I’m on my way to a client meeting. After inching through traffic and driving around and around looking for a parking space, I’m now walking towards her office. I take out my mobile, glance at the screen and put it back in my pocket. But…what time is it? I get my mobile out again, read a Whatsapp that I’ve just received, and put it back. Hang on, what time was it? I check my phone yet again and see that I’ve got ten minutes spare.
I start going over my notes from our last meeting, but suddenly remember I was supposed to call the painter. While dialing I fumble in my pocket for a coin for the vending machine. With the rush this morning I didn’t have time for breakfast and my stomach is grumbling. Phone jammed against my shoulder, I stir my coffee and push the button for some biscuits which promptly get stuck. I give the machine a hard nudge to make the biscuits fall, but only manage to spill my coffee, drop the phone and crack the screen. What a disaster!
Stress affects our work, family and health
Home at last, worn out from an exhausting day, I’m longing to relax. But not a chance! My 8 year-old son comes crying because he’s just fallen, and his 10 year-old brother wants me to help him revise for an exam tomorrow. Meanwhile, my wife grabs her bag and announces that she’s on her way out to dinner with some friends (“I told you. Don’t you remember?”). My stomach is starting to churn, my head is starting to throb and I think out loud, “What did I do to deserve this?”
Sound familiar? Lack of concentration; failed multitasking; unexpected situations that overwhelm you… It happens to all of us. It all adds up to stress that over time can seriously affect our physical and mental wellbeing.
Retrain your brain
Faced with the challenges that every day brings, our thought patterns are often unhelpful. According to an article from the US National Science Foundation, 80% of our daily thoughts are negative, and 95% are repetitive and identical to those of the previous day. And in the words of Mahatma Gandhi:“A man is but the product of his thoughts. What he thinks, he becomes”.
So, what can we do? Retrain our brains of course! As Santiago Ramón y Cajal, Nobel prize winner for Medicine, once said: “If we try, we can all can become sculptors of our brains”. Neuroplasticity is the term neurologists use for the capacity our brain has to evolve if we train and stimulate it in certain manner.
So how can I retrain my brain? A simple and effective way to do this is via the practice of Mindfulness or full attention. Mindfulness is a type of body and mind training that helps reduce stress, boost concentration, and improve our wellbeing. It’s all about focusing our attention in a non-judgmental way on the present moment. Our goal is to calmly decide on the correct course of action and avoid getting carried away by automatic responses.
Address your daily challenges more effectively with Mindfulness
Mindfulness can help us work more effectively on our daily challenges—whatever they may be. It helps us to regulate our emotions, get things in perspective and take better decision, for instance. Like a ‘steroid’ for the mind, mindfulness allows us to find the best versions of ourselves and boost our performance. Incredibly, as outlined in the Harvard Business Review, researchers from the University of British Columbia showed that Mindfulness can literally change our brains and even increase the density of our grey matter.
From Ronaldo, Federer and Madonna to Elon Musk and LinkedIn’s Jeff Weiner, many sports stars, artists and entrepreneurs have incorporated Mindfulness and meditation techniques into their daily routines. As Bill Gates says, “I now see that meditation is simply exercise for the mind, similar to the way we exercise our muscles when we play sports. It’s about taking a few minutes out of my day, learning how to pay attention to the thoughts in my head, and gaining a little bit of distance from them”.
Mindfulness in the workplace
But how can I do this in the office (which is where I most need it!)? Easy!
Although Mindfulness is “a recent science”, it is based on age-old techniques of meditation. You don’t need to shut yourself away in a monastery to practise it, however! Simple meditation or full attention exercises are all you need to do to enjoy the benefits of Mindfulness.
In recent years, firms such as Google, SAP, Apple, Bosch, Goldman Sachs—even the Bank of England and the US military—have been using Mindfulness to improve work performance, as described in this report by the Boston Consulting Group. Likewise, 64% of 102 firms certified as Top Employers in Spain have already launched Mindfulness programmes.
Practise Mindfulness with the STOP Exercise
If you want to practise a simple Mindfulness technique that you can do anywhere, try the STOP Exercise. You only need a couple of minutes to do it – just find a quiet place and follow these steps:
T: Take some deep breaths: Breathe in; Breathe out.
O: Observe yourself. How do you feel? What emotion are you feeling? What thoughts come to your mind? How does your body feel?
P: Proceed. Continue doing what you were doing before performing this consciousness exercise.
You’ll see that investing just two minutes of your time in this way will make you feel calmer and better able to choose the appropriate response to the situation you are facing. Practised regularly, Mindfulness can strengthen our capacity to adapt to change and learn new things. It makes our minds more agile and helps us find answers within ourselves. Vaccinate yourself against stress with Mindfulness!
Finally, we can’t solve all your problems, but we can promise that an introductory session of Mindfulness in the workplace will set you on the right path to finding solutions that work for you!