Have you ever felt distracted at work? Unable to keep your focus on that slide deck, or that documentation, or whatever you need to get done?
The good news is there’s a skill that can be learned, by anyone, anytime, even in the hustle and bustle of the office. You don’t need a subscription to an app or to purchase anything. The only thing you need is a place to sit or lie down. A quiet area can help but isn’t required.
The skill you’ll be learning is called Mindfulness, and yes, it is a type of meditation. However, you do not need to buy incense, or finger cymbals, or sit in the lotus position. Any predetermined mental images you have of meditation should be tossed out. An introduction to mindfulness meditation can be distilled down to four bullet points:
- Sit in a comfortable position (lying down is fine, just try not to fall asleep)
- Focus on your breath. Try to pay attention to where you feel it, whether that be in your nose, stomach or lungs. At this point, your mind is going to go absolutely bonkers. You’ll be thinking about lunch/dinner, the email you just sent, the next—whatever. This is 100% ok.
- When you notice your mind has lost focus from your breath, gently bring your attention back to the breath.
That’s all there is to it! It sounds simple, but starting out it can be a bit frustrating because you’ll notice your mind wanders what seems to be constantly. This doesn’t mean you’re failing, or not doing it correctly. The whole point of mindfulness is to notice your mind thinking, and then bring your attention (and focus) back to the breath. In doing this you are training your brain, quite literally, to get better at focusing.
This is where people lose interest in meditation. Initially, I made the mistake of thinking meditation was about clearing the mind of thoughts. It’s not. The entire point of Mindfulness is to become more aware of the thinking that goes on in your head. As you practice more and more, you’ll become acutely aware of these patterns. This is the key of Mindfulness meditation; observe and recognize the thoughts, and then return to the simple task of breathing.
You might be wondering “How is sitting down, focusing on my breath going to help me finish this slide deck?” Well, just like how you go to the gym to build your physical health, mindfulness is like taking your brain muscles to the gym. You’re training your mind to become more aware of its thinking patterns and bringing your attention back to your object of focus, with mindfulness. What will happen over time is you’ll find you become lost in thought less often and are able to focus on the present moment more. Yes, this includes finishing your slide deck.
A Harvard study found practicing Mindfulness can literally change the structure of the brain. Study subjects showed decreased mass in the parts of the brain responsible for stress, and increased mass in the parts of the brain related to compassion. This an actual brain hack that is accessible, immediately, to you. You don’t need patchouli or a gong, just a quiet place to sit.
Find 5 or 10 minutes each day and try it out. If you think you’d do better with an app, there are tons out there. Almost all of them have free/trial content. Try a few and see what clicks with you. The one I enjoy most is 10% Happier. Out of all the apps I’ve tried. they explain the ‘why’ of it the best. May you be well on your journey to training your mind—the lens through which you experience everything.