5 Simple Ways to Incorporate Mindfulness Into Your Work Day (and Why it Will Help!)

For those of us who have busy working lives, the idea of incorporating mindfulness into our already packed to the rafters days can be a bit of a sore subject.

With responsibilities around the home such as taking the kids to school, daily chores and grocery shopping, heaped on to the daily tasks we’re supposed to keep on top of as part of our job descriptions, many people believe that finding a few moments for mindfulness is something that they simply don’t have the time to do.

However, it’s worth it to find the time. Taking a few minutes away from the hustle and bustle of your busy life can actually have some fantastic benefits that can help you in more ways than you might expect.

Save time

For time-strapped professionals, mindfulness can help restore focus and enable you to tackle complex projects with a clear mind, (rather than having numerous untamed thoughts running through your brain). If you choose to tough it out instead of dealing with your racing thoughts, it can actually make you less than productive.

Taking a moment to gain clarity provides an escape route from the mental chatter that can prevent you from reaching your true potential. Therefore, a few minutes of mindfulness can pay big dividends when it comes to getting the job done.

Calm your mind

Stress is one of the leading reasons for employee absences here in America. Therefore, the ability to release some of the pressures of work before they build up to the kinds of unmanageable levels that lead to illness, is a skill that anyone working in a high-pressure environment will want to master.

Mindfulness helps you to overcome adverse events and helps support positive attitudes. Therefore, it’s a great way of getting a head start on tackling the daily challenges we all face when we head off to work each morning. And, not only will it promote your own better mental health, it will also ripple out into your environment and have a positive impact on those around you.

Better health

Mindfulness isn’t just an effective tool for mental and emotional health; it also has several benefits for your physical wellbeing too!

From reducing stress, to lowering blood pressure, and reducing chronic pain, mindfulness can help you to fight the negative effects of chronic stress in a myriad of ways. By learning key mindfulness tools that you can practice pretty much anywhere at any time, you’ll also be able to enjoy better sleep and awaken each morning feeling fully rested and ready to face the day ahead.

Sounds great, right? But how do you go about incorporating mindfulness into your daily 9 to 5 routine without it blowing a big hole in your schedule?

Here are five tried and tested mindfulness techniques that you can start to add into your day. You’ll soon begin to see what a difference taking a few moments for yourself can make to your productivity, wellbeing and overall happiness.

1. Start the day right

Mornings can be manic at the best of times. Still, if you start your day off on the wrong foot, you’ll be heading for a stress-filled day before you’ve even left the house.

To incorporate mindfulness into your morning routine, rise ten minutes early for a little AM meditation before you get out of bed. This can be as simple as sitting up and closing your eyes while repeating a calming mantra of your choice or just focusing on how you’re going to make a success of the day ahead.

Next, take a mindful shower where you clear your thoughts and allow the soothing sound and feel of the water on your skin to touch each part of your body, noticing the sensation in succession from head to toe.

These few moments will help calm you, get you ready for the daily tasks to come, and help set you up for a great start to the day.

2. Mindful meetings

For many professionals, meetings can feel like time-wasters that interfere with their work days. But, what if you were intentional about approaching your meetings with a state of mindfulness? Might that change how you perceive them?

Based on my experience (and that of many of my clients), the answer is, “yes.”

If you really strive to listen without judgment to what others are saying, it will help enhance conversation and promote a better understanding of the challenges faced by other members of your team. Opening your mind up and being empathetic can help calm down tricky situations. So, take a moment to focus, hear and digest what the person is saying before choosing how to react. You might just find that you gather more information during your meetings – both in terms of what is said, and what is unsaid.

3. Take a moment

If you feel the stress of the day is becoming too much, head to a quiet space and allow your emotions to flow without judging yourself for any negative thoughts you encounter. Instead of resisting them or pretending they’re not there, you might find that acknowledging them allows them to pass more quickly.

Processing your negative feelings is key to your emotional wellbeing, so name your emotions as you experience them, visualize putting them on a leaf in a stream, and let them float away.

4. Nourish your mind and body

Rushed lunches can lead to all kinds of digestive issues, so use mindfulness to savor each flavor and texture while concentrating on eating. This will help clear the mind and refocus your concentration for the rest of the day, so feel free to leave the office for a few minutes if you think you’ll be interrupted by colleagues. Not only will this give you a nice respite from the stress of the day, it might even help you to watch your waistline, as you’ll be slowing down the rate at which you’re eating.

5. Practice deep breathing

Taking five minutes during the day to practice deep breathing techniques is the cornerstone of effective mindfulness, so choose a breathing technique that works for you and practice for at least five minutes per day.

This can be done without drawing attention to yourself – whether you’re sitting quietly in your office, commuting on the subway, or taking a break in the bathroom. Further, to really ramp things up a little, why not throw in a few visualization techniques too? Here, you imagine serene landscapes to help you reduce stress and release any pent up anxiety that’s been dogging your day.

