6 Simple Ways to Let Mindfulness Enter Your Work Day

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You wake up in the morning and sit on your cushion or chair for a meditation session. For the next 15 minutes, you focus on the breath and feel a deep sense of peace and calmness. You’re happy and in a good mood.

Clearly, a good start to the day. From that place of happiness, you get ready for work, travel to work (or to your work-from-home desk), and prepare yourself for the barrage of emails and messages that are about to attack you.

You try to hold on to the peace you felt. But with every email, message, and phone call, it starts fading away. Add to that social dynamics, politics, deadlines, worrying about finances, and tough conversations at work.

After 8 hours of work (or more), you feel nothing like what you did in the morning. “Where did that peace go?” you ask yourself.

The answer is, it didn’t go anywhere. It’s still within you, clouded by the stresses, worries, and anxious thoughts going on in your head.

All you need to do is to consciously remove those false layers and be in the present moment. Yes, you need to practice mindfulness throughout the day.

Easier said than done, right? I know. But the truth is, that’s what we have to do. Meditating for 15–30 mins every day, while a crucial habit, isn’t enough if the other 23.5 hrs are spent in distraction.

Going on a diet requires changing all your meals and lifestyle. You can’t eat vegetables in the morning and feast on anything you like throughout the day.

Similarly, mindfulness needs to be practiced regularly so you can tighten your grip on feelings of inner peace and calmness. Life is going to throw challenges, emotions, and distractions at us every day. It’s our job to retain our state of happiness instead of going on an emotional roller coaster.

Here’s how you can do that.

Ring the Bell of Mindfulness

Mindfulness isn’t difficult, we just need to remember to do it.

Sharon Salzberg

Mindfulness itself is not difficult. We just need to remember to do it. Often we’re so engrossed in our work that we forget to take moments of mindfulness to center ourselves.

To solve this, the easiest way is to set alarms on your phone. I set hourly alarms using an Android app called Repeat Alarm. It reminds me to be mindful by checking my emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual status.

Setting the alarm isn’t enough. You also need to decide the activities you’re going to do when the alarm rings. Here are some that I use:

To make this work for you, pick 3–5 activities you like doing and will actually follow through with. They can be walking in place, stretching, breathing, meditating, or just taking 30 seconds to be aware of your emotions.

You can also check in with yourself using questions like

  • “Why am I feeling like this?”
  • “How can I improve my mental/emotional state?”
  • “What is bothering me?”

…and so on.

You can do this even if you’re on a call — just switch off your video or ask the person to hold; take a few deep breaths and jump back in. It’s that simple.

Whatever activity you choose, make sure it brings you back to the present moment. That’s the only requirement. The present is where all worries fade away.

If this is the only thing you take away from this article, it’ll be worth your while.

The Antidote to Anxiety and Stress

“Concentration is a fine antidote to anxiety” — Jack Nicklaus

Humans aren’t built to focus on more than one task at a time. It’s incredibly inefficient and even disheartening. Countless work philosophies like Deep Work and Flow boil down to this simple fact — concentration on the task at hand.

Concentration draws our attention in the present moment away from negative thought patterns. When you’re engrossed in writing a draft, for instance, you’re not thinking about “how rude that person was!” or “I wish I had more money.” No.

You’re thinking only about the task. Your mind comes to a standstill — a point of clarity. This state of concentration is highly pleasurable for the mind.

In this state of flow, we feel challenged and contributing to something worthwhile. We make ourselves useful — and that makes us happy.

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in his research for Flow found that the happiest people are those who spend a lot of time in flow and do things, not as an end in themselves.

We chase money, status, power, and many external things thinking that their possession will make us happy — but they don’t. Entering into flow, on the other hand, makes us happy right here, right now.

Imagine if you could just be happy by doing the work and not worrying about the results. Wouldn’t that be an amazing state to be in?

The way to get there is through concentration and single-tasking. Minimize multitasking as much as possible. Block time to focus on one thing for long periods of time. You’ll soon find the satisfaction that you’ve been looking for.

Take 1 Step Back to Jump 4 Steps Ahead

A prevalent thought amongst most workers is this — the more time we spend working, the more we can get done. The more we can get done, the more successful we’ll be.

Sounds plausible but is the most stupid thing I’ve heard. Now, I was a victim of the same donkey-mentality. But when I snapped my way out of it, I realized why this isn’t true:

  1. Our productivity declines after some time. Your energy levels are different at 9 am, 12 pm, 3 pm, and 6 pm. Your productivity depends entirely upon your energy which goes through ups and downs.
    Simply put, you’re not doing anyone a favor by pursuing the 80-hour workweek.
  2. Success is much more than checking off your to-do list. Of course, hard work and perseverance are needed. But so are luck, opportunity, and a hundred different variables.

