10 Tips for Promoting Team Mindfulness
It’s no secret that we’re all experiencing unprecedented levels of stress, both in our personal lives and especially in the workplace. One solution for mitigating all this agitation is to take your team out of the office (playing a teambuilding scavenger hunt, perhaps) – blowing off steam, unplugging, leaving their phones and screens behind. Another, perhaps longer-lasting solution, however, is to promote mindfulness in the workplace.
Mindfulness can be described as “a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations.” Sounds high-minded, doesn’t it? It’s actually not that complex.
What follows are concrete 10 steps for creating an environment of mindfulness in your team and in the workplace.
1) Tap into your mental state: Before requesting your mind to quiet down, you first need to check in and assess the relative “busy-ness” of your mental state. As a team leader, consider scheduling a short period every day when you gather the team and ask them to close their eyes and objectively rate their mind’s busy-ness level. Where is it now, on a scale of 1-10, with 1 being “as relaxed as a cat on couch with a full belly” and 10 being “a mad ping pong ball caroming around your cranium”? One easy tip: notice if your eyes are moving frantically behind your eye lids. That’s usually a good sign that your mind is near the top of the agitation scale.
2) Think about change: Once people have assessed their current level of “mind busy-ness”, ask them to now contemplate for a moment the nature of change. The fact is, no matter how disturbed your mental state may be at any given moment in time, IT WILL CHANGE. Your mind may get more busy, it may get less, but it will certainly not stay the way it currently is. Everything is constantly rising, falling, dying, transforming, and rising again, in a never-ending flow. When you see the self as a process, you can start seeing beyond the self.
3) Focus on your thoughts: The next step towards mindfulness is to have your team focus on their thoughts, from a place of calm detachment. Notice the thoughts your mind is generating. Maybe this one is regretting something about the past; that one is planning (and worrying about) something in the future. There are no good thoughts, no bad ones. They’re all equal. Thoughts are not to be “controlled”. Mindfulness is about stepping back and witnessing your thoughts, coming and going, without judgment, with a relaxed, focused mind.
4) Focus on you emotions: Most of us tend to assume that our emotions arise spontaneously, perhaps from the heart, that red, beating organ in the center of our chest. In fact, most of our emotions derive directly from our thoughts. In other words, we have a thought, we take it seriously, it expands and compounds, and then an emotion arises in response. Ask your team to notice their emotions as they come up and to then try and trace each one back to an original thought.
5) Tap into your body: For those trained in mindfulness, it’s habitual to notice thoughts arising and progressing into emotions. For the rest of us, however, the body is the canary in the coal mine. Even before we identify a thought or an emotion, we feel it somewhere in the body. This is a useful phenomenon for practicing mindfulness. Ask your team to keep a keen look out for bodily discomfort. Are you feeling tight in your stomach, neck or chest? If yes, it’s quite likely an emotion, expressing itself physically.
6) Lean in and let it go: As mentioned earlier, mindfulness involves “calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations.” Ask your team to really lean into the meditation experience, especially embracing the most troubling and uncomfortable thoughts and emotions. Examine them, explore them, dive in, and then – let ‘em go! Remember that each thought, feeling and emotion is the same – an ephemeral cloud scudding through the sky, all with equal weight, all essentially weightless.
7) Cultivate Gratitude: While on a meditation retreat some years back, my teacher said to us all, “Make the most of this precious human rebirth.” He was suggesting that finally, in this current human incarnation, we are lucky enough to have the ease and freedom to really work on ourselves (and perhaps achieve enlightenment). An important part of mindfulness is thus, the cultivation of gratitude. Ask your team to consider each thought, feeling and bodily sensation – no matter how troubling — as a precious gift: an opportunity to learn more about themselves and the filter through which they view the world.
8) Give Yourself a Break: A Harvard research paper reported that we are lost in though 47% of the time — almost half of our waking lives! Dont’ beat yourself up for not being perfectly serene, perfectly calm, perfectly mindful. It’s normal for the mind to wander, to get lost in thought, to become agitated! The trick is to notice when this is happening, to keep observing your thoughts and feelings: to do so calmly and without self-recrimination.
9) Send good will: It’s quite possible, even likely, that your team will start feeling more and more peaceful and kind during the repeated administration of this mindfulness practice. It is very beneficial to then share that beneficial feeling. Instruct your team to send out any benefit they may be experiencing from this process to their co-workers, clients, stakeholders: to people they know, people they don’t know, people they like and people they don’t like. May all beings, without exception, benefit from this practice. May all beings be well.
10) Practice Mindfulness in Action: As your mindfulness practice becomes deeper and deeper, you will start to develop a deeper sense of kindness and compassion. Self compassion is a marvelous balm for individual agitation. But compassionate action is where the rubber meets the road; it’s the point where kindness extends out from the self and compels you to take action. Encourage your team to take their burgeoning mindfulness and share it with others, throughout the work week, in every interaction.
To paraphrase Meng Tan, creator of Google’s “Search Inside Yourself.” mindfulness-at-work program: “Business, at its best, is about helping people. At its best, business reduces suffering. When people practice mindfulness, wisdom and compassion, business functions at its very best.
Click on the video below to hear more thoughts about mindfulness in the workplace from Dr.Clue President and Founder, Dave Blum.