If you’ve already been able to add a little mindfulness into your daily routine, then that’s great! You’ll already be enjoying the higher levels of emotional intelligence and greater resilience that using mindfulness techniques during your 9 to 5 can offer.

But could you be better?

Mastering the art of mindfulness can help you unlock your true potential in all areas of life, so why not take this quick quiz to get a greater understanding on your mindfulness mastery and uncover a few key areas that can help you achieve your goals and be a winner at life?

Click here to get started with my mindfulness quiz and discover how you can become happy, balanced and successful with just a few minutes each day.

5 Totally Doable Ways To Level Up In Your Career (That You Can Start Right Now)

5 Totally Doable Ways To Level Up In Your Career (That You Can Start Right Now)

Tony Robbins said, “Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible.”

If you’re planning to make a career resolution this year, you’re in good company. According to one statistic almost half of Americans make a resolution yearly. And, while admittedly, not all of them follow through, with some persistence and planning, you can increase the odds that you will successfully achieve yours.

If you’re trying to figure out the perfect resolution that will take your career to the next level, consider one of these possibilities:

1. Pick up a new skill

In my work with executives, many talk about a desire to continue their learning. However, fewer actually make it enough of a priority to do something about it. Instead, they get caught up with their daily demands, letting their desire for professional development fall by the wayside. If that sounds like you, resolve to take action this year. And remember, small steps count – sign up for a conference, read a book, work with an executive coach, experiment with new behaviors, or enroll in a class. Next year at this time, you’ll be able to look back with a sense of pride for the progress you made.

2. Seek Feedback

If you’re not sure the areas you could be working on to develop, then set the resolution to seek feedback. If you have the opportunity to go through a formal 360 process then by all means, sign up to get in-depth perspectives from a wide range of people. If that’s not possible, then select 3-5 people you trust and ask them for candid feedback regarding your strengths and areas for development. This might help you to uncover some blind spots, and also give you some ideas for further resolutions that you can set. One research study found that leaders who ask for feedback are more significantly more effective than those who don’t. So, if you want to improve, don’t be shy about asking!

To read the rest of the article on MindBodyGreen, click here.

Why You Deserve a Break Today

Why You Deserve a Break Today

 

“Every person needs to take one day away.  A day in which one consciously separates the past from the future.  Jobs, family, employers, and friends can exist one day without any one of us, and if our egos permit us to confess, they could exist eternally in our absence.  Each person deserves a day away in which no problems are confronted, no solutions searched for.  Each of us needs to withdraw from the cares which will not withdraw from us.” ~Maya Angelou


 

I currently wear a lot of hats. I’m an entrepreneur focused on building my business and over-delivering to my clients. I’m the mother of a very energetic and joyous two-year old boy. I’m the wife to an equally entrepreneurial husband, who values my opinions in business and beyond. I’m a sister, daughter, and aunt in a close family. I’m a workout fiend who makes time for activities like tennis, pilates, and circuit training. I’m a pretty active blogger who likes to put my thoughts out into the ether, hoping that they’ll help others. And, I’m a bleeding heart who tends to say “yes” to different pleas for assistance ranging from reviewing resumes, to speaking to students, to devising a marketing strategy for a talented teenage artist.

Confucius said, “Choose a job you love, and you’ll never have to work a day in your life.” Right now, I’m in the fortunate position of having that statement apply to me. Still, if you’re doing the math, there’s only so much time in the day. As a result, I sometimes feel like I’m doing an awful lot of “doing” and not enough “being.”

So, for the past few months, I’ve been reflecting a lot on the idea of taking breaks.

Historically, I haven’t been so great at them. Instead, I’ve been a nose to the grindstone kind of person who could delay gratification with the best of them to get stuff done. Plus, I’m ultra-curious, so I truly enjoy intellectual stimulation. As a result, I could manage my time like a pro, reading non-fiction and journal articles while on a cardio machine, cranking out high quality material at warp speed, and coming up with creative ideas in my car that I immediately wanted to start implementing once I got home. I could be fully present with my son, then grind something else out the minute he went to sleep. Even when I would go for a massage, instead of lying peacefully, I would find myself chatting with the massage therapist, eager to learn more about the workings of the human body and what I could do to get rid of muscle imbalances.

It sounds dizzying even as I type it, but honestly, it usually feels fine. After all, when you’re passionate about something, like Confucius said, it doesn’t feel like work. And, I make time to do things like exercise, so I’m doing everything I was supposed to do, right?

It would seem so, except for the fact that it wouldn’t be until outwardly imposed breaks hit that all of this activity would catch up with me, usually in the form of getting sick during holidays. Or sometimes, I would feel completely and utterly tired despite full nights of sleep (I am not one to skimp on sleep).

