Healthy Living YMCA Employment Programs

The benefits of practicing mindfulness at work

Person working mindfully on a laptop with an organized desk that has a plant on it

Mindfulness is all about having awareness and focus, and bringing attention to what is in front of you — the present moment. Studies show that mindfulness has many benefits including increasing focus, cognitive flexibility, and relationship satisfaction, while decreasing stress and emotional reactivity.

So what does it mean to be mindful at work? Mindfulness at work has just as much to do with how you prepare yourself for the day as it does with what happens when you’re at work. From the moment you wake up in the morning, you’re already making choices that shape your work day — whether you’re aware of it or not.

The good news is that you get to decide if you’ll start your day in a rushed frenzy or in a mindful state. Research suggests that most people release the greatest amount of stress hormones just minutes after waking, making the morning an important time to start your mindfulness practice. This can mean putting all your attention to enjoying your favourite blend of coffee or tea, taking a walk outside, or simply observing the rise and fall of your breath.

When you’re at work, you have a choice to continue being mindful by bringing presence to everything you do, and by single-tasking. While multitasking can offer the illusion that you’re getting more done, the reality is that multi-tasking actually slows us down. There is a delay created anytime you switch processes or tasks, so you can gain more productivity and effectiveness when you bring your focus and awareness to one thing.

Mindfulness is a powerful practice that allows you to move out of autopilot mode and observe all that is happening within and around you. Here are some tips that can be used to bring mindfulness to work:

  • Set mindfulness reminders or triggers to help bring your attention to the present moment, such as in between meetings or during certain times in the day. Even a minute of mindfulness can make a difference.
  • Group similar tasks together to limit multitasking. For example, set times in the day when you will check email. When working on a single project or task, as much as is possible, keep other distractions at bay.
  • Simply observe mental and physical responses to events throughout the work day. For example, when you’re feeling stressed, take note of the resulting changes to your breathing and heart rate. By doing this over time, you can train yourself to observe more, react less, and consciously choose your response.

Searching for more ways to practice mindfulness? Try out our Mindful Meditation class at our Toronto Cooper Koo Family Cherry St. YMCA Centre