Living in the “now” is the newest mantra for a life well lived. Experts say practising mindfulness helps bring calm and boosts productivity
What do Google, Goldman Sachs and Transport for London have in common? They all swear by mindfulness to enrich the working lives of their employees. And the good news is you too can bring a bit of mindfulness into your nine-to-five routine.
So what exactly does it entail? Well, here’s what it isn’t; it’s not about emptying your mind of thoughts and it’s not a simple relaxation technique. Mindfulness is about paying attention to the present moment in a nonjudgemental way. You’re not trying to analyse or change anything; you’re trying to bring about greater selfawareness, to get familiar with the patterns of your thoughts and emotions.
What’s more, mindfulness can help tap into your creative potential. If we’re always thinking too far ahead, that can really limit our thinking. Whereas if we’re present, we’re more open to unforeseen possibilities and that can open up our thinking. Here are some mindfulness exercises to try…
Best For Commuting
MEDITATION OF SOUNDS
WHAT’S INVOLVED? If you’re on the bus or train, it’s very sensory. Pay attention to the movement of the vehicle, the temperature – as long as you’re using something physical and sensory to ground you, that’s being mindful. It might be that you think your surroundings smell horrible and they’re loud, and this makes you feel irritated, but that’s still being mindful because you’re aware of the present moment. That’s often the misconception – that mindfulness has to be in an idyllic, relaxed setting. It doesn’t. Mindfulness is about accepting things the way they are.
Best For Office Workers
THE BREATHING SPACE MEDITATION
WHAT’S INVOLVED? Choose any physical sense, whether it’s your breath or the office noises around you, to help anchor your mind to the present. Noticing the weight moving down through your body, the contact you’re making with the chair, the floor: What does that feel like? What are the sensory qualities involved? And then really pay attention to your breath: Where is it in the body?
WHERE CAN I DO IT? At your desk if you feel comfortable – you could put on headphones to help you focus – otherwise you could find a quiet corner of the breakroom or pantry or a bench outside the office.
HOW LONG WILL IT TAKE? Three to five minutes.
TIP Set an email reminder to prompt you to practise a mindfulness meditation every day, or it’s easy to get caught up in the frantic pace of office life.
Best For Active Jobs
WHAT’S INVOLVED? If you move around a lot in your job – perhaps you’re a nurse who has to go from ward to ward, or a teacher walking from one site to another – mindful walking is brilliant. Bring your attention to how the ground feels beneath your feet, who and what is around you, rather than planning what you’re about to do.
WHERE CAN I DO IT? Whenever you’re on the move. If you’re office based, try mindful walking during your lunch break. Feel the breeze on your skin and notice the people around you.
HOW LONG WILL IT TAKE? It’s flexible – this can be fitted in to however long your walk is!
TIP Waiting for the jug to boil in the office kitchen? You can try some mindful stretching. Notice where there’s tension in your body and do any stretches your body might need – and anchor your attention on the sensation of stretching rather than thinking about that email you have to send.
Best For Home Workers
THE BODY SCAN
WHAT’S INVOLVED? If you’re part of the growing tribe of home workers, this exercise is brilliant for setting a boundary between your home and work life. Find a quiet place to lie on a mat. Move your attention through your body from the top of your head down to your toes. Notice when your mind wanders as it inevitably will, then bring your attention back to your body.
WHEN CAN I DO IT? Try this at the start or end of your working day to set a division between “home you” and “work you”.
HOW LONG WILL IT TAKE? Between five and 60 minutes – it’s up to you.
TIP Write yourself a mindfulness letter. The busyness of the working day can get in the way of living in line with your values, so regularly review where your energy and time is going. Think of what areas are being neglected, or what intentions you might want to remind yourself of in a month or two. Write yourself a short letter; you could get colleagues to do their own too – swap with a colleague and you can each send to each other in a month’s time.
