Mindfulness. The practice of being present with what you are doing. feeling, and thinking. As an Executive Wellness Coach for individuals and organizations around the country, I repeatedly see 10 common mindfulness practices for work that stand out that directly and quickly enhancing my client’s happiness, health, and job performance. I invite you to consider these mindfulness exercises as emotional and mental strength training. Like a single dumbbell bicep curl, every time you pull your attention from a distraction and focus back to being mindful on yourself you get emotionally and mentally stronger.
These particular 10 mindfulness practices turn our attention inward to maximize the true human resources of the body and brain to improve your personal and professional life. When we are experiencing stress our focus goes toward the external environment on the look out for a potential threat and we lose sight of these common human instincts. Essentially what I’m guiding you to do with these practices is increase your awareness of when your ‘Empty’, ‘Seat-Belt’, ‘Maintenance’, ‘Hazard’, and/or ‘Emergency Break’ lights on your body’s internal dashboard light up.
These 10 mindfulness practices also simultaneously balance your biochemistry and hormones which is essential for thinking, feeling, looking, and working your absolute best. Don’t be fooled by the simplicity of the list below, they are incredibly powerful when practiced daily. I believe you are ready for it!
1. Am I really hungry?
Mindful eating begins with experiencing the difference between hunger signals and cravings. What does true hunger feel like to you? Get clear on what happens in your unique body and brain when you need food. Hunger can be felt physically, where cravings are produced emotionally and mentally from the brain. Eating only when you are truly hungry will prevent extra pounds, digestive distress, and energy crashes. If you are not hungry, give yourself what will truly satisfy you and don’t fill up a unmet need with food.
2. How am I breathing?
Many clients report breathing rapidly and shallowly through their chest and mouth as well as frequent occurrences of holding their breath throughout the workday. Checking in with your breathing mechanics (optimal breathing is through nose and expansion of the belly) and quality will fight fatigue, stress and a whole host of other complications. It’s worth repeating that sugar will speed up one’s breathing rate which is another negative consequence of giving into the sugar craving mentioned above.
3. Am I thirsty?
When we are thirsty we are already dehydrated and as little as a 2% total water loss will reduce athletic and job performance. A dry mouth is the very last sign that you are experiencing dehydration. The headache, fatigue, constipation, acid reflux, depression, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, arthritis, allergies, asthma, and other chronic aliments are often our first signs of dehydration! Stay aware of hydrating with at least 2.5 liters of filtered water per day rather than drinking beverages that dry us out like coffee, tea, sodas, and energy drinks.
4. How am I sitting?
Placing concentration on how you are sitting throughout the day can help minimize stress on your body. Scan your body to see if your head is drooping, chest collapsing, and/or upper back is rounding. If so, sit up tall and roll your shoulders back and bring your ear back over the shoulder with chin parallel to the ground. Every time you catch yourself melting into your computer, consciously reposition for the very best posture.
5. Am I listening?
During in person, video, or phone meetings are you truly listening and being present in the conversation? It will limit your ability to stay engaged and hear the meaning behind their words if you find yourself prepping your response in your head, time traveling, reading emails, packing up your bag, eating, driving, or doing anything other than listening before the person has finished their thought. If you notice yourself not listening with a 100% effort, put away the source of distraction and use your body language to increase attention.
6. How long since I’ve moved?
Our performance declines progressively between the 50 and 120-minute mark of working on a particular task, but when professionals sit down in front of their computer they become hypnotized by the strobe light behind the screen and constantly changing stimulus of their Inbox, social media feed, instant messenger, and work priorities. All of a sudden they realize they have been sitting for hours and they are starving, thirsty, stiff, mental cloudy, and dying to go to the bathroom! Moving regularly allows us to participate in the above mindful practices as well as pumps, heats, cleans, and even energizes the body and brain through piezoelectricity from deformation of our body’s connective and soft tissues.
7. How are my thoughts?
It’s extremely valuable to take note of the quality of your daily thoughts especially when the majority of individuals are experiencing contagious cases of stinking thinking that set off negative emotions and stress. Notice if your thoughts are goal congruent and supportive or not. If your thoughts are not helping you get closer to reaching and achieving the best version of yourself, take the opportunity to reaffirm what you do what in your life rather than reinforcing what you do not. As you balance your biochemistry, hormones, and stress level so will emotional stability and thinking.
8. How is my energy?
I don’t want you to be the Energizer Bunny, but it’s abnormal yet incredibly common to be tired during the workday. If you are waking unrested, using caffeine and sugar to override exhaustion, flailing at 11:00am and 3:00pm every day, nodding off when you should be alert…something is out of balance with your lifestyle and self-management. Improving your mindfulness muscles on the practices above with increase your energy capacity. If you find that your energy is on the floor day after day, choosing the bed over the band-aid will be phenomenally helpful.
9. Do I need a break?
Every NASCAR racer needs multiple pit-stops in a competition, just like your amazing brain and body machinery! Studies show that even micro-breaks (1-10 minutes) can be effective for energy-management and sustaining work performance. I help clients not only identify their unique trigger to cue them to take a break, but how to tap into giving themselves what they need most. The trigger can be anything from an hourly Outlook calendar reminder to mental fog to tension in the body. Create a positive energy break with a healthy snack, fresh air, calling a friend, reading a chapter in a book, watching a funny YouTube clip, stretching with some deep breaths, standing up, and/or taking a few sips of your water bottle.
10. Am I stressed?
The Magic 8-Ball says, ‘Outlook Good’ because the average professional experiences 17-31 stress responses per day! All stress (physical, chemical, electromagnetic, psychic, nutritional, and thermal) adds up putting most of us in a chronically stressed state. Planting ‘peace points’ within your day is a method of passive rest that is critically important for high-performing professionals that feel like they are always running on the speeding treadmill. The peace point should either use or diffuse accumulated stress. An example of using stress comes from one of my clients that will leave his desk and take the stairs up 10 floors to burn off stress while another client diffuses stress by practicing visualization of his family together on vacation.