And, I’m not the only one. Earlier this week, I was talking to a friend (the mother of an infant), who mentioned she had gotten sick over the weekend as a result of firing on all cylinders in her life. I have another friend who constantly updates her Facebook page with status updates about how busy she is, while also feeling that there’s nothing she can do about it except be as productive as possible to keep up.

Lately, however, I’ve been actively questioning this approach. And what I have found is that while the outcomes of taking a break aren’t as tangible as checking an item off of a to-do list, they can be just as rewarding.

For example, last month, I took a few hours to go to the Monastery of the Holy Spirit  in Conyers, Georgia, to recharge. I had heard about how peaceful it was there, and so I decided I was going to take a break with the goal of simply relaxing in solitude. And, it was wonderful.

Although I’m someone who meditates pretty regularly, sitting in the silence of a cavernous empty church, designed with clean, simple lines juxtaposed against beautiful stained glass, was particularly tranquil. Walking along the paths, taking in the loving craftsmanship of the statues and the natural beauty of the flowers was humbling. Sitting by the still lake on a bench, writing in my journal while being serenaded by a group of ducks was a nourishing experience.

And, though I was initially a tad irritated when a friendly stranger sat beside me on the bench and engaged me in conversation (after all, I had come for solitude), I quickly went with the moment, and ended up enjoying an interesting dialogue on metaphysics, including an opportunity to practice my French (which I hadn’t done in years).

It was only a few hours, but the experience truly refreshed me and left me with a sense of peace I haven’t felt in a long time, because I gave myself total and absolute permission to just be.

Since then, I’ve been being intentional about taking time for breaks such as these more often. I take bubble baths. I take power naps when I need them. This morning, when I felt too tired to go to the gym, I listened to my body instead of forcing myself to go. I resumed attending my gentle yoga class after a one-year hiatus. I also plan to carve out time on my calendar to spend a few hours at the monastery again in the future.

And the funny thing is, everything still gets done, just as it did before. Clothes get folded. Projects get completed. Blog posts and reports get written. The world keeps turning.

About a year ago, I asked my (amazing) parents for words of advice they would share for younger people based on their own life experiences. Both of them said something similar, “I would stop and smell the roses more.”

So, I plan to do just that. I hope you will too!

 

Mindfulness, EQ, and Positive Psychology – A Glossary

Mindfulness, EQ, and Positive Psychology – A Glossary

As more and more information emerges about the benefits of taking a holistic approach to life and work, chances are you’ve stumbled across terms like E.Q., positive psychology, and mindfulness. And, like many people, you may be more familiar with the terms themselves than their actual meanings. To help set the record straight and enhance your understanding of some valuable concepts, here is a handy glossary which offers you a complete overview of some terms relevant to this area.

Emotional Intelligence

Also known as EQ, Emotional Intelligence is a term that has become increasingly prevalent in the business world. It refers to a person’s ability to monitor the emotions of himself and others and use this information to guide his thinking, behavior and actions. An increasing number of studies have shown that those with higher EQ levels enjoy better mental health, enhanced on-the-job performance and highly developed leadership skills. As such, hiring managers are consistently on the lookout for EQ in potential job candidates.

Positive Psychology

While psychology has historically focused on human dysfunction and mental illness, this trend has shifted since the turn of the current century.  Positive psychologists use scientific methods to study the conditions associated with helping both individuals and communities to prosper and perform at their best. The term is gaining rapid popularity in the world of business where corporate psychologists such as myself are drawing on the science to help companies and employees achieve greater wellbeing, and in turn, drive more profit for the companies in which they work.

Mindfulness

Originating from ancient Buddhist meditation practices, mindfulness has since emerged as a contemporary term which describes a person’s dynamic awareness and acceptance of his/her thoughts, emotions, sensory experiences and surrounding environment. It calls on individuals to experience and non-judgmentally stay aware of  the immediate moment, rather than be distracted by thoughts of the past or present. Jon Kabat-Zinn, a prominent figure in mindfulness defines it as, “paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally, to the unfolding of experience moment to moment.”  Mindfulness has proven to be a valuable practice in a variety of realms and is now used across an array of areas including corporate, education, health and social rehabilitation.

Wellness

As the name suggests, wellness relates to a person’s overall state of wellbeing encompassing the mind, body and spirit. This balance is actively sought out by an individual through decisions and choices that nurture the creation of an all-encompassing healthy lifestyle. While the term is incredibly broad, common wellness dimensions include mental, physical, spiritual, environmental, social and occupational.

Spirituality

Spirituality is a hard one to define as it can mean different things to different people. That said, most spirituality encounters involve a path to self-transformation, inner discovery and meaningful experiences. Some of the more popular spiritual journeys involve religion, meditation, nature, reflection and sensory experiences.  While work and spirituality have often been considered separate domains, research shows that they can co-exist to create better outcomes.

