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Minfdulness – In the office for everyone – A set of exercises

author: KAMILA WYKROTA

Mindfulness w biurze dla każdego

Mindfulness is not only about meditating in the right position in an isolated, quiet room. It is also about practices that can be used in any situation – in the office, on a walk or while eating.

Practicing mindfulness effectively reduces both the racing of thoughts and anxiety, which is why the office is a perfect fit for it!

Important elements to keep in mind when practicing mindfulness in the office:

 

  • even one minute of mindful breathing will allow you to slow down and calm your thoughts;

  • breathing is not the only way to exercise mindfulness at the office; you can also choose an element of the activity you are taking part in – eating, listening, communicating;

  • ask yourself if your next task cannot wait 15 minutes, which you can devote to mindfulness in the middle of your day;

  • if it is not possible to find 10 or 15 minutes for the practice (are you sure?), you may incorporate a few moments of mindfulness into your day by breathing mindfully;

  • if it is possible, book a conference room in advance; it can motivate you to practice;

  • if you know that someone practices mindfulness just like you, it is good to practice together;

  • even if your calendar seems too full to even think of adding a session, there’s always time to stop and disconnect – e.g. on the way to a meeting or during a taxi ride – instead of checking your phone all the time. 

Mindful listening

How often do you feel that you have not listened to what was said to you, but you were absorbed in thinking about something else or wondered what you would answer? Mindful listening comprises focusing on what someone is saying, as well as their facial expressions, gestures and tone of voice. When you notice that your attention has dissipated, take a conscious breath and return to listening carefully.

Exercise before or during a difficult meeting

Direct your attention to your body for a moment. Feel your feet touching the ground and the movements of your body related to breathing. Do you feel tension in any place in your body? Do you notice what attitude, thoughts and emotions you are experiencing now? Take 3 deep, mindful breaths and return fully focused on the meeting.

Three minutes of mindful breathing

If you want, you can set the timer on your phone.

Sit comfortably in a chair. Straighten your back and, if possible, try to keep it off the backrest. Make sure that you do not raise your arms and do not stretch your neck. Place your feet flat on the floor and let your hands rest loosely on your lap or the chair back. You can close or partially close your eyes.

Start by noticing the areas in your body that are in contact with the chair, floor or the ones that seem most noticeable at the moment. Then turn your attention to your breath. Breathe naturally. You do not need to change anything but observe.

How is your body when you inhale and exhale? In which part of your body do you feel your breath most clearly? You may feel a breath of air at the tip of your nose or an air temperature that is different when you inhale and exhale. You may be able to see how your chest or abdomen rises when you inhale and gently fall as you exhale. Just notice. Without evaluating anything.

Perhaps you will notice the thoughts or emotions that appear. If so, accept this fact and gently return to observing your breathing and the place in the body in which you feel your breath at the moment.

When the three minutes are over, focus once again on the places in your body that are in contact with the chair or floor. Then, expand your attention to the entire room in which you are. Open your eyes if they were closed.

Ask yourself what the experience was for you. Do you have the impression that it has been three minutes, or longer or shorter? During the practice, did your mind calm or vice versa? Do you notice any emotions? Boredom? Frustration? Serenity?

Exercise to maintain concentration

Even at moments of high concentration and focus on a task, your brain constantly scans your internal states and external surroundings, which can in turn lead to frequent distraction and focusing away from the task proper. One of the tools that can help to maintain attention is the ABC method. Noticing the distraction (something preoccupies our thoughts, e.g. our child did not call us after returning from school), considering what we can do (we can continue the task and worry or take a moment’s break to call the child and make sure everything is ok) and making an informed choice about what to focus on.

Exercise during long work at the desk

It’s always a good idea to get up and stretch once in a while if you’re spending long hours at your desk. Take a mindful look around. What sounds can you hear; what is the weather outside the window; how is your body; does it need something now; which part of your body can you feel most clearly at the moment, do you feel accumulated tension anywhere in your body; maybe around the neck, arms, stomach, jaw area, lower back. Check if you can take a deep breath and get rid of unnecessary tension by exhaling. If possible, straighten your posture and stretch or perform an exercise.

A mindful meal

Eating or drinking can be a good time to practice mindfulness. Take care of the place and way of eating. Involve all your senses in enjoying your dish or drink.

Before eating, take 3 deep breaths. Breathing will boost your awareness, thanks to which you will be more present during the meal. If possible, do not begin a meal when you feel distracted or filled with emotions.

Make sure that you are sitting comfortably at the table in the canteen or in the office kitchen. Try not to eat standing, at the desk or in the car. Do not eat from the packaging in which your meal was bought or brought from home. If possible, put your meal on a plate. If you eat lunch at a restaurant, try to keep away from company from time to time and just go alone.

Also, take care to minimize “distractions”. Leave your tablet, telephone, newspaper or report alone during the meal time.

Before your meal, look at what you have on your plate. Note the variety of textures, shapes and colors. Note how the fragrances of your meal mix. Then take a slow bite and savor the taste of your food. Chew on every bite while enjoying the food.

Be mindful of the signals coming from your body and especially the moment your hunger is satisfied or you feel full.

A mindful walk

See if you can find a moment during the day to leave the office to get some fresh air and practice a mindful walk. Perhaps this is possible between meetings, tasks or during a lunch break. If leaving the office is impossible, try walking through office space, mindful of your body.

Start by walking at a natural pace. If it helps you, you can count steps 1 through 10. If it is possible, when you have counted to ten, stop or change the direction you’re walking.

With each step, notice the process of raising and lowering your feet. Notice the movement in your legs and other parts of the body caused by the walk. If you notice that your attention is dropping, just acknowledge it and gently return to acknowledging the sensations you feel from walking.

Our mind is constantly working so this exercise will probably bring about some thoughts and emotions. It’s natural. Therefore, it’s always a good idea to return to the exercise as many times as you notice your distraction.

After a while, expand your attention to notice the sounds coming to you. Without naming or following them. Just acknowledge the sounds that appear and disappear. Then focus your attention on the fragrances that come to you.

After a moment, look around and check if it is possible to look at the world around you, whether in the office or outside, as if you were seeing the it for the first time. What is the light, sky, the color of leaves on trees, buildings, people like?

Finally, return to the physical observations you make when you march. Again, feel your feet on the ground or floor and all movements in the body caused by each step.

When you are ready to end your practice of mindful walking, stop for a moment before returning to your activities.

Want to learn more or get in touch with a specialist?

If you would like to learn more about mindfulness and how it can change your life for the better, read:

  • “Full catastrophe living” by Jon Kabat_Zinn,
  • “The Mindfulness Solution. Everyday Practices for Everyday Problems” by Ronald Siegel.
  • “Miracle of Mindfulness. The Classic Guide to Meditation by the World’s Most Revered Master” by Thich Nhat Hanh,

The information provided in the article is not written by a doctor and does not constitute medical advice. Any and all suggestions that are provided are informative by nature and should not be treated as substitutes for individual diagnosis and individually assigned treatment.

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