Research has shown we’re only paying attention to the here and now 47 percent of the time. You might be thinking of that project due in 10 minutes during your meeting or about that upcoming conference while having conversations with loved ones. No matter what time of the day, your mind is probably wandering. As humans, our minds are constantly reliving the past and planning the future, but while natural, not being in the present can also be detrimental to our health. One way more organizations are helping employees enhance productivity through the “here and now” is by practicing mindfulness.
At GovLoop’s recent event, “Tips and Tricks for Healthy Work-Life Balance,” Sarah Murback, Business Strategy and Communication Manager at Aetna (certified in Mindful Based Stress Reduction) discussed the importance of mindfulness and how to incorporate a well-rounded practice in the workplace.
“Mindfulness is paying attention to your present-moment experience with an attitude of openness and curiosity,” Murback said. “While it sounds easy, it’s actually more difficult than it sounds.”
This is because our human sub-conscience is making a judgment of things all the time in split seconds. You could make a decision about someone simply based on how they look or what they’re wearing. Eventually, this has an effect on your ability to participate fully in your work.
“The subconscious judgment seeps into the conscious mind as well,” Murback said. “Think of the last meeting you had. Maybe a certain person, Jeff, makes you immediately assume that if he leads the meeting it will be boring.”
When you hear mindfulness, you might assume that it’s taking an hour out of the day to shut off your thoughts or practice yoga. But mindfulness is actually not about stopping your thoughts or tuning the world out. “It’s noticing the things around you more than anything else,” Murback said.
In addition to paying more attention to the things around you, Murback said that mindfulness is being self-aware, being curious, staying focused on what’s important, dealing better with stress and connecting with others more deeply.
While formal practices include yoga or meditation, there are many informal ways you can incorporate mindfulness into your daily life. These can include simple actions like noticing sensations while you’re showering or driving in silence and noticing the road as well as traffic lights and sounds.
“Even noticing what food tastes like, or paying attention to the color, smell and texture of food while you’re eating is practicing mindfulness,” Murback said. “Simply notice what’s happening. All of these are ways you can practice mindfulness in your daily life.”
There are a number of benefits to mindfulness including emotional, mental, physical and behavior benefits.
|Greater stress resilience
|Improved focus- reduce multitasking
|Lower blood pressure and heart rate
|Less reactive behavior
|More positive mood
|Stronger immune system
|Reduced anxiety and depression
|Better coping with pain
|Greater empathy and connection with others||Better decision-making- create more space between input and your reactions.||Better sleep
|Break addiction patterns|
You don’t have to take two weeks off for a deep meditation retreat to start practicing and reaping the benefits of mindfulness in your own workplace. Murback suggested starting with smaller chunks of meditation once or twice a week. “Practicing 10 minutes a day for two weeks is a great way to start,” she said.
Additionally, you can start incorporating these practices for big payoffs in productivity down the road:
-Listen with curiosity. Notice when your mind is closed to hearing the other’s perspective.
-Get up and stretch. Re-energize your body and give the brain a break every 20-minutes or so.
-Minimize distractions. Turn off certain alerts and notifications when you’re working on a project.
-Reduce multitasking. Do one thing at a time as often as you can throughout the day.
-Connect with a co-worker. Take a break for a snack, a non-work conversation or a stroll outside the office.
-Take a mindful bite. For a snack or your lunch, turn away from distractions and experience all aspects of your food.
By simply noticing the things around you and taking time to focus on the here and now, you can not only enhance your workplace productivity but also your relationships, your mood and your overall wellbeing.