Mindfulness For Parents
You know the drill. When you’re rushing around with children in tow, it’s easy to get caught up in thoughts about clearing up their mess rather than enjoying the moment. So learn from your child– children are naturally more mindful and present so we might go out in the garden and think, “I really must do some weeding”, whereas a child is likely to be fascinated by the soil, the crawling ants or the smell of the grass. As parents, we can learn a lot from kids.
Help! My Mind Keeps Wandering. Should I Give Up?
The thing is, it’s challenging to pay attention to the present moment because it’s not really how our minds work. Think about the last time you spent 10 minutes just being – not planning where you’re going to take the kids on the weekends or what you’re going to have for dinner tonight. Just being in the present moment is rare, so it’s okay to find it difficult. Persevere.
Head to www.nirvanamind.net, founded by Helen Clare Rozario, a mindfulness coach. Nirvana Mind is a meditation support group for new and established meditators, offering stressreduction programmes through the means of meditation, body awareness and yoga.
A PART OF LIFE
We ask three women, each pursuing different, but equally demanding, career paths, how they achieve that balance
Pastry chef and owner of 2am:dessertbar; 2am:lab and Janice Wong Singapore
What does mindfullness mean to you?
“It is the (constant) state of ‘awareness’.”
How do you practise it through the day and how does it help you when handling stress at work?
“I practise it sub-consciously, on the go, in the midst of our day-to-day operations. We have so much going on everyday, but I make it a point to focus on one thing at a time, being mindful of the important, the people around me and the energy of people and situation. I focus mainly on what’s ahead and not behind. I prioritise the important – always working on the solutions.”
Zen at the end of a stressful workday is…?
“For me, it’s sitting back in my balcony and enjoying a glass of whisky on the rocks.”
COO and co-founder of Ohmyhome
What does mindfulness mean to you?
“To me, it is being able to keep an open mind to any experience that comes my way.”
How do you practise it at work?
“Life is not always sugar and honey. Work can be difficult sometimes, especially when there is a problem. What I usually try and do is to ensure that my primary goal is in finding the solution to correct the issue. I make a conscious effort to try and see the good in a problem and remember that every obstacle is an opportunity for me to learn and improve.”
What would be a routine that puts you in that zen mode?
“I start my day with some lively music from my alarm before tackling my morning exercises. Since starting Ohmyhome, I realised that I feel physically drained after a long day, despite being desk-bound. I combat the fatigue with my morning exercises which sets a positive tone for my day. While dressing up for work, I will listen to an audio book or the Bible which inspires me to be a better version of myself each day. I start mindfulness the night before, by penning down my thoughts at the end of my day and running through the plans for the next day. It helps me to get out of bed in time to follow through with my schedule.”
Founder of Carrie K. Jewellery
What does mindfullness mean to you?
“Mindfulness is to be focused on the present, self-aware and cognisant of the impact I have on my surroundings and those around me.”
How do you practise it at work and how does it help in handling stress at work?
“I am a very visual person, so I try to visualise the situation and the various outcomes of actions before I choose a path. When I catch myself feeling stressed, I speak especially calmly, so I don’t transfer my stress on others. I also try to focus unproductive stressful energy to uncovering the cause of my stress, then I can look at solving the root cause of that stress. At the end of every problem is at least one solution.”
Is there a subconscious mindful routine you follow at work?
“With a thousand ideas bouncing in my head, I am easily distracted, so I ask the team not to interrupt me intermittently, but instead, set weekly meetings to discuss various aspects of the business. For urgent decisions, they message me to set appointments, even if it’s for a 10-minute chat.”
Zen at the end of a stressful workday is… ?
“I love taking my dogs for a walk. Dogs are just the best stress-relieving therapists.”
TEXT: SARAH STUBBS/BAUERSYNDICATION.COM.AU / ADDITIONAL REPORTING: SANDHYA MAHADEVAN / PHOTOS: IVANHO HARLIM & SHYSILIA NOVITA (CAROLYN KAN), JANICE WONG, PR COMMUNICATIONS, 123RF.COM