Some of the world’s top companies, ranging from Google to Adobe and General Mills, have recognized that mindfulness may be the key to helping their employees be more productive. You’ve probably heard about how mindfulness can be a great way to relieve stress and sharpen focus, but there are specific benefits that especially translate over well to your work environment.
It Could Help You Stay Calm Under Pressure
Does it feel like your pulse rate climbs and your mind starts racing before every important meeting or phone conversation? If so, mindfulness might help. With practice, you can learn to harness those unconscious bodily reactions and keep your head clear.
Techniques include deep, measured breathing and coaching yourself to recognize your nervous thoughts but not be controlled by them. That may mean that instead of losing your cool when the pressure is mounting, you stay collected and ready to respond in the moment. Whenever you feel under pressure, take four controlled breaths and try to use that time to stay centered instead of getting distracted by whatever’s stressing you out.
It Might Change Your Perspective
When you’re under a lot of stress at work, sometimes it may seem like all you can focus on is the stressful things, not the progress you’re making while conquering those obstacles. Studies have shown that mindfulness improves insight problem-solving skills. However, there are several possible reasons why that’s the case. Some experts believe mindfulness encourages people to break out of the boxes they’ve created for themselves by falling into habitual patterns whenever they’re faced with a familiar problem.
That means mindfulness might help you become aware of a wider range of possibilities when tasked with solving problems. It may also encourage you to think creativity rather than being so reliant on approaches that worked in the past.
If you’re in a situation that requires you to solve a problem, take some time to be hyper-observant of the world around you. Pay attention to the sights, smells and sounds in your environment, and be as present as possible in the current moment. Don’t let yourself think too much about the what-if parts of the problem you’re trying to fix.
Attention Spans Can Be Developed Through Mindfulness
You may think that if you characteristically have a short attention span, you’re doomed, especially when it comes to multitasking. However, a study led by scientists at the University of Washington suggests that may not be true. Subjects in the study showed improved multitasking abilities after just eight weeks of mindfulness training.
The people who learned mindfulness were compared to groups that learned body relaxation techniques. The mindfulness group was able to stay on tasks for longer lengths of time, and also switched between tasks less frequently than their counterparts. Both groups showed improved memory skills too. Training yourself in mindfulness may not make you an expert multitasker right away, but it should be encouraging that study subjects saw positive results after just two months.
Check to see if there’s an introductory mindfulness course offered in your community so you can learn some foundational skills. If not, there are several self-guided resources to consider, ranging from MP3 courses to books.
Mindfulness Meditation Could Help You Make Wiser Choices
People tend to find it hard to move on from negative situations if they have already invested a significant amount of time or money into them. Maybe you can relate if you’ve been part of a relationship friends said was doomed, or regretted selling a car that you spent a lot of money on to try and repair.
It’s common to resist making decisions that could improve situations, due to a fear that there will be negative consequences. It’s especially likely for people to feel that way if they have dealt with adverse effects before.
However, study data has shown that just 15 minutes of mindfulness, accompanied by controlled breathing, is enough to help people make smarter decisions. They think it brings them back into the present rather than making them dwell on things that have already happened. Meditation is also said to help break bad habits, since it gives you the focus and energy needed to fight the temptation.
Set aside short blocks of time to practice mindfulness, and try to arrange them where they feel like natural parts of your day rather than something you feel forced to do. You may find that it works best to do a mindfulness session just after waking up, or immediately after you get home from work. Participating in mindfulness may help you avoid a midday slump during your lunch break, too.
You May Learn to Be More Accepting of Criticism
No one likes to get criticized for something, but practicing mindfulness could help you receive criticism readily, embrace it and move on.
Instead of getting immediately upset after hearing negative feedback about your performance, take five minutes to ground yourself by observing your response, taking some deep breaths and considering the information you were given. Accepting criticism isn’t an instantly acquired skill, but it’s one that’s very useful no matter your position in the workplace.
Maybe you’ve haven’t felt compelled to try mindfulness yet, but after reading these reasons why it could help you be more of an asset at work, you might just decide to make it a part of your everyday routine.
Sarah Landrum is a freelance writer and career-development blogger. Her blog, Punched Clocks, is all about helping young professional find happiness and success in their careers. Passionate about learning, Sarah advocates a career filled with continuous learning and growth. For more advice from Sarah, subscribe to her blog and follow her on Twitter @SarahLandrum