11 No-Fail Ways to Practice Mindfulness at Work

Meditation is amazing for managing our emotions, calming our mind and body, and reducing stress. But, unless it’s lunchtime, most of us can’t escape our jobs to go meditate anytime throughout the day. So the question is, how can we practice mindfulness at work.

In this episode, Todd goes into great detail about how to practice mindfulness at work, and most importantly, how to stay mindful at those really difficult times when our emotions are about to get the better of us.

Here you find practical tips for how to stay mindful and ways to remember to be mindful throughout the workday.  These little reminders can help us be more focused, less stressed, and can save us from losing our temper or getting overwhelmed at work.

***If you prefer reading to listening, here’s the transcript of this podcast***

Why Do We Need to Practice Mindfulness at Work

According to a statistic I just made up, 80% of all stress in our lives is from work. I don’t know if it’s true, but it feels true, doesn’t it? The thing is, all of that stress is not necessary. We have an incredible tool at our disposal to overcome it, to completely get rid of it. And that is mindfulness.

Mindfulness is a way of looking at all of our mental processes – our thoughts, our emotions – and being aware of them, so that we don’t get consumed by them, and lost in them. Meditation is a great tool for helping us become mindful because it’s that time to sit and observe your thoughts, your emotions, your bodily sensations. Along with the physical manifestations of stress, we also need to apply this mindfulness to our daily life.

Nowhere is that more important than in the workplace. From bosses who don’t like your work to coworker gossip, there are so many things that can trigger this stress response that mindfulness can help us with in the office. Since you can’t always leave work and go meditate for 20 minutes, it becomes crucial to integrate mindfulness into our work lives.

There are some very simple, practical things we can do in the office to help us be more mindful and see situations from a different perspective. This way, we are not suffering internally and struggling with whatever tasks we have to accomplish that day.

5 Ways to Practice Mindfulness at Work

There are really five ways to practice mindfulness at work.

1. Become Aware of Physical Manifestations of Stress

Be aware of the physical manifestations of stress that are happening in your body as they start to arise. This can serve as a reminder to us to take a breath, take a pause.

Just cool down for a second. These physical manifestations include tension in our face, shoulders, neck, back, anywhere. They are also very shallow, short, quick, irregular breathing. Sometimes we even hold our breath, and we tense up in our throat, our blood pressure rises, our heart rate rises, and literally, our temperature rises.

Some people may start to shake or close their fists. These are all physical manifestations of stress. As soon as we recognize them, we can regain control by adjusting our breath, relaxing our shoulders, and taking deep, slow, long breaths as soon as we notice ourselves reacting. Instead of lashing out at a coworker, we can pause, collect ourselves, and think rationally again.

2. Pay Attention Not to the Mental Story But to What’s Happening

Another thing we can do is instead of paying attention to the story in our mind about what’s happening, we can pay attention to what is happening. The story in our mind might be filled with questions like, “How could this person say this? Does this person know anything? I can’t stand this person. Where do they get the nerve?”

All fiction; the reality of the situation is that this person is saying something that perhaps my ego doesn’t want to hear, something they perhaps shouldn’t be saying. But if you look at the situation deeper, you can see it from their perspective. You can start to focus on the energy behind what they’re saying, where they’re coming from.

As we get out of our own heads, we can see the situation not from our perspective or theirs, but we can truly see a reality forming. Maybe this person had a bad morning, maybe they lost someone or are going through something really difficult. Perhaps they are justified in saying what they’re saying, but they’re expressing it poorly because they’re not being mindful.

Maybe your reaction stems from your ego and pride being hurt, feeling like they don’t have the right to talk to you that way. But in reality, it’s just two people talking. These are just sound waves bouncing off your ear, becoming electrical signals in your brain and interpreted by the mind. It’s in this interpretation where the truth gets lost.

