Check any social media platform on a Friday and inevitably there will be people posting about two days of “me time”. I’ve come to realise that we need to grab that time beforethe weekend comes. We need to be in a mindful state before, during and after work. It’s not something that we “do” when work is over. What is mindfulness? It’s the ability to be present to the very moment in time you are experiencing right now. Mindfulness is the practice of stopping; silencing thoughts of the future or past; and becoming aware of yourself, your body in that very moment. Although Jon Kabat-Zinn from the University of Massachusetts has been credited as a leader in mindfulness education, the practice is strongly tied to eastern philosophies centred on meditation, relaxation and a heightened sense of self.
When I owned Billie Goat Soap, I fell into the trap of thinking that “me time” was a luxury I would find time for during the weekend. I thought that meditation and relaxation was something that I had earned as a result of working hard during the week. It was something to pursue at home, outside of work hours. My entrepreneurial coping strategies would have been strengthened if I had used mindfulness strategies more often during my work day. Here’s why:
1. Mindfulness helps you to survive a tough day. Stress manifests when we react to a situation outside of ourselves. It’s often attached to situations, concerns about the future, encounters with others and performance expectations. Practicing mindfulness helps to centre us back to the moment, and when we are truly mindful our body is less likely to remain in a tense state for that period. It’s impossible to think about your absolute, whole presence in the moment PLUS worry about work demands simultaneously. Of course, the key here is to be purposfully aware of your current emotions and choose to navigate them to a more peaceful outcome.
2. Mindfulness raises your awareness of others. It’s easier to consider the needs of others when all we have is the very moment we are living. If I’m not spending my time worrying about the future, or upset by the past I have more sensory space available within to tune into the needs of others. I believe we all desire connection at some level, and practicing mindfulness opens opportunities to be with others without personal judegment or bias. There is no better medicine than to do something for another human being. Being mindful to the needs of others is particularly helpful in a close work environment where you cannot necessarily choose the people you share your space with.
3. Mindfulness makes you a nicer person to work with. A calm, centered, caring person is much easier to work with than a leader/influencer who is frantic, uptight and stressed. Attitude is infectious, particularly if you are in a leadership or supervisory position. An ego-less workplace leaves more room for focus on the work itself, rather than making time to manage workplace dynamics. It’s interesting to observe how kind and generous we can be to a stranger, yet choose to hold on to our dislikes when in the company of work colleagues. Mindfulness provides us with a platform to accept everyone without judgement and this must make for a better work environment.
Okay, it may not be possible to enter into a trance like state at work, but there are ways to be more mindful at work. Tomorrow, as your workday unfolds, stop every few hours to think about the time that has just passed. Were you aware of it? Were you in a peaceful place? If not, look out for my post this Sunday. I’ll give you some tips to practice mindfulness at work.