Date posted: 3/11/2017 5 min read

Five daily ways to practise mindfulness at work

Whether it’s on the train or at your desk, mindfulness expert Sarah Salas shows how taking regular daily short breaks for mindfulness practice can lower stress and help you cope better.

In Brief

  • Start practising mindfulness on your way to work.
  • Make a routine and stick to it.
  • Regular daily practice is the key to a less stressful life.

Unless you have been hiding under a rock or on another planet, you can’t have missed the hype about mindfulness. Health professionals, educators, corporates and even politicians are using mindfulness themselves and for their work.

The idea of mindfulness is to give your brain a rest. Sure it will rest when you are asleep, but it still needs a break from the 60-70,000 thoughts it has to process every day. Many of these thoughts induce stress.

Sometimes it’s hard to recognise when you’re under stress because you’re meeting deadlines and getting the work done. What you may not notice is that you’re not sleeping so well, perhaps smoking, eating or drinking a little more, and progressively getting home late. Adopting a regular mindfulness practice at work is a way of breaking this cycle. 

By establishing a routine you can start to reap the benefits of mindfulness
Sarah Salas Mindfulness Expert

The basic technique is simply to be in the present moment, fully engaged with all your senses. For example, take a few minutes out at your desk. You might close your eyes, feel the seat underneath your body, notice the smell of coffee brewing (or better still have the taste of coffee in your mouth), or listen to sounds in your workspace.

Apart from being a popular go-to for psychologists treating depression, mindfulness also helps those suffering from stress and anxiety. Physically, medical studies in the US show it can help to lower blood pressure and neuroscientists from the University of Massachussets Medical School report it can actually rebuild grey matter in the brain. Mindfulness is also now being adopted by coaches of elite athletes during training and achieving good results.

Corporate Mindfulness

Large corporates are embracing a plethora of mindfulness training options. They can vary from running mindful leadership courses, or mindful customer service programs, to developing their own in-house programs like Google’s SIY training (Search Inside Yourself). Mindfulness has even made an impact in the UK parliament, which has recommended that corporates bring mindfulness into the workplace to reduce absenteeism and stress-related mental health issues.

The main problem is finding time to do it. For that to happen, you need to change your routine.

As I’m currently traveling around country Victoria on business, my routine has changed. I now meditate for 30 minutes before breakfast – this is different from my normal routine, when I meditate before or after certain activities.

During the training sessions I host, I often hear participants say: “I just don’t have the time to put aside to meditate every day.”  I ask them: “What about the time you lose when you’re off work due to preventable ill-health?  Surely a small investment of time is worth a happier, healthier you?”

Let’s face it it’s pretty easy to do. Meditation is the main tool and it is very accessible. It’s portable, takes very little time to set up, doesn’t need Wi-Fi, a computer screen, or brand-embossed lycra. 

However if you do like tools, there are many apps or desk toys like fidget spinners or egg timers. Or if you want to meditate with someone, there are boxes of five minute guided meditations that you can use by yourself or with a friend.    

By establishing a routine you can start to reap the benefits of mindfulness.  A good launching place is while you are commuting to work.

Five Daily Ways To Practice At Work

Although your brain will keep trying to think, you will often need to bring your awareness back to the task at hand. It’s just a matter of practice.

1. On the way to work

Schedule in five minutes to meditate at the airport, bus stop, railway platform or in the car. Observe without judgment your surroundings.

2. Breathing Mindfully

When you take a break, allow five minutes to concentrate on your breathing. Take long… slow… deep… in-breaths.   Follow the path of the inbreath and outbreath.

3. Activity Meditation

If you have a mesmerising desk toy, I suggest you use it for at least five minutes. Otherwise, sitting at your desk, hold something in your hand. Feel it and notice the weight of it. Gently move your fingers around the object, noticing whether it’s smooth, sharp, hard or rounded. 

4. A Quiet Meditation Retreat

Find a quiet spot and listen to sounds near and far. See if they are loud, quiet, moving, sharp or soft. Notice sounds drifting between each other. Hear sounds moving past you quickly or slowly.

5. Eating

Explore eating for five minutes. Chew slowly, notice textures, flavours and moistness. Notice your tongue and teeth. N.B. Eating slowly makes you eat less!

Related: Are you staying fit and focused at work?

Easy ways you can fit in exercise to your working day. 

Sarah Salas is a Melbourne-based mindfulness expert. She is the Director of Need a Hint – a company that provides corporate and educational mindfulness training services. She is also the creator of Mindful Moments Activity Cards and the owner of www.mindfulproducts.com.au.