Our perspective becomes narrow. We fixate on this one thing we don’t like. So it’s essential to expand our awareness beyond the one thing that’s driving us crazy, because that’s what happens – we become fixated and obsessed. All we can see is this one aspect of an infinitely rich experience, which is always the present moment. We focus on this one thing that drives us crazy.

3. Notice Your Desires And Expectations

Another super important thing we can do is notice our desires and expectations for things to be a certain way and let go of them. Unless you’re an all-powerful dictator, you do not have the power to control things exactly as you wish.

So it’s crucial that we accept the present moment, whatever it is. This is a continual practice we can engage in throughout our lives. It says, “I accept this moment, I’ll deal with this moment exactly as it is. I won’t wish for it to be something else because that would be a delusion.”

I will respond accordingly to this moment. In this way, we make the right decisions because we’re reacting to the present moment, not some imagined present moment or something we wish would be in this moment.

There’s no conflict, only wisdom, patience, and clarity. This is how we make the best decisions. However, this doesn’t mean we accept the present moment and don’t try to change things or reach for goals. It means we accept the reality of the present moment while still striving for growth and improvement.

Accepting the present moment doesn’t mean we just roll over and die. We don’t let whatever happens happens and say, “Well, that’s what the universe wants.” What it means is that we try to change things, fix things, improve things, set goals, and reach goals. But we do it with no tension, no stress, no attachment to an outcome, and no disappointment if it doesn’t go our way.

In doing so, we operate from a higher intelligence. It’s not a forced effort; we are letting the present moment be. We’re honoring that moment. We are responding with a greater sense of peace and calm, so that our whole lives, no matter what happens, we have peace and calm. We change things, fix things, and deal with things soberly, without fear, anger, or resistance. In a sense, we’re letting the universe flow through us.

4. Observe Your Ego

Another way we can be mindful at work is to simply observe our ego. The reason we get hurt is because the ego is saying, “How can they treat me like this?” The ego is trying to fool us into believing it is us. That’s why it says “me” when it means the ego, but we think it is who we are.

However, the ego and the thinking mind are parts of our body, part of our brain function, just like our hands are. We don’t get mad at the hand for being a hand because we don’t identify as a hand. Yet, we identify as the ego. This is why when the ego gets hurt, we feel hurt.

But what you can do when you recognize this hurt pride, hurt ego, feeling like someone shouldn’t be allowed to talk to you this way, or having your work criticized and feeling, is to simply acknowledge it.

By recognizing that we are creating a distance between ourselves and the thing that is hurt, we gain perspective. In that distance, we find peace and calmness. It’s like that experience we all have when we look back on something terrible and laugh about it because of how silly it was, despite how much it felt like a huge, terrible thing at the moment.

We all say, “One day we’ll look back and laugh.” But that laughter comes from distance. When you have that distance right at the beginning of whenever a terrible thing happens, you don’t have to wait a decade to come to peace with it. You can have that in that moment. Because really, anything that happens at work is a silly little thing; nothing at work should get us worked up.

The more we observe the ego, the more we notice it being the ego, and the more we decide to disidentify with it. Consequently, the little skirmishes, little inconveniences at work cease to create any stress in our lives.

The ego was a phenomenal evolutionary advantage back when humans lived in the wild and needed to perceive immediate threats. We needed it to look out for us. But considering today’s workplaces, especially offices, are relatively super safe, the ego’s responses often become overreactions.

We don’t need that defensiveness anymore. So by being aware of this mental activity that happens, being aware that it unconsciously generates this needless suffering, we can bring about a profound shift.

Once we bring about this conscious awareness to an unconscious reaction, then the unconscious reaction can no longer happen because we are conscious of it.

Consciously, we would not lash out at work, lose our temper, or stuff down stress, anger, and resentment. Instead, we would let it go. We would forgive, be patient with others who may be doing things at work we don’t think they should be doing.

