Dr Stephen McKenzie’s new book, Mindfulness at Work, takes us on a journey into how we can sharpen our focus on what is, rather than what isn’t. Combating work pressure by concentrating on being present is explored, with stress reduction and improved decision-making skills just two of the benefits. With over 20 years’ experience researching and teaching in a range of psychological areas, Dr McKenzie shares the principles of mindfulness and offers tips for embracing it in our own lives and workplaces.
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is an ancient life-enhancing technique that is rapidly becoming an overnight sensation. This is because more and more of us are recognising that when we are mindful we are fully alive – to our full life and working life opportunities. When we are mindful we are simply being – happy, productive and free – no matter what we are doing. Mindfulness can be distilled into just two active ingredients – awareness and acceptance. When we are fully aware and fully accepting things naturally work out well because we aren’t slaves to our minds and our mind-made reality, and we are at peace with our life circumstances. When we are mindful, we fully experience what is far deeper, more peaceful, more enjoyable, more productive, and more creative than our life circumstances – our life.
What isn’t mindfulness?
Mindfulness isn’t what we think it is. Mindfulness isn’t anything that we think – it’s what we don’t think. Mindfulness isn’t something weird, or complicated, or needing to be practised within a belief tradition such as a particular religion or philosophy, or something that other people do – it’s something that we all do – at least sometimes. If we weren’t ever mindful, if we weren’t ever fully aware, fully accepting, fully alive, then we would get run over by the first bus that we mindlessly wandered out in front of!
What are the benefits of mindfulness?
Mindfulness helps us with a huge range of clinical and life conditions including stress, anxiety, depression, addiction, weight management, heart disease, cancer, dementia and parenting. Mindfulness at work helps us make better decisions, be better leaders, have better working relationships and be more creative. Working mindfully means working productively and enjoyably, and realising that these two vital aspects of our lives are deeply connected.
What are 5 ways we can introduce mindfulness into our work?
1. Be fully aware of whatever you are working on, and whoever you are working with. This means continually tuning in to radio reality – whatever we can see, hear, feel, smell, taste and enjoy. Treating everything that we do and everyone who we do it with as if they are brand new will help enormously.
2. Accept the inescapable, unavoidable and only reality of what is, rather than wishing for or worrying about what isn’t.
3. Work on being more mindful, more of the time, one step at a time. It’s unlikely that we will just stop being mindless most of the time and start being mindful most of the time, even after reading this article. Great benefits of mindfulness start when we start being more mindful of our mindlessness, less judging of our judging, and more accepting of our lack of acceptance.
4. Introduce some punctuation into your working life sentence, and start doing whatever you are doing from a place of space, and stillness. Take some time to live beyond time and the stresses that it leads to by pausing between activities. Rather than spending your working day rushing from one problem to another, pause after every activity to literally come to your senses – such as by being aware of your breath or bodily sensations.
5. Do one thing at a time, and do it well. Multitasking is becoming almost as fashionable as stress is, and when we are mindful we realise that it’s not necessary and not helpful. There’s only one thing that we can do and one thing that we need to do – whatever we are working on right here and now.
How the practice of mindfulness can introduce awareness and acceptance to our workplace.
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