In our over-stimulated, technology-driven, instant-gratification filled lives, the age-old practice of mindfulness is more crucial than ever.
The American Mindfulness Research Association defines mindfulness as the “state, process and practice of remembering to observe moment-to-moment experience with openness and without automatic patterns of previously conditioned thoughts, emotions or behaviors.”
The practice, which often involves meditation, has been shown to have a range of health benefits from improved sleep to decreased anxiety in multiple studies.
But in the lives of entrepreneurs and their packed schedules, it often feels like practicing mindfulness takes a backseat to pursuing productivity.
For each of our sakes, and for our collective sanity, here are five simple ways to increase mindfulness throughout a busy day:
1. Pause every morning.
Mindfulness doesn’t have to take up a lot of time to be beneficial. In one study, published in 2014 in Psychoneuroendocrinology, participants who spent 25 minutes a day in mindful meditation felt less stressed in a test-like situation compared with those who did not.
Don’t try to meditate for long stretches of time at first. Start small and take a few minutes at the beginning of each day to reflect, be still and practice gratitude. Try to remember the bigger picture before getting wrapped up in email and other tasks.
2. Re-focus scattered thoughts.
Smartphones, apps, computers and tablets make multitasking too easy. With a lot going on, and a lot to get done in one day, thoughts can jump from A to B to Y to Z, quietly sabotaging productivity and exhausting the mind.
When the workday gets overwhelming and stress starts to creep in, focus on only one thing for a little while. Think about things to be grateful for -- health, friends and family or anything else. Taking the mini-break will help relieve stress and provide a refresher.
Research from the National Institute of Health UK, the University of Massachusetts and the Mind/Body Medical Institute at Harvard University suggests that practicing mindfulness at work can improve concentration, memory and the ability to learn new things and increase productivity.
3. Take time-outs.
With constant emails, endless tasks on the to-do list and fires to put out, taking breaks seems counterintuitive. But working through lunch and forgoing all breaks may do more harm than good. Without breaking, the brain never gets time to rest and refresh, and opportunities to reflect and gain new insight are lost.
Check out at least once in the middle of the day, even if just for a few minutes. Don’t surf the web, but actually take the time to fully step away from work. Go outside the office, put the phone down and just enjoy the present moment. Think about how the day is going and avoid thinking about what needs to be done next.
4. Eat well.
Eating too many sugary or fatty foods affects not only the waistline, but also emotions and overall feelings of well-being. Eating healthier can power the mind and body to feel better and more at ease.
When eating these healthy meals, practice mindfulness. Turn off the TV, close the laptop, stop Netflix and focus on the food. Enjoy the meal, focus on the flavors in each bite and appreciate the food. Think about its journey and where it has been. Appreciate it and give it respect while eating.
5. Be mindful of others.
Although mindfulness is an introspective activity, the practice affects the ways individuals interact with those around them. Take the time to think about others and do something nice for someone else. Helping and giving to others is perhaps the most refreshing and expansive activity one can engage in.
In turn, practicing mindfulness drives compassion. In a study published in February in PLOS One, college students who practiced mindful meditation were more than twice as likely to give up their seat in a crowded waiting room for an injured individual than those who did not undergo mindfulness training.
Practicing mindfulness not only benefits the self, but also can bring peace to employees, colleagues and everyone around us. What could be better?
What do you think? How do you practice mindfulness in the midst of your busy schedule? Let us know in the comments section below.