Have you ever gotten to the end of your day and thought to yourself…
What the hell happened today? I don’t know where the day went.
Is your typical response to the proverbial question, how was your day, one of these…
Busy. The usual. Nothing special. Same shit, different day.
If you are anything like me, you are guilty in both cases. Most of our days are spent rapidly completing mindless task after another, never stopping to be in the present moment. I have often gotten to the end of the week and not been able to remember a single significant event that occurred.
My focus was solely on getting to the weekends. Deferring happiness and enjoyement until a Friday night happy hour, when I could finally enjoy myself and let loose.
The problem with this way of living is that you miss out on all of the incredible happiness and beauty that we can find on the average Tuesday. In fact, the most memorable moments typically occur when you least expect them, in the spaces and silence of ordinary life.
But so often with your ever increasing demands and longing for the future, you miss the present, which in turn leads to you missing the days, weeks, and years of your life.
If you cannot learn to be more mindful in the mundane, we will spend our whole life on autopilot, waiting to land somewhere in the future that is better than what we have now.
However, the future that you so long for will rarely arrive and if it does it will feel empty. Then you arrive at the end of your life and wonder where all of the time went.
That is why it is so vital to become aware of the present by developing a more mindful approach to living. Mindfulness is not about meditation, although that is an excellent way to practice, it is about becoming aware of what is happening here and now, and being okay with it.
But, just as you may be feeling, I had many excuses as to why mindfulness would not work for me.
But I work 40-60+ hours a week, how am I supposed to find a chance to be mindful?
But I do not have the time to stop my whole life to find a yoga or meditation studio! Be more practical.
I am not a ‘spiritual’ person.
However, the deeper I went into mindfulness, I realized that it was less about meditation and more about bringing a sense of awareness into the things I was already doing. It is about building a new base. A new operating system for the apps of life.
Putting It Into Action
The purpose of this post is to give you 19 mindfulness strategies that you can implement today to develop a deeper sense of awareness, without finding a meditation studio or chanting kumbaya in the bathroom.
Think of this list as a buffet. Pick and choose the practices that make the most sense for your routine and test them out.
For any of these to be effective, you need to commit to waking up. Waking up to your work. Waking up to your moments. Waking up to your life
I don’t know about you, but I no longer want to get to the end of my weeks, months, years, and realize that I have been running on autopilot the whole time, missing out on my life in an endless pursuit of what is next. That is my hope for you as well.
19 Incredibly Useful Ways to Use Mindfulness In Your Workday
1. When you wake up, take a few quiet moments to affirm that you are choosing to go to work today. If you can, briefly review what you think you will be doing and remind yourself that it may or may not happen that way. Marcus Aurelius got himself out of bed every morning by saying:
At dawn, when you have trouble getting out of bed, tell yourself: ‘I have to go to work — as a human being. What do I have to complain of, if I’m going to do what I was born for — the things I was brought into the world to do? Or is this what I was created for? To huddle under the blankets and stay warm?’
2. Take 5-10 minutes before starting your day to meditate, journal, pray or stretch. By doing these tasks first, you are sending a message to your brain that you are in control of your day. Also, since our Cortisol levels are the highest in the morning, doing any one of these practices will help calm your mind and lower your stress response.
3. When you are showering or brushing your teeth, stay with the activity at hand. Try not to plan your day or think about all of the things you have to do. They will be there when you are done.
4. Don’t say good-bye mechanically to the people (or animals) you live with. Try to make eye contact, ask them what they are most excited about doing today, and really listen. If you live by yourself, try out this practice with the barista making your coffee or someone you are standing by on the train. A profound human connection is massively helpful for calming stress and will bring you into the moment.
5.On your commute
If you walk to public transportation or work, attempt to be aware of your body walking, standing and waiting, riding, and getting off. Walk into work mindfully. Breathe. Smile.
If you drive to work, take a moment or two to come to your breathing before you start the car. Just drive and be with yourself. Feel your hands on the steering wheel. Notice each turn before you make it. See the cars around you and try to read the license plate number of the car in front of you. This practice will help you stay aware of the road and what is around you.
6. At work, take a moment from time to time to check in with your body. Do you feel any tension in your shoulders, face, hands, or back? Are you slouching or sitting straight up? Roll your shoulders back. Stretch your arms over your head. Maybe stand up and then intentionally sit back down in your chair, trying to maintain a firm, upright posture.
7. When you find yourself walking at work, be aware of your pace. No one will give you a raise for being the fastest walker in the office. Don’t rush unless you have to. If you have to, know that you are rushing.
8. Take real breaks. Instead of mindlessly browsing Buzzfeed or Bleacher Report, try going outside or at least to the window and look around. Give your brain a rest from consumption.
9. Spend your lunch with people you actually like. Stop eating and spending your precious time with those that bring you down. And try to go outside for lunch at least once a week If you are up to it, make one lunch a mindful meal. Focusing on each bite. Placing your fork down until you have swallowed the bite in your mouth. Mindful eating is easier when done alone.
10. If you can, try to exercise during the work day. By getting a sweat in during the day you will break up the monotony, clear your mind, and start your afternoon refreshed and energized.
11. Take a 2-3 Innovation Breaks throughout the day. Short bursts that allow you to recharge before going on to the next task. I try to take one every hour for 3-5 minutes. I either focus on my breath or take a short walk. Resilience is how you recharge. Not how you mindlessly produce.
12. Use everyday cues as a wake up call to be present. The phone ringing, a drink of water, waiting for someone to get back to you. Instead of ‘killing time,’ use it to gain more clarity and focus.
13. Be mindful of your interactions at work. Are they mostly irritating chats? Are some enjoyable? Think about what you could do to improve them. Are you deeply listening to the other person? Or do you just want to get your point across?
14. At the end of the day, take 5-10 minutes to review the day. What did you accomplish? What were the wins? What were the losses? And set your MITs for tomorrow before leaving work.
15. As you are leaving work, bring awareness to how you feel. Are you tired? Annoyed? Exhilarated? Make sure to take note of how you feel and try to eliminate bringing negative emotions home with you.
16. On your commute home, focus on shutting your systems down. Be mindful of your breath. Try to concentrate on being present, not on all you have to do tomorrow. I
17. As I approach my door, I always turn off any music and say to myself: I am home. I am alive. I am grateful for these things.
18. If you live with someone, ask them: what was the best part about your day? Instead of the normal, how was your day, which typically leads to complaining or passive responses like, it was fine.
19. If you can, put all work related things out of sight and change into a new set of clothes. Changing your clothes will tell your brain that work is over. If you meditate, this would be a superb time to do a quick 5-10 minute sitting meditation before you carry on with your night.
By no means should you try to accomplish all of these things in a single day. However, if you do, watch out, you might actually have a beautiful Monday! Pick a few and give them a try.
I understand that we all work different schedules and in different environments, but no matter who you are or what your situation is, you can always be more mindful. It will help you achieve more in your day, and more importantly, it will help you enjoy it more!