This conscious awareness allows us to respond with wisdom, patience, and compassion, rather than reacting out of habit or ego-driven impulses. This stuff that seems so big to the ego can now, with distance, seem very small.

5. Ask Yourself This Question

The last thing that is super helpful when we feel our blood boiling and our blood pressure rising is to simply ask yourself, “What is the best way for me to respond? What is the best course of action to get what I want?”

This, again, is part of that curiosity that diminishes the stream of negative thoughts and judgments. Asking yourself, “What is the best way for me to respond at work?” redirects your focus from anger or jealousy to kindness or patience. It empowers you to choose a response that aligns with your values and serves your highest good, rather than reacting impulsively from a place of ego.

We all know that it never serves us to lose our temper; it always makes us look bad. It never even serves us to hold grudges. This doesn’t mean you have to seek out the person you dislike the most at work, but you can let go of all that negative triggering trauma response so that no one, no thing, can bring you down at work.

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6 Ways to Remind Yourself to Be Mindful at Work When You’re About to Lose It

So, that’s the way that mindfulness can really help at work. But something that is equally important is how we can remember to be mindful when things start to get heated. While mindfulness is very easy, it is a practice. The more we do it, the better we get at it.

Therefore, incorporating mindfulness practices into our daily routine, such as taking a few deep breaths, practicing gratitude, or simply observing our thoughts without judgment, can help us stay grounded and centered even in the most challenging situations at work.

So practicing is essential to make it a habit. Here are six ways that can help you remind yourself to be mindful when you feel yourself about to lose it or your blood pressure starting to rise, or when something’s not going right, how can you remember to be mindful in that moment?

1. Know Your Triggers

Know what kind of typical situations trigger your emotions to run hot. Before you enter those situations, such as when a boss reviews your work or when you’re going to be in a meeting with a coworker with whom you have conflicts, take a minute. Take a few conscious breaths, check your body for any tension, and let it go.

You can control your breathing, and your breath controls your body, so you can slow down your breathing, take deep breaths into your belly, and be very conscious of your breath.

This will raise your level of consciousness and mindfulness before you go into that situation. So, when you’re going to be in a situation that’s particularly triggering, take a few moments. Bring some mindfulness to your little mindfulness checkup.

2. Check Your Breathing Regularly

Throughout the day, do the same thing. Check your body, check your breath, and make it a habit. If you do it 10, 20, 30 times a day, the more you take a conscious breath every single day, the more this becomes second nature. This is super important.

3. Take Deep Breaths

When you do start to feel your heart rate elevating or your breath shortening, let that be a reminder to take some deep breaths and become present.

4. Observe Yourself

Observe your body, your reactions, your thoughts, your ego. Eventually, the subtler and subtler reactions you have can be your reminder, so that you’re getting less and less triggered each time. Eventually, you’ll know before it even happens, and that’s where the real beauty happens. To have a moment to get out of your head and into your body, into your space.

5. Keep Some Physical Reminders on Your Desk

If a lot of this happens while you’re away from your desk, in various work situations, and you want another reminder, you can keep a rock, crystal, or maybe a necklace – any kind of reminder. You can touch it, put your hand in your pocket, or anything like that.

6. Use These Hand Poses As Present Moment Reminders

Lastly, there are a lot of different hand poses for meditation. These can be very powerful for reminding yourself to be present and mindful. One simple thing you can do is tapping your index finger to your thumb, as a reminder to be present—something that’s very subtle, no one will notice. Each time you do it, it’ll create an automatic response of bringing yourself present consciously. Taking your attention out of your mind’s story and putting your attention into your fingertips. It’s a great, simple practice that you can do and will instantly take you out of whatever kind of stressful situation is going on.

That is the secret to how to use mindfulness at work and how to remember to be mindful at particularly stressful times. 

We will never figure out what makes us truly happy in life if we do not first know ourselves. Take the journey within, in the book, Finding Your True Self: A Love Story. It’s the most important journey any of us can take.

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