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How to be more conscious and mindful (at work and at home)

In this practical op-ed, Edwina Griffin reveals the benefits of meditation and mindfulness and why the high-fliers are doing it.

There’s a reason many of the world’s biggest corporations and start-ups such as Google, Apple, Goldman Sachs and Nike practise mindfulness.

Research has shown that mindfulness in the workplace reduces stress, makes people better leaders, aids concentration and enables greater self-awareness.

Mindfulness and meditation are among the fastest-growing health trends in Australia, with research showing it helps people become better leaders.

The average person’s mind wanders 49.6 per cent of the time, which suggests challenges in holding focused meetings and engaging staff. That’s why experts are advising businesses to encourage staff to practise mindfulness in order to reduce stress, increase productivity, and enable greater self-awareness.

Meditation and mindfulness are a key part of stress management and is the practice of purposely focusing your attention on the present moment and accepting it without judgment. It promotes self-awareness, which is seen as the most important quality for leaders, boosts productivity, and helps focus and strengthen relationships.

Scientists are also discovering the benefits of meditation and mindfulness on strengthening the positive neural pathways in the brain through neuroplasticity, and it can also assist with managing depression, anxiety, addiction recovery and relapse prevention.

Mindfulness involves bringing in meditation throughout your day so that it becomes not only the structured 20-minute meditations – as, let’s face it, many people don’t find the time for this every day – but also introducing several short mini-meditations or moments of presence throughout your day.

Anyone can practise mindfulness to improve their self-awareness and wellbeing. You’ve just got to learn how.

Here are five tips for stress management and mindfulness in the workplace and at home:

Positive language

Words are powerful and cannot be taken back, so take a moment to think about your choice of response in a meeting, to an email or phone call. This difference between reaction and action can make a huge difference to the culture of an organisation, so take a moment to reflect and consider things from another person’s point of view before you respond.

Wait until you are feeling calm and clear before communicating as there is nothing worse than responding to a workmate with negative emotions and paying the price later with regret, stress and anxiety.

Remember to breathe

Many people in the workplace are overstimulated and overloaded (sympathetic nervous system, which operates in fight or flight) and breathing can become short and shallow when one operates in sensory overload. Focusing on the breath takes you into a sensory space of stillness and presence as you observe the breath.

Diaphragmatic breathing stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system (the part of the nervous system responsible for healing and repair) and this physiological response helps to relax your body and mind.

Notice the little things around you

When you’ve got a schedule that has back-to-back meetings, practicing mindfulness throughout your day can make a difference. Focusing on your feet touching the ground as you walk between meeting rooms, noticing the temperature of the water as you take a drink or the flavour and texture of the food as it enters your mouth at lunchtime can help to shift your pace and bring you back to centre.

Block out time for yourself

Speed and a hectic schedule can trigger the stress response (fight or flight) and the best thing to encourage mindfulness is to slow down. Often the only way to ensure a slower pace in your work day is to block out time.

This allows you to check in with yourself, breathe and process thoughts and emotions before you refocus and move on to the next meeting or task.

Incorporate mindfulness into meetings

Take a few minutes at the beginning of a meeting to meditate, set intentions and take a few breaths. This enables the group to become settled and present with the group before bringing the focus to the topic of the meeting. It also puts mindfulness as a priority into the culture of an organisation.

Edwina Griffin is a health and high performance expert with over 20 years of experience in health and human performance. She is a keynote speaker and runs workshops and retreats on leadership and communication, stress management, health and mindfulness, and consults in workplace meditations. She is the founder of Energy Evolution and Your Negotiator. 

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“Kindness is the language that the deaf can hear and the blind can see.” – Mark Twain