“Few of us ever live in the present. We are forever anticipating what is to come or remembering what has gone.” ― Louis L’Amour
More and more research is surfacing regarding the benefits of mindfulness. Mindfulness is being present in the moment, fully aware without judgment. It allows you to be in the here and now with awareness of your mind and body. Practicing mindfulness in the workplace can increase focus and productivity, improve work relationships, enhance well being, and reduce stress. Mindful awareness begins with the most basic activities of our day, such as breathing, eating, and walking. Sounds almost too simple, right? It’s not like we forget how to breathe. So what steps can we take to be more mindful and gain all those advantages?
The acronym STOP can develop more awareness of the body on a daily basis. This is how STOP works:
S: STOP, take a pause and stop whatever you are doing in this moment.
T: Take a break. Reconnect with your body, with yourself.
Side note: Too often, our breathing is shallow. Our lungs are capable of so much more than that. When taking a breath, make sure it’s a nice deep one that comes from your abdomen and fills up your lungs. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth, slowly and deeply. Three of these nice, deep breaths will assist in relaxing you and send a message to your body to reverse the release of adrenaline.
O: Observe what is happening in this moment. What do you notice? You can be aware of anything: your posture, bodily sensations, tension, heartbeat, or breathing. You may observe your thoughts or emotions. What do you see? What do you hear?
P: Proceed. Resume what you were doing before you came to a STOP.
Mindfulness vs. Multitasking
In our last blog post, we described how multitasking spreads you too thin and doesn’t allow for the level of focus needed to complete a task with the attention it deserves. Research suggests implementing mindfulness techniques can bring about positive changes in the workplace including better memory, greater concentration, and increased timeliness when working on one task at a time.
Here at the Center for Work and Family Life, we strive to practice what we preach. Recently, I took advantage of the STOP technique while at work. Okay, you got me: I was writing this blog and felt the pressure to finish it by the deadline. As I was sitting at my desk typing feverishly to finish on time, I implemented the STOP technique. I stopped my typing and consciously took a deep breath. I noticed tightness in my chest. I observed this tension, took a couple of more deep breaths to relax, eased the physical sensation, and then returned to the task at hand. I noticed immediately that I was more relaxed and my focus was much improved. Using mindfulness, I was able to concentrate more easily and complete my project with plenty of time to spare. What a difference a few seconds made. I improved my performance and reduced my stress in one fell swoop. Give it a try!