How to Use Mindfulness to Make Your Work Life Fulfilling – Part Two
In Part Two of this blog, we’ll look at more ways to adapt and use the principles of mindfulness to make your work life a bit more fulfilling.
Is being happy at work still a vague dream, or a feasible journey? Firstly, one of the things you need to try and do is re-examine many of your established, ingrained assumptions. Things like ‘what is strength?’, ‘what is success?’, and ‘what is happiness?’ Sometimes people think of happiness as a carefree, conflict-avoidant, risk-averse existence, or they think of mindfulness as being passive. Some people think of compassion as being silly or sentimental. The reason to practice meditation is not just to relax or de-stress, but to allow ourselves the basis for very deep introspection, where we can emerge with a very different sense of where our greatest happiness lies.
So how does such an esoteric practice transfer to the no-nonsense environment of the workplace? Well, for example, before you press ‘send’ on that e-mail, there’s a moment where you have the opportunity to think, “Perhaps I should wait.” All kinds of conscious moments of awareness will begin to seep into the workplace. When this way of thinking is embedded enough, it will become more and more part of the fabric of your day-to-day work.
In fact, developing greater mindfulness is a practice, the definition of which is simply, ‘Done with repetition’. While you may want to be more mindful with your emails or your manager, expanding mindful awareness of your habits in all of your work relationships, will give you better insights than simply focusing on one person or action, although that may be a good start. While there is often a tendency to want to solve our more intractable problems first, try to resist the temptation to start with the most difficult element of your work life that is troubling you.
The best way to begin is to clarify your intentions. Know your motives. You may intend to be more patient or kinder with a specific colleague or with all the people you work with. Be clear with yourself about your intentions. What do you really want your outcomes to be – for you – or for others?
Use language carefully. Remember, language is power. Often the emphasis on nonverbal influence seems to diminish the value of words. For example, name-calling in an office environment can be toxic. When you label others, you de-personalise them. And when other people hear you use labels or make derogatory remarks about others, they will, at some level, assume you will do the same to them. So stop and think, and modify your language.
Therefore, it follows that you should observe your behaviour. We all practise behavioural patterns with others, consciously or subconsciously, especially with those people we work with regularly. Some of these behaviours can work – by which they produce a positive result. Try and get to know what these are. Conversely, begin to note what signals you send out that may provoke weak or negative responses in others. Over time, you’ll get a much clearer picture of the communication habits you have (that could be specific to an individual or more general) that you may choose to change.
With constant computer access, it’s easy to stay plugged in all day at work and outside the office. But this 24/7 connectivity could be taking a toll on our health. Studies have found that excessive reliance on technology could make us more distracted, impatient and forgetful. Recently, digital detox retreats have sprung up as a way for stressed-out workers to truly ‘get away from it all’, more and more individuals are electing to take weekly “technology boycotts,” and many of us are looking for ways to live our tech-saturated lives more mindfully. Technology kind of compresses the time that we have to evaluate information. We’re constantly bombarded with information, and the only solution is to go ‘off the grid’ for a while.
It may seem impossible at work, but taking even short breaks from technology can help keep stress levels at bay and boost productivity. Try leaving your Smartphone at your desk when you leave for lunch or finding a quiet, tech-free area for a three-minute breathing space in the afternoon. And on the weekends, consider taking an afternoon or a full day to unplug so you can return to work on Monday feeling recharged.
Some remain sceptical and believe that mindfulness is just the latest fad, while others are unaware of the benefits or fear being labelled as unprofessional. There is plenty of evidence, including from the mental health arena and the field of neuroscience, showing how mindfulness can help reduce stress. Developing these skills help people become more engaged in their work, more energised and less anxious and they suffer from fewer symptoms of stress.