Mindfulness (n) is defined as the practice of maintaining a nonjudgmental state of heightened or complete awareness of one's thoughts, emotions, or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis.
The average full-time employee works 2,087 hours a year. The average full time, nonprofit employee works that many hours, and then some, along with statistically lower salaries and typically high stress work environments. Add in financial, social, and familial obligations and it is a recipe for burnout. One of the best methods for avoiding the dreaded, and all too frequent, burnout among nonprofit employees is by increasing emotional intelligence and mental focus through mindfulness practices. Check out these five workplace practices to help make those 2,000+ hours more focused, more enjoyable, and more mindful.
1. Do nothing
Sounds easy, right? Wrong. So, so wrong. For many nonprofit employees, turning “off” is a challenge. You have paperwork to complete, grant deadlines, meetings upon meetings, how are you supposed to turn off?! Each day, set aside five minutes to do absolutely nothing. Take a moment at your desk, during lunch, or even when you pull up to the work parking lot to just sit, breathe, and decompress. Taking just 300 seconds to do absolutely nothing lowers your blood pressure, lowers stress levels, and improves memory and focus which will help you rock your workday.
2. Get in touch with your senses
How often do you stop to smell the roses? But seriously, when was the last time you paid attention and truly experienced the five senses? Being mindful of taste, sight, sound, touch, and smell improves grounding and self-awareness. Diffuse some essential oils, try new-to-you cuisine for lunch, or simply pay more attention to the sounds of nature on your walk into work. Learning how to be more in touch with your senses will in turn help you become more in touch with your emotions.
3. Just breathe
Breathing is an instinctual reaction our bodies have to keep us alive. Even though breathing is instinctual, take a moment during the day to make it intentional. Take 5 to 15 minutes out of your workday to be deliberate and focus on your breath. Practice yoga during your lunch hour, mediate, or simply do nothing. Whatever method you choose, make sure that you take the time to acknowledge and appreciate every breathe. One of my favorite self-guided meditations that can be completed between meetings can be found here.
4. One day at a time
One of the best, but often most difficult, practices is living in the moment and focusing on the “now”. Rather than stressing about tomorrow’s meeting or next quarter’s fundraiser, focus on doing what you can today. Try listing your daily, weekly, and monthly goals as timely, measurable, and attainable tasks. Complete your daily tasks one at a time and your future goals will be a guiding light rather than today’s worry. Download The Happiness Planner app on your smartphone to keep you on task, organized, and in the present.
5. Practice, practice, practice!
No one masters mindfulness overnight. It takes time, consistency, patience, and practice to become more mindful and in tune with one’s emotions. Try setting a one week, two week, or one month “mindfulness challenge” with yourself (or better yet, involve your coworkers!) to implement one of these practices into your daily routine so that it becomes a habit. Consider journaling your experiences to help document and gauge your progress. There is no deadline, benchmark, or goal for mindfulness. Mindfulness is a personal practice and state of being that is unique to an individual. Remember progress, not perfection.
I hope that you adopt some of these practices so that you will experience mindful moments in the workplace and beyond!