises. Envision how this will look in your day and what needs to happen to set yourself up for success.

  • Set mindful reminders and try one new thing each day until you find what works.

  • Remember to have compassion and embrace the ups and downs. Every day will go differently than your plan. Observe what happened instead of immediately reacting to barriers and challenges by throwing in the towel. Then, you can try again or adjust your approach.

See how you can incorporate mindfulness into your daily routine and observe the personal impact.


Practicing mindfulness: In summary


In summary, practice mindfulness to experience profound personal benefits and work productivity. Research has shown that regular mindfulness exercises reduce stress levels, increase mental health, and foster a more collaborative work environment.


Moreover, when you cultivate mindfulness, you can significantly improve job satisfaction by promoting a more conscious approach to work, leading to greater efficiency and productivity.


Reducing employee stress and improving job satisfaction are appealing to all! In essence, the practice of mindfulness not only enhances our work but enriches our overall quality of life, making it a valuable tool for personal and professional development.


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Stephanie C. Hodges Brainz Magazine
 

Stephanie C. Hodges, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Stephanie Hodges is an experienced Health and Wellness coach with 20-plus years in the fitness and wellness industry. She has a Master’s in Nutrition and Exercise Science and is certified by Duke Health & Well-being as a coach. When she’s not coaching her diverse clientele (or writing about wellness, lifestyle, and digital marketing) Stephanie can be found reading, exercising, and spending quality time with her husband and three kids outside of Austin, Texas. Stephanie is passionate about holistic health and effectively implementing healthy eating, wellness habits, and mindfulness practices as integral pieces of the well-being puzzle.

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