Mindfulness - the ability to centre yourself in this moment - has found its way into the spotlight in recent years. But the COVID-19 outbreak has put a different lens on the importance of mental well-being and self care.
The Journal previously met with Karen Liebenguth of Green Space Coaching to understand the practice. Her suggestions below for finding focus when the emotional woods and trees in our heads feel a little overwhelming can be applied to the home just as much as the workplace.
A mindful practice helps us to have moment-to-moment awareness of our experience, as opposed to operating in autopilot. It helps us bring attention to how we’re feeling and how we relate and react to situations. This awareness helps us to develop more skilful ways of responding to events in life.
Studies have shown that mindfulness not only has positive effects on burnout, stress and anxiety. It can lead to a more positive outlook, help with empathy, a sense of cohesion, self-compassion and overall quality of life.
Contrary to the naming conventions, feeling from the heart, or being kind, is an important aspect of mindfulness practice. This refers to the practice of meeting our experience non-judgementally, whatever it is. This doesn’t mean being sycophantic, or nice and fluffy all the time. Kindness - to ourselves and to others - does not make us weak and self-indulgent. It makes us more emotionally robust and less self-absorbed.
Where mindfulness is no quick fix (it’s a practice, requiring regular commitment), if you stick with it, can positively transform how we think and behave in our work and personal lives.
Kindness doesn't mean being nice and fluffy all the time - it means feeling from the heart, or not judging
Here are some practical mindfulness tips for the workplace:
Give yourself permission to take several short breaks a day. Step out of the office building and take 3-5 conscious breaths, notice the sky above your head and the ground beneath your feet or alternatively, step towards a window and look at the sky.
Schedule a lunch break every day for 20-30 minutes and eat away from your desk and without looking at your phone or computer – just noticing, tasting and enjoying your food.
Take a few moments to explore how you would like to be perceived at the end of a meeting, a phone or video conferencing call or in an email. Would you like to come across as fearsome, gentle, resolute, inclusive, assertive, open-minded, unwavering? How do you feel when you perceive others in that way?
If you have an upcoming one-to-one conversation, set an intention to listen more and to speak less. We can begin to listen more by taking the other person in more fully, really seeing them in front of us, sensing their presence and paying attention to each word they are saying.
If you are feeling down or discouraged, consider helping someone at work. Research has identified a happiness-helping feedback loop. The more we help, the happier we can be.
Set an intention for the day before beginning work. For example: “Today I’m going to treat everyone kindly and with respect.” Often this only requires a slight change in our tone, or to greet someone rather than ignore them, or to listen rather than talking or walking away… Notice the difference in how you feel at the end of the day.
Before sending an important email, send it to yourself. When you open it as the recipient, you’ll take in the tone, implications and possible omissions that you might otherwise miss when you are focused on writing your email.
Look for a way to acknowledge someone’s accomplishments, to compliment a colleague for their promptness, diligence, collaboration, their willingness to support the team or the project…
When walking to a meeting, feel your feet against the ground and the sense of your body moving. See whether you can resist looking at your phone, or either taking or making a call while doing this.
Travel to work some days without looking at your phone, listening to music, reading the paper or a book. Experience the transition from home to work as a journey in itself. It’s time to just be and to reflect.
If you are nervous about speaking giving a presentation, spend a few moments to feel your feet on the ground and to breathe into your lower belly. It helps you stay grounded in yourself, in the present moment.
Karen Liebenguth is an accredited mindfulness trainer. She offers tailored mindfulness programs for the workplace as well as knowledge and guidance to help create a culture of wellbeing. Karen is also a qualified coach and MBTI facilitator. She has been working with individuals and teams for 10 years to foster personal and professional development, mental resilience and positive emotion.
Karen specialises in coaching while walking in green space tapping into the beneficial impact nature has on our physical, psychological and emotional wellbeing. For more information on Karen’s work and to book a free taster coaching session, please visit her website: http://www.greenspacecoaching.com