The concept of mindfulness, awareness and observation of the present moment without reactivity or judgment is going mainstream.
A Google search of the term mindfulness yields about 46 million links. Only five years ago, this number was as low as 6 million. Searching for “mindfulness at work” yields about 38 million links.
Articles on mindfulness now appear regularly in trade publications and magazines such as Inc., Fortune and Investor's Business Daily.
In addition to the myriad books on mindfulness for sale in the religion and spirituality sections of your local bookstore, tomes on these topics appear in the business and self-help sections, as well.
What is mindfulness and how does it apply to work?
In short, being mindful means being aware of the inner dialogue, voices and thoughts that go through our minds all the time. How often do we feel ourselves daydreaming or thinking about past or present, often pulling us away from the now?
Mindfulness helps us recognize these internal distractions and, therefore, be less reactive to them. It helps you realize that thinking about what was, or what may happen, will not always help us navigate the here and now.
Mindfulness has its roots in Buddhist philosophies dating back several thousand years but has reached mainstream because meditation has been studied by psychologists and scientists the past several decades. Their discoveries have shown that practicing mindfulness through meditation can increase happiness and concentration and reduce stress.
Meditation is practiced by people of all walks of life, from factory workers to pro athletes and CEOs.
Dan Harris, national correspondent for ABC News, famously discovered the practice after pushing himself so far at work that he had an on-air panic attack in front of millions of people.
He found that, though it is not a panacea, it has helped him to be “10 percent happier.”
To start your path toward a more mindful self, use meditation practices.
It is really quite easy. Simply find a place where you can be distraction-free for 10-15 minutes.
Close your eyes and concentrate on your breath. Focus on the in-breath and focus on the out-breath.
When you feel yourself distracted (and you will be), simply and without judgment return to the breath. It is really that simple.
The point is to be aware of how much our mind races and all the thoughts that go through it.
Once you are aware they exist, you can learn to live with the worries, fears, excitements and mental distractions because you realize they are fleeting. They come and go, and that makes them manageable.
Once you are more mindful in general, try to bring that state to what you do for work.
Be aware of the things you do every day. Be aware of the thoughts that go through your head and the distractions that pull you away.
In this fast-paced world of distractions – with email, phone calls and smartphones pulling us away – taking time to mindfully focus on only one thing at a time will do wonders for your mental well-being.
It will make you a more productive employee, help with group interactions and help you be more grateful, thoughtful and compassionate toward others at work.
It also will improve how we are throughout the rest of our lives, making us better parents, partners and community members.