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What if I told you that no matter how much you may dislike going to work and wish you were sunning yourself on a tropical beach, you actually have the potential to transform any job into a more positive experience? Would you believe me?
For the majority of us, most of our waking hours are spent at work, and sadly, our jobs can frequently become a source of stress or exhaustion. What I wonder, though, is how much of that stress is brought on ourselves due to our poor mental habit of rejecting the present moment and overwhelming ourselves with future worries or past obsessions.
The ancient yogis taught karma yoga, or cultivating meditation in action through one's daily activities, and spiritual teachers like Eckhart Tolle and Jon Kabat-Zinn remind us that through mindful attention on the present moment, any task can become a source of joy and peace.
So how do we bring a mindfulness practice to work? Unless you’re a yoga teacher, I don’t suggest lugging your meditation cushion, prayer beads and incense to the office in your briefcase; you may freak a few colleagues out. But you can set up a few simple personal habits to get the most out your work day, both in terms of productivity and reduced stress.
1. Set the intention.
At the beginning of your work day, take a couple of moments to breathe deeply and mentally set the intention to stay calm, present and focused throughout the day.
2. Do one thing at a time.
Focus your attention only on the task at hand. Slow your movements and thoughts down until you can maintain singular focus.
3. Take pleasure in your work when you can.
Whether it's having the occasional gaze out of the window, stopping to laugh with a colleague or appreciating a task that you enjoy or do well, enjoying your work environment is crucial to maintaining a mindfulness practice.
4. Be present in your interaction with others.
Stop what you're doing or thinking when someone is speaking to you, and really listen to them and pay attention.
5. Use your breaks to get back in touch with your body.
Have a little stretch, go for a short walk, or take some deep breaths. When eating your lunch or having a cup of tea, slow down and pay attention to the physical sensations, the taste and texture of the food, or the warmth of the tea.
6. Put reminder stickers around your workplace.
Place a few small stickers (they don’t have to be iridescent unicorns, just some tiny red-dots ... unless you like unicorns, of course) on your computer, phone, or desk. Every time you see the stickers, use them as a reminder to pause and bring your awareness back into the present moment.
7. At the end of the day, return to your breath.
If the mind is elsewhere, focus on your breathing and congratulate yourself for your mindfulness. Importantly, set the intention to leave your work behind you for the day. It's finished. Carry your mindful attitude home with you so that you can truly enjoy your recreational activities and precious time with friends and family.