The Art of Now: How To Be Mindful During Work and School

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Mindfulness is a type of meditation that encourages awareness of the present moment. When you’re mindful, you perceive thoughts and feelings from a distance, and maintain an active, uncluttered, and open attention to the present, without any judgement – including both good and bad. Applying this conscious control over our behaviour and attitude means we learn how to work with intention, will, discipline, and the capacity to be kinder to ourselves. Mindfulness allows us to interrupt involuntary, automatic fight, flight, or freeze reactions – reactions which lead to anxiety, threat, foreboding, fear, and worry. Instead of letting life pass by, or becoming overwhelmed by its obstacles, mindfulness means you learn to live in the moment, deal with stress, and live a little more.

Mindfulness may seem like a great idea, but how do you become more mindful during more busy times, such as a day filled with classes, hours spent in the library, or another day at your part or full-time job? Perhaps you have a multitude of things to do – emails, phone calls, meetings, courses, revision and presentations to deal with? In the midst of that, how do you begin to feel more alive and present, as well as productive?

Here are a few simple ways to be mindful at work:

1) Beginner’s Mind

This is an aspect of mind that is open and curious to seeing things from a new perspective. Confronting anxiety and stress in this way, with eagerness and interest, can have a huge impact in transforming your working experience. When you’re willing to adopt another point of view, fresh possibilities arise – such as the confidence to say ‘yes’ to some things and ‘no’ to other. This can help you battle expected anxieties, worries, and negative thoughts, but also plan and prioritise tasks without judgement.

2) Patience

Patience is a quality that nurtures persistence, strength, and courage in times when apprehensions and uneasiness become a challenge. Patience leads you to see that the inevitability of anxiety and worry will eventually pass in time. It offers a different perspective which can help you to reduce stress and be happier. When the workload gets heavy, understanding how to be patient means you can pause and breathe, allocate tasks in an uncluttered order. Learn to be patient and you will already be on your way to mindful thinking.

3) Be a Single-Tasker

Single-tasking is the opposite to multi-tasking. It’s not often you come across this term as many people feel that taking on tasks, one at a time, is not very productive. However, multi-tasking, trying to do two or more tasks at the same time or switching back and forth between tasks, can be incredibly stressful and unproductive. Even though multi-tasking may feel effective, especially if you’re helping someone else out, it can lead to information being forgotten, tasks being completed without depth, heightened stress levels and decreased attention to self-care. It is very difficult to multi-task. Taking one task at a time and doing a thorough job means you will be more mindful when working, this can lead to higher levels of productivity and happiness.

4) Avoid Gossip

It can be easy to be brought down by the all too common bonding method of moaning about your workload, job, or school courses with your co-workers. Though it may be tempting to get involved, this negativity will only bring you down. If your working environment centralises around pessimism, talking down about others or practicing hate rather than love, get out of there. Try to remove yourself without placing judgement on anyone talking or anyone being talked about. Everyone has their own level of consciousness, as do you, so take time to practice open awareness of the present and avoid negativity for your own happiness.

5) Don’t Take It Personally

You are not defined by the job you do or the courses you study. You are simply experiencing an opportunity or activity — a standard human experience. You have much more depth to your identity than job title or program. Do not take criticism, disapproval, direction, instructions, requests, feedback, or lack of respect personally. Everyone is on a different journey, and if someone chooses to be disrespectful towards you, that is their choice and says much more about them than you. Taking it personally will be much more damaging to your mental wellbeing than theirs. Take deep breaths and remain non-judgemental.

Put into practice these tips on mindfulness and you will soon discover you are able to live in the moment with lower stress levels, greater happiness, and higher productivity levels.

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About the author

Holly Stark is a soon-to-be grad student at Sheffield Hallam University, England, with a BA Honours English degree. She loves to write, from poems to travel/lifestyle blogs, play the piano and attempt yoga. When she’s not writing, she spends her time travelling and learning about new cultures. She is also an identical twin! Holly is new to Toronto, so feel free to send tips on your favourite spots to eat, drink and have fun to her Instagram @hollystark!