We recently celebrated Thanksgiving in Canada, and indeed, we have much to give thanks for. Yet our sense of gratitude can be hampered by fourth-quarter business stress, so often jammed with events, project deadlines and pressure on year-end results.
This heightened busyness makes us more reactive and less proactive. When in fact taking a proactive approach is always more effective than a reactive approach, which can amplify stress. A proven way to do this is by practicing “mindfulness” exercises. These techniques enable us to remain centered, focused, positive and productive, a huge advantage for those of us in fast-paced, high-pressure roles.
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is an ancient practice that today is widely used to help people manage the hectic schedules and unprecedented demands that would otherwise make them more reactive and less proactive. 3,000 papers and studies published in the last two decades have shown that the practice of mindfulness is highly effective in keeping energy and concentration high. This, in turn, allows us to be more creative and resilient by boosting emotional regulation and stabilizing attention.
There are some very short and simple exercises that can be used throughout your day to train your brain to focus better. Do they take a lot of time? No. They can be done in as little as one or two minutes each, adding up to 10 minutes in total per day. It’s amazing how dedicating this short amount of time to mindfulness each day subtly changes the way you react to everything.
It can be as easy as focusing on your breath – a smooth and steady inhale, exhale, inhale… through the nose. Some like to focus on a meaningful word, sound, smell or image as they breathe. Others like to focus and follow the sensation of their breath massaging the inner body as it moves in and out without effort, all without special equipment.
It can start in the morning when you wake up. It can be done on your way to work or when you get to your desk. It can be repeated during short pauses throughout your work day. The intention is to help you stay focused on the task at hand, and let go of internal and external distractions as they arise. The end result is increased effectiveness, decreased mistakes, and even enhanced creativity.
If you’re an app lover, apps like Headspace and Calm can help with this. They provide bite-size guided meditations to help you get through your busy day, and then later, at bedtime, to unwind and fall into a deep sleep.
A simple tip to try
Instead of wrapping up your day or week with a head full of what didn’t get crossed off the to-do list, I regularly encourage sharing within your team a single weekly positive accomplishment, personal or professional. This keeps everyone mindful of their successes during the week, so they are ready to share. And by sharing, it reinforces positivity and a stronger team.
Mindfulness and gratitude go hand in hand
Through mindfulness, we become present in the moment, for our own body, for the people we’re with, for our business and for the life we’ve been given. This inspires a spirit of gratitude, focusing our attention on the good and the positive in our lives, which helps us appreciate things we might have taken for granted. Mindfulness helps us react with grace, acceptance, and resilience to the adversity that comes with growth and change. Together these two practices nurture a stronger sense of self within us.
In my one-on-one conversations with my business clients and colleagues, with my team, and in the yoga classes I lead, I share tips on how to use mindfulness practices to increase business success and personal fulfillment.
With gratitude for the bounty of the season, our beautiful country and the abundant opportunities we have, let’s exercise our minds to cultivate more mindfulness!