When I got the amazing offer to start working as a community manager I was on a yoga retreat in Malaga, surrounded by palm trees, the subtle sound of a little waterfall and I’m pretty sure a turtle watched me from her stone next to the pond.
What I learned on that trip have made my day-to-day a little bit more livable, and I think they can make your life easier, too. And no, this is not an article sponsored by the latest travel app out there.
Spending a week in beautiful Malaga for an awareness and yoga retreat not only gave me the chance to work on all those dog, cat and warrior poses, but to learn a lot about how the principles of mindfulness and compassion can help me feel more alive, present and yes: even productive. I’m here to share this insight with you.
If you are the kind of person that loves reading studies as much as I do, then this one is for you:
Research across various disciplines such as psychology, neuroscience, and medicine provide a wealth of evidence that mindfulness improves attention, cognition, emotions, behavior and physiology.
That sounds pretty desirable already, doesn’t it? So how about this:
Mindfulness has been shown to specifically improve three qualities of attention – stability, control, and efficiency. The human mind is estimated to wander roughly half of the time we are awake. That means half our time our mind is not where our body is. We think about the next appointment while in a meeting, about dinner plans while we are talking to someone, or the relationship status of that handsome actor while reading a book.
Some might call that multitasking. Some might even think multitasking is the thing you need for success. I got big names like Google, General Mills or Goldman Sachs behind me though when I say that multitasking is dead, long live single-tasking.
And here is the good news: you don’t have to learn anything new! We have all the tools we need, we just don’t use them all the time. By practicing only some small mindfulness exercises throughout the day, you can get your mind to focus on what’s in front of you. Think of it like a switch, you just have to practice using it more often.
So let me give you a few tips and small exercises you can easily do at work (or wherever you might find yourself right now).
1. Pause before beginning your day
This doesn’t mean you gotta use any of that precious time in the morning (believe me, I know that internal fight of bed Vs. breakfast). Just a few breaths will do. I like to do it while in the shower: Don’t think about what’s ahead, what happened last night, or what the weather today might be like. Instead, do a quick body scan from head to toe and try to take notice of what tension you can let go of: your jaw maybe, your hands or your neck. Feel, smell and listen to what’s around you. If a thought does cross your mind, accept even that, send it away (but be friendly to it!) and get back to what’s around you. Now go and start that day – make it yours!
2. Move more throughout the day
Just 5 to 10 minutes of movement per hour can increase your focus dramatically. There are plenty of ways to get moving around Mindspace. One of our Berlin members has walking meetings through our 7th floor hallway every day instead of sitting in meeting rooms (They need precisely 03:42 for one round – not that we were watching the clock), and sometimes uses the breakfast benches for standing meetings. So, get out there team, I’m sure it’s been a while since you paid that neighbor down the hallway a visit.
3. Be present with others
When working in teams, communication is key. Practice mindfulness by listening to others fully without an agenda. You will see how much more you will remember and how much better you can engage with the other person when you really listen. (And yes folks: that also means to not interrupt your colleagues in meetings)
4. Practice nonjudgmental observation of yourself
When you feel stressed, disappointed, embarrassed, anything really, don’t try to push those feelings away. Accept that all of them are real and valid. The moment you look at your feelings with a curious mindset, you can decide for yourself in what way you want to react to them. This gives you a split second to make considered decisions. And the cherry on top: your serenity in a stressful situation will make those around you feel equally as calm. I promise you that.
5. Visualize positive outcomes before meetings
Before heading into a meeting prepare yourself and visualize what your desired outcome is. Now, keeping this in mind, think about how you have to act in order to get there. Enter the meeting with this mindset.
6. Take mindful breaks
We all love our breaks but most of the time while enjoying that salad or the beautiful pasta dish in front of us we are thinking about work, talking about projects… you what I mean. Once in a while, decide to have a mindful break. Whether it is in the kitchen or outside. Try to let those thoughts be gone for a bit. Stop and literally smell the roses! After a break like this, you will feel much more refreshed before returning to work.
And a last, but surely not least, a tip that helps me so much in managing my priorities:
7. Don’t waste energy on things you can’t change
Acceptance is the main player in mindfulness. Accept this present moment just as it is. That doesn’t mean you should give up or throw in the towel. It simply means to accept how things are right at this moment. Before you work on changing it.
I could go on and on with those. But I think you get my point. By deciding to be more mindful and aware in your daily life you become capable of making a free and fulfilling decision again instead of just reacting to things and emotions around you.
So meditate away, people of love.