Wake up. Take a shower. Commute to work. Traffic, traffic, traffic. Clock in. Coffee. Work. Deadline. Lunch. Go back to your desk. Get expecting looks from your boss. Deadline, deadline, deadline. Coffee. Work late. Dinner. Commute back home. Set alarm. Sleep.
If this routine sounds all too familiar to you, then you probably know how much the daily rise and grind can wear you down. You don’t need science to tell you that stress can make you irritable, unproductive, and downright unhealthy. The good news is, you've got a way out: through the breath.
Specifically, all you’ve got to do is meditate. Research shows that with regular meditation, the areas of our brains involved with emotional control gain more density of neurons – in other words, you can end up managing stress and everything that comes with it better. Keeping a habit of meditation has also proven to improve focus, response and memory - things we all need to be effective at our jobs. Think of it as mental hygiene.
For many people, the idea of sitting quietly, trying to think about absolutely nothing at all sounds scary, boring, or impossible. Meditation doesn’t have to be this way. There are different ways to meditate and all you need to figure out is what works for you. Meditation is simply bringing your complete focus to one thing. Disclaimer: this won't happen in a blink but you can definitely work on it.
On the next 15-minute break you’ve got to spare, instead of spending it eating, chatting, or smoking, try and use it to meditate in any of the ways below. See what happens.
For all the techniques, if you feel like your workmates might start looking at you weird, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to give them a heads up about your new attempts to center yourself. This way you can get their questioning looks out of your head space and get precious time with yourself.
Sense-based meditation is bringing your focus to things that you can perceive with your five senses. You can do this sitting quietly at your desk or any place in the office you feel comfortable in.
For this and other techniques, if you feel like your workmates might start looking at you weird, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to give them a heads up about your new attempts to center yourself. This way you can get their questioning looks out of your head space and get precious time with yourself.
To start, just choose a sense you want to use and zone in. Unless you want use your sight, go ahead and close your eyes if it will help you feel more comfortable.
You can focus on something you see, choosing one object to look at and studying all the aspects of the object: color, shape, patterns, size, etc.
You can focus on the sounds around you, trying to listen to those nearest to you and then bringing your awareness to sounds that are happening further away. Expand your hearing.
You can focus on touch. Count the beads of a necklace over and over and focus on the feeling and the weight of the beads. You can also try this with ordinary objects with lots of texture like keys, a keyboard, a landline’s phone cord.
You can focus on a smell and a taste. If you happen to have a particularly aromatic coffee, you can set it in front of you and focus on its smell, or you can take tiny sips of the coffee and see if you can sense something new about its flavor with every sip. You can also do this with other food you bring to work like oranges and apples.
It’s best to do this one sense at a time so you can stay true to the aim of focusing.
Another technique you can do at your desk is to breathe.
For this technique, take notice of your inhales and exhales as you breathe through the nose. Notice everything there is to notice about it. Does your breathing start out shallow, or deep? How does the flow of the air feel like as it enters and exits the body? What’s the temperature of the air? Can you hear yourself breathe? How long are your inhales and exhales? Try to extend their lengths and keep them equal.
Breathing will help you calm down the mind and the body. If at any point during the work day, stress throws you off center, fight it off with the breath.
Listen to guided meditation
If you’re the type who feels really lost when it comes to meditation, you can search for guided meditation videos or podcasts online and listen to them during a break, or even during the commute back and forth from the office. If that’s not possible, download them at home and put them in whatever gadget is available to you.
If you can’t find a guide that resonates with you, you can also try searching for soothing music and turn it into a music-based meditation. Let your mind flow focus on the melody and flow with the movements of the song. Sit back and simply listen.
For those who really don’t know how to sit still, it’s completely okay. Ease into meditation by doing it in small tasks. Things like washing your hands, organizing files, cleaning your keyboard or your monitor, and fixing your workstation can all be turned into mini-meditation sessions.
While you’re doing your task, focus on it completely. If any thoughts unrelated to the task come up, go back to zeroing in on what’s at hand. Pay attention to what you’re doing and what it feels like. What’s coming next?
The meditation is in the mindfulness.
If the office is getting a little claustrophobic, go outside.
Take a short walk during your break and on your walk, bring your focus to each step. Exercise full-body awareness. Ground down on the concrete beneath your feet and really feel gravity pull your weight down with each step. Notice the way you walk and what your hands are doing. Is your chin tucked to your chest or is it held high? Repeat until you reach point B, and then again until you return to point A.
You can also combine your walking meditation with a sense meditation or a breath meditation. Find a combination that works for you.
There’s no time to start like the present.
Carve time out of the 24 hours you have during the day for pockets of meditation.
You can start out by doing it for a minute and then two minutes, up until you’re comfortable spending most of your break time sitting in stillness. Aside from being good for you, your boss and your co-workers will thank you for forming the habit once you reach a healthy level-headedness and improved productivity. Being a good worker isn’t all about working hard, it’s also about being connected to your inner stores of calmness.
All work and no meditation, makes for a stress-bot named you.