To learn more about how spirituality, positive psychology, and mindfulness can be applied to your work, check out my book, The Consummate Leader: a Holistic Guide to Inspiring Growth in Others…and in Yourself.

Video: Seven Great Books for Professional Development

“Do you have any book suggestions?” 

 

Clients ask me this question all the time. It’s understandable – there are piles of self-help books purportedly designed to help you and your career, but how do you wade through them all to separate the good from the not-so-good?

In this video I give you some of my favorite book suggestions for professional development. They are great for leaders, leaders-to-be, entrepreneurs, and anyone who wants to advance in their career. Check it out, and tell me what you think!

 

 

 

 

Here are links to the books I mentioned:
  1. What Got You Here Won’t Get You There – Marshall Goldsmith
  2. Give and Take – Adam Grant
  3. The Charisma Myth – Olivia Fox-Cabane
  4. Search Inside Yourself Chade-Meng Tan
  5. For Your Improvement – Michael Lombardo & Robert Eichinger
  6. The Alchemist – Paulo Coehlo
  7. The Consummate Leader: a Holistic Guide to Inspiring Growth in Others…and in Yourself – Patricia Thompson

 

5 Reasons All Business Leaders Should Meditate

5 Reasons All Business Leaders Should Meditate

Oprah Winfrey.  Steve Jobs.  Phil Jackson.  Russell Simmons.  Bill Clinton. Ray Dalio (founder of Bridgewater Associates, the world’s largest hedge fund firm).  What do each of these individuals have in common aside from being insanely successful?  They are (or have been) regular meditators who extol the benefits of this practice as contributing to their achievements.  At this point in time, no one questions the need to exercise one’s body for greater effectiveness, both in and out of work.  Similarly, engaging in a regular meditation is exercise for your mind that will make you more productive in a variety of spheres.  Need some more convincing?  Read below for my top five reasons that all leaders would benefit from a little time spent on a zafu (meditation pillow).

 

1.  Meditation is a Stress Reducer 

Numerous studies have shown that regular meditation is effective in reducing stress.  Whether it is used to  calm the mind of individuals with anxiety disorders, or to simply relax after a long day, its effectiveness has been proven time and time again.  In fact, studies show that across time, meditation changes the brain’s structure so that not only are you better able to deal with stress, you become less prone to experience stress or fear in the first place.

2.  Meditation Improves Your Emotional Intelligence

According to Daniel Goleman, the individual largely responsible for bringing the term “emotional intelligence” to the general lexicon, there are five aspects of E.Q.: self-awareness, self-regulation, internal motivation, empathy, and social skills.  The different types of meditation can positively impact the majority of these variables.  For example, mindfulness meditation, a form of meditation in which the individual learns to observe his or her thoughts nonjudgmentally, helps one to gain greater insight into oneself, and in turn can assist with regulating one’s behaviors.  Lovingkindness meditation (LKM), a form of meditation aimed at developing greater acceptance of others, can assist with developing empathy, which in turn, can improve one’s relationships with others.

3. Meditation Enhances Your Resilience 

The business world is fraught with unexpected developments, shifting priorities, and setbacks.  Resilient individuals are able to bounce back quickly from these events, maintain a sense of perspective, and focus on the task at hand.  In laboratory studies, mindfulness meditation has proven effective in helping individuals bounce back more quickly from unexpected stressors.

4. Meditation Improves Your Focus and Concentration 

Various studies have shown that meditation improves one’s ability to concentrate for extended periods of time.  For example, Buddhist monks who have maintained a regular meditation practice tend to perform better on concentration tasks than control groups.  There is also good news for those of us who do not have the time or inclination to devote ourselves to a life of contemplation.  In various experimental studies, participants who are taught to engage in a regular meditation practice exhibit better concentration than those in a waitlist group after just a few months.

5. Meditation Enhances Your Immune Function 

Neuroscientist Richard Davidson and colleagues conducted an 8 week study in which participants were taught mindfulness meditation.  In addition to having an increased activity in the left-sided anterior portions of the brain (a pattern associated with greater positive emotion), they also showed increased antibodies in response to an influenza vaccine compared to a control group.  Interestingly, the increases in the antibodies were commensurate with the increase of activity in the left anterior portions of the brain.  Want to be healthier?  Add meditation to your daily routine.

As someone who has meditated regularly for the past several years, I can also personally attest to the value of making the time to clear one’s mind.  I have seen the difference it makes in my effectiveness, sense of well-being, and ability to handle stress.  I have also witnessed similar positive changes in my clients who have committed themselves to this endeavor.  So, give it a try – as little as 10 minutes a day can be beneficial.  “But I don’t have time to meditate,” you say.  Then perhaps you should consider this old zen adage, “You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes every day – unless you’re too busy; then you should sit for an hour.”

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