Now more than ever, workplaces are encouraging employees to practice mindfulness, the act of paying attention on purpose. Mindfulness means living in the present moment and using techniques to explore thoughts and feelings without any judgment. It’s incredibly effective too, improving attention spans and reducing stress in both the brain and behavior for those who practice consistently.
At a hectic office where it’s easy to get lost in an overscheduled shuffle, employees are embracing these exercises to combat against accidentally leading a “blink and you miss it” life. But what about entrepreneurs who work from home? While being at home means alleviating some stressful attributes of going into an office — like long meetings, difficult coworkers, and the commute — consider the distractions. An inbox pinging with emails. Open tabs to Twitter and Tumblr on a desktop. Just like anyone in a physical office, remote workers need mindfulness to create inner peace that will allow them to be productive within the present.
If you’re ready to squeeze in a bit of mindfulness while working from home, here are five easy exercises that can fit in your schedule and keep you on track with your workload.
1) Deep breathing
Most mindfulness listicles begin with breathing exercises and with good reason. This technique is universal and can be done no matter where you are, how much time you have, or what position you’re in. Clear your head and focus on your breath. Breathe in and out slowly, counting to three. Relax your entire body as you inhale and exhale. Close your eyes to relax and concentrate on letting your thoughts be still. Let go of your to-do list in favor of spending a minute or two peacefully breathing deeply in and out. There is a belief within yoga teachings that you live longer if you breathe longer. Breathing is a part of the energy that fuels yourself and the world around you. Let it naturally relax with you.
2) Delete your apps
Not all of them, of course, but consider the apps on your smartphone that you don’t use. If you don’t need them, delete them. Delete these apps and rather than immediately downloading something else to fill in its place, enjoy the extra empty space.
3) Pay attention to what you eat
When working from home especially, it’s easy to let food become a blur. Maybe you skipped breakfast, have leftovers for lunch, are snacking in between, and getting takeout for dinner. Eating is one of our biggest mindfulness opportunities and when we eat too much or too little, it can negatively affect how productive we are.
What does your week in food look like? Keep a journal with notes on the food you ate throughout the week and how it made you feel along with your actions. Did you take small bites or large ones? Did you multitask while eating? What time of the day did you eat? Did you go outside or stay inside? What about the food itself? Was it fresh? Salty? Flavorful? Maybe even note the journey of food as it made its way to your plate, whether that means it was a tomato grown in a patch in your backyard or a mozzarella log picked up at the farmer’s market. Taking a closer look at what you eat, and the way you do it, ultimately allows you to nourish the body with food that satisfies and takes it through the next eight hours and beyond.
Just as breathing forces you to let go and concentrate on inhaling and exhaling, mindful listening allows you to listen without judgment. If you have Pandora or Spotify on as background noise, put on shuffle and listen to the next song that comes up all the way through without skipping ahead. Listen thoughtfully and embrace the sounds within including the lyrics, instruments, artist’s voice, and rhythm.
If you’re about to meet with someone to discuss an assignment, or taking a meeting via Skype, put away any and all distractions and focus on the person in front of you. Give them your undivided attention. Listen carefully, ask questions, use body language to communicate, and take notes to show them you are here and invested in the conversation.
5) Create a daily gratitude and accomplishment journal
Mindfulness may be about living in the present, but there is something to be said about appreciating everything you have already done and all that you have in your life too.
Create a journal with two columns — one for your accomplishments and another for things you’re grateful for — and keep it at your work desk. Add in one item in each column every day. These don’t have to be ostentatious achievements either. Finishing work half an hour early to volunteer at a local soup kitchen or being grateful for packages that arrive a day earlier than planned are simple, but soulful, reminders worth jotting down. By the end of the week, the pages of the journal should be full of extraordinary ordinary things that you might have forgotten about otherwise. Now you’re mindful of their presence and thankful for how much they contribute to your life.
Deborah Sweeney is the CEO of MyCorporation.com. MyCorporation is a leader in online legal filing services for entrepreneurs and businesses, providing start-up bundles that include corporation and LLC formation, registered agent, DBA, and trademark & copyright filing services. MyCorporation does all the work, making the business formation and maintenance quick and painless, so business owners can focus on what they do best. Follow her on Google+ and on Twitter @deborahsweeney and @mycorporation.