There was recently an opportunity at work to take part in a mindfulness introduction course. I’ve been practicing myself for the last year or so and this was an opportunity for another insight into how best to practice. Moreover, I would technically be getting paid to practice mindfulness! I quickly applied and managed to get a space on the course. A lady with a very soothing voice gave a brief fifteen minute talk outlining the benefits of practicing mindfulness and then continued to give a thirty five minute session of mindfulness activities.
The mindfulness activities consisted of three separate exercises we could use. The first exercise focused on our breathing, our guide asked us to notice how the air was much warmer after exhaling compared to the initial inhale. The second exercise focused on increasing the pause at the end of the exhale. The idea here was that as we become more relaxed this pause becomes longer, by forcing ourselves to increase the pause at the end of the exhale by five seconds, we would become far more relaxed. The third exercise aimed to both make you fall asleep and improve the quality of sleep. This focused on breathing as usual, but also moved our attention around to various parts of the body. Starting on the feet, moving up through various parts of the legs, torso, back and arms. The focus on how the various body parts felt aids relaxation and many people in the class nearly fell asleep in ther chairs. After this, the presenter gave a few suggestions on where else we could practice mindfulness. One example suggested we could practice mindful eating, focusing on the food’s textures, tastes and smells. Another suggested we could focus on one of our five senses, for example, walking down the street and really focusing on hearing your surroundings.
The aim of mindfulness is to focus more on the present moment. This is opposed to thinking about the past, future or hypothetical situations. In moments were our minds wander away from the present during mindfulness, we are meant to observe the thought with no judgement and then continue focusing on the present. The course was hugely helpful for me as I had hit a bit of rut in my mindfulness practice and approaching it with different exercises and a teacher greatly improved my experience. It was also nice to see many colleagues (most of whom I didn’t know!) practice mindfulness. It got me thinking how beneficial mindfulness could be in a workplace, specifically an office environment.
An obvious benefit of practicing mindfulness is that it can reduce stress. Working in an office environment will have its stresses. There are stresses in any job, however, if your job involves physical activity you will find it easier to reduce these tensions, it can be harder to do so if you are slumped over a desk for most of the day. Moreover, the lack of exercise involved with sitting in an office all day has other negative side effects on one’s health. Mindfulness can counteract this as some suggest it can lower blood pressure and treat heart disease.
Aside from the physical benefits of mindfulness, there are many psychological benefits that could improve your life as an office worker. It can be hard to keep your concentration levels if you spend much of your day staring at a screen, mindfulness has been shown to improve concentration. Working in an office can also prove very drab, spending time during your day to focus on the present can make you appreciate your time and surroundings far more. This could be focusing on hearing what is around you smiling as you notice a colleague’s humming or it could be being mindful of the taste and texture of your mid-afternoon snack.
If you want to practice mindfulness or wish to take it up, I would recommend you either read a book on subject, download some guided meditation apps/soundtracks or go to a meditation class. Alternatively, you could do all three! If you already practice mindfulness, it may be worth your while mixing up your existing techniques to give your practice a breath of fresh air. Mindfulness is a great way to relax and reduce the tensions of day-to-day life. Moreover, it requires you to engage with what is actually happening, making your experiences richer and more prominent. There are so many stories of people testifying that mindfulness has greatly improved their life, why not try it yourself and become one of these people.