In light of these facts, we need to learn to slow down. It will only help us come back to work with higher energy.

Ensure that you’re sleeping enough, exercising enough, eating right, and doing things you like outside of work. Take naps and breaks during the day. There’s nothing to be ashamed of.

If you’re not rested, you can’t live in the present moment. Your mind will always be drawn to the thought “I’m so tired,” “I want to sleep,” “My back hurts,” and so on.

Getting these basics right will make you more alert, aware and as a result, more mindful.

You Can’t Eliminate Stress. But You Can Do This

Like it or not, stress is always going to be there in our lives. We can’t eliminate stress. What we can control is our reaction to it.

Stress triggers a highly negative response in our minds and bodies. It can be headaches, fatigue, nervousness, negative emotions, and so on. Since we’re seldom aware of it, we go down this spiral of negativity and lose our sanity.

With that, our efforts to be mindful go down the drain. To stop this from happening, we need to learn and catch stress the moment it hits us.

Once we’re aware of stress, we can do many things to fix it. Taking a walk, meditating, watching a funny clip, talking to a friend, etc are basic examples. We all have our stress busters. But what we need is the awareness to use them on the battlefield of life.

The way to do this is to make a list of 3–5 of your stress triggers. Think about common situations that stress you out at work or in your personal life. Then write a plan to deal with them. Really, write it on paper.

I’ll go first. My trigger is being suddenly bombarded with a lot of work. When this happens, I step away from my desk with a notebook. Make a plan to tackle all tasks. And then come back to start working on them one by one.

A Powerful Catalyst for Happiness

“The root of joy is gratefulness.” — David Steindl-Rast

Gratitude is the antidote to negativity. When you’re truly grateful, you can’t be angry, hateful, or irritated.

Whatever rut you’re in, you can look at it from the lens of gratitude. If you hate your job, try to find what you like about it. If you don’t like your boss, maybe you like your team?

Now, this doesn’t mean that we don’t take steps to improve our situation (changing our job for example), but we don’t let our negative emotions get the better of us.

If you constantly dwell on the negative, you start to see negatives even when there aren’t any. This is our brains’ negativity bias. Humans are wired to find things that are wrong or that we don’t like. But this evolutionary wiring costs us our happiness in the modern world.

Part of mindfulness is seeing things as they are — a mix of both good and bad. From that place, we can be grateful for the good and try to find ways to improve the bad. Heck, we can even be grateful for the bad things since they help us grow.

Gratitude has no limits. It will fill your heart with love to the extent you let it. So open yourself and see the world change around you.

If It’s Raining, Let It Rain

“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.”

Lao Tzu

If there’s any virtue that closely accompanies mindfulness and meditation, it’s acceptance — non-judgmental acceptance of whatever happens.

Too often, we either invest our energy in denying or fixing what’s already happened. In that state of mind, we forget to deeply accept reality. It’s only when we’ve deeply accepted the situation, can we objectively think about improving it.

Otherwise, our inner emotional distress clouds our mind and intellect, leading to stupid decisions. Let’s say you didn’t achieve your goals at the workplace. If you’re not mindful, your reaction to this can be one of the following:

  • Denying the situation and trying to bury it under the carpet
  • Skipping meetings with your boss and trying to not talk about it
  • Venting your anger on your team or loved ones

The mindful response, on the other hand, would be to accept the failure and learn from it. Such failures at work can also lead to self-loathing and criticism which can seriously affect your confidence and motivation — all for nothing.

The cure is simple — to stop forming these mental narratives in your brain and start seeing the situation as it is.

Final Thoughts

Mindfulness is more than sitting on a cushion with legs crossed. It’s a way of life. It’s a tool for self-mastery and high performance. And we all need to learn how to use it.

Here’s how you can bring mindfulness to your workday:

  1. Remind yourself through your devices to be mindful regularly (I know it’s counterproductive but try to use it judiciously)
  2. Be engrossed in deep work and enter a state of flow. It’s more pleasurable than indulging in distractions.
  3. Understand your circadian rhythms and manage your energy. You can’t be productive all day long so make the most of your high-energy hours and rest during the others.
  4. Be mindful of stress when you see it coming. You can’t remove it from your life. But you can manage your response to it better by being mindful.
  5. Gratitude is the catalyst for happiness. Try to be grateful for the good things in your life and the bad ones will not seem so bad after all.
  6. Accept life as it is. Only when you accept it can you do anything about it.

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Written on July 4, 2021