Over the past few months, I’ve shared with you some information about mindfulness and how it can help us to be better leaders. I remain fascinated by the practice.
With all of the talk about work stress and burnout, I wonder if mindfulness practices can be used in a wellbeing program. So I decided to do a little experiment and practice mindfulness for a month. Here’s what I learned:
- We have more distractions in our lives than we realize. It was amazing to me when I started this exercise how hard it was to start. I wanted to do it. I even scheduled it on my calendar. But I found that “stuff” popped up all the time. I was immediately tested on making mindfulness a priority. And if you don’t make it a priority, you won’t get the benefit.
- It seems like a simple thing to do. It’s actually very difficult. We’re so used to being on the go all the time. To sit in focused silence for ten minutes is difficult. It made me realize how little time I give myself to just focus – a practice I will be changing as a result.
- Don’t let the words limit you. Often the concepts of mindfulness and meditation are used interchangeably. And that can be okay. It could be helpful to understand the differences when deciding what’s right for you. Mindfulness can be defined as the state of being conscious or aware of something. I’ve seen a definition of meditation as doing something good for yourself. There’s also mindfulness meditation and deep breathing meditation, combining activities.
- Practice at the time that works for you. Many articles suggest practicing first thing in the morning. Personally, I found practicing at the end of the day a great way to put the work day behind me. It helped me leave “work mode” and relax.
- Technology can offer some options. I know we have a tendency to think that technology is a contributor to the problem, but apps and wearables can help us practice mindfulness. I love the new breathing option on my Apple Watch. In fact, I actually like it more than some of the apps out there. It fit with my lifestyle better.
- You can practice using guided or unguided sessions. The plus side of guided sessions is … they’re designed to help and educate. The downside is, if you don’t like the person’s voice, then the session can seem like an eternity. The Meditation Studio app (available via iTunes) uses different voices, so the sound variety could be welcomed.
- Decide the right length of time for your session. The Headspace app (available via iTunes and Google Play) offered 10-minute sessions. Meditation Studio started with 3-minutes sessions and moved up to 10. Personally, I liked the phased-in approach a little more. It’s about finding what works for you.
- Posture matters! One of the things that all of these apps and practices stress is good posture – sitting up straight, feet on the floor, etc. I did notice a difference in my sessions when I was a home using a chair with excellent back support and in a hotel room with various degrees of sitting comfort.
The final decision about mindfulness will take some time. I’ve been working on this for a month and I don’t have all of my answers yet. I’m still trying new things. Be prepared to give it some time.
But I do know that mindfulness offered me a way to “turn off” at the end of the day. Or “get focused” when I was faced with a busy day. And that’s valuable. It benefits my health and improves my work. I can discuss mindfulness concepts and benefits at great length but, ultimately, it’s up to you.
Image taken by Sharlyn Lauby after the HR Technology Conference in Chicago, IL0