Being calm, mindful, and contemplative is not something we typically associate with the workplace. For many, the place we go to, to earn a living is more commonly associated with feelings of stress, anxiety, and discontentment. Learning to navigate our relationship to the workplace through mindfulness exercises is a powerful thing. A first step towards alleviating the struggle we face when it comes to our jobs and careers. Mindfulness exercises for work can empower us to feel confident and inspired. And as we learn to uncover various layers of peace, purpose, and patience for the vocation we’ve chosen. Or, for that which we authentically yearn to transition into.
There are a variety of reasons that our relationship to our vocation might be instigating stress and tension. Some of the reasons include (but are not limited to):
In many cases, a variety of these factors intermix to create a strong sense of inner resistance to the work we are doing, which fuels our feelings of dissatisfaction, stress, and anxiety. And, in addition to external factors, we might also be unequipped with the skills required to balance our needs (for work and rest). Secondly, to manage stress when it arises (as it will). Finally, to constructively and compassionately inquire into what is really going on beneath the surface. This is where mindfulness exercises for work and purpose come into play.
As we start to explore our relationship to our work life in mindful ways – including the exploration of mindfulness exercises at work as well – we are likely to encounter a variety of benefits. Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, for instance, has been found to:
Whether we practice at home or at work, the positive impacts we experience will have a ripple effect on all aspects of our daily life. Morning practice can help us to set an inspired, empowered tone for the day. Which, it will naturally infuse itself into our work. Likewise, evening practice that promotes rest and deep sleep will help us to wake up feeling energized and equipped. Gaining the momentum to take on the day’s challenges. When we practice mindfulness exercises at work, we offer ourselves mini resets. These help us to refocus on the tasks at hand and to gain clarity over whatever emotions or energies are moving through us.
When it comes to establishing a healthy relationship with our current work or career life, there are a variety of simple mindfulness tips that require very little time. Yet, these can have a profound impact on our experience of work when practiced regularly. Some tips to consider include:
From the moment we wake up, our mind becomes infiltrated with thousands of thoughts that come and go rapidly. By taking at least a few minutes in the morning for mindfulness practice. Setting an intention by the end of this sitting. You interrupt the habitual flow of thoughts (which often permeate fear, stress, and tension) and invite inspiration and positivity into your day. Sit quietly for a few moments, grounding yourself through the breath. Then, focus in on a single virtue you would like to cultivate that day. Sit with what it feels like within the body and allow it to be your guiding principle.
Deadlines, disagreements, and demands can leave us feeling chronically stressed while at work. Whether before a meeting or after sending an important email (or both!), take a 60-second time-out to reground yourself in the present. It can help to set a timer to facilitate deeper mental relaxation. Do this as often as is required throughout the day. And chances are, you’ll be more focused and productive during the space in-between sessions.
This one is particularly important for those who have more sedentary jobs. Since our bodies are designed to be mobile, making time to move the body – even if in very natural and gentle ways – can have us feeling in greater alignment. Movement brings the mind into the body, away from all the stressors that plague us on the daily. Take a walk outside or around the floor of your building – whichever is more appropriate. If you’d like to explore the benefits of this further, practice yoga or go for a run for whatever amount of time is suitable for your break.
Since most of us have a personal device that offers plenty of lifelines into our social networks, we’re all now susceptible to a greater number of distractions. Yes, more than we were 20 years ago. By keeping your phone out of reach (assuming you don’t need it to get your work done), you’ll be less likely to mindlessly scroll through social feeds or webpages. This mindful act can help to keep you focused on the task at hand. Eventually, it will lead to you feeling more accomplished.
Now, in some cases, the cause of workplace stress is more heavily imbued with a sense of being in a position or environment that is unaligned with your values or a poor fit for your skills. Before drawing conclusions, it’s important to explore the validity of these feelings. For instance, are you unarguably meant to design and create instead of inputting data into a spreadsheet? Or, are there issues involving poor self-esteem at play?
In any case, you can explore mindfulness exercises for life purpose without having to draw any conclusions or make any abrupt decisions about your current job or career. Some mindfulness exercises online that can help you explore this topic include:
This worksheet designed for meaningful self-exploration encourages us to consciously answer simple questions that we rarely give much consideration to. The questions are designed to have each of us thinking more considerately about who we are, what we care about, and what we have to offer.
An inspiring video narrated by Randy Pausch, Steve Jobs, Will Smith, and Stuart Scott. It offers unique takes on life, on death, on meaning, on passion, and on purpose. In listening, you may come to realize things within yourself that you have neglected for some time. This video can be watched as a stepping stone towards discovering what you want to share with (or offer to) this world.
Take time to consider our five greatest successes in life. Once we have written those down, we dive deeper into what these say about our definition of success. As insights surrounding this mindfulness exercise arise, we might naturally find greater clarity in how we want to move through and contribute to the world.
Jim Carrey talks about his eventual realization that the purpose of his life has always been to free people of concern, just like his father. The inspiring talk might lead each of us to more deeply question what it is we’d like to share with others – what is it that we are here to contribute?
A written worksheet that asks us to reflect upon the meaning in our days for 10 days. It encourages us to consider the impact our intention has on our experience of meaning, what meaning looks like, and more. As we dive into this mindful reflection over a number of days, inspiring insights may arise.
For mindfulness exercises at work, there are a variety of different short practices we can move through either in-between assignments or while on a break. Some of the exercises you might consider include:
This mindfulness meditation is less than 10 minutes in length and guides us deeply into our breath, our body, and the present moment. By taking the time to step away from everything that whirls in the mind, we establish a stronger sense of focused attention and ability to concentrate. This can be listened to while on your lunch break to reset you for the afternoon’s activities.
This worksheet and instructed practice invites us to tune into the way stress manifests itself in the physical body and then to envision a white or golden light easing the tension or tightness there. Once you get the hang of the practice, you can practice it without guidance when stress arises – anywhere and anytime.
Deep breathing into the fullness of the lungs so that the stomach expands and softens naturally helps us to awaken our innate relaxation response. Greatly beneficial during times of stress (such as before a big meeting or speech), belly breathing can help us to physiologically and then mentally return to a place of peace and calm. From this space, we are able to interact more mindfully and consciously with the world around us.
This written exercise applies to each area of our life – our work life included. As we take a deeper look into what our inherent strengths are, we find a greater sense of confidence and purpose for being where we are. We are asked to consider new ways we might use these strengths in our professional life, encouraging us to think beyond our previous limitations.
When we are at work, time is typically of the essence. This resource is not one but eleven different short meditations (all under 20 minutes and most under 10 minutes) that can be explored during a break at work to help reground you in the present moment. From this centered state of being, our relationship with our work becomes clearer.
All in all, these 10 mindfulness exercises for work and purpose (plus four general mindfulness tips) introduce us to new ways of relating to the work we do, to the world around us, and to the world within. With continued practice, we begin to establish a more centered state of being that empowers us to find meaning and purpose in whichever vocation we are presently in or come to explore.
Sean Fargo is the Founder of Mindfulness Exercises, a former Buddhist monk of 2 years, a trainer for the mindfulness program born at Google, an Integral Coach from New Ventures West, and an international mindfulness teacher trainer. He can be reached at [email protected]
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