How to Be Present Each Day, Even as You Work
Monday morning wakes you with a blaring alarm clock. You reach around in the dark to turn it off, then flick on the lights and shuffle into the shower, still half-dazed with sleep. Where did the weekend go? A quick breakfast is followed by two cups of coffee and you’re off to work. Your week is spent on autopilot – answering emails, answering the phone, making small talk with co-workers, constantly checking your devices, making your daily commute, navigating traffic jams, and waiting for Friday evening to arrive. Only then do you feel alive. But this is not a way for anybody to live happily.
Work is a natural part of life, and though it is impossible to enjoy every second of every day, it is important to find joy in the process of living. We live in a generation of multitasking. It isn’t unheard of to see somebody at the gym on their lunch break answering a work email on their smartphone. The Energy Project’s Tony Schwarz found 80 percent of us are rarely (if ever) disconnected from email. In 2014, a national poll was taken by NPR with its partners at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health. Their findings concluded that more than 1 out of every 4 Americans experienced a great deal of stress in the previous month. And half of all adults say they experienced a major stressful even in the past year, which works out to more than 115 million people. There is one tactic that everybody from Zen teachers to Google employees are trying: mindfulness.
“Mindfulness essentially means awareness. Becoming aware of what’s going on around you can make a huge difference, because we spend so much time wrapped up in our thoughts that we lose contact with the real world. That’s especially the case if you’re constantly bombarded by email, Facebook posts and Twitter. It’s not really conducive to a calm and productive work environment,” said Dr. Danny Penman, author of Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Finding Peace in a Frantic World.
Incorporating mindfulness into one’s lifestyle is one way to stay present. Mindfulness can help you feel appreciation for the little things that go unnoticed daily. Maybe it’s the gorgeous pastel sunrise on the way to work or a pleasant conversation with a colleague over a coffee break. It is easy to look at the big picture and dread the day to come. But when the small moments of the day are relished – every day marks a fresh beginning.
1. Unplug After-Hours. If you know you cannot go 20 minutes without checking your phone, turn it off when you get home from work or put it away. Another option is to have a “tech-free lunchtime” during which you disconnect from technology for a half-hour to an hour— and just be. “If you want to be more present, turn off your electronics and stop checking your email when you’re having a conversation with someone, working on a project that requires concentration, or even when you just want to enjoy the moment,” says Kristi Hedges of Forbes.
2. Mentally Reset. Studies have shown taking short breaks between projects or tasks encourages the mind to refocus and recharge. Simply taking a few moments to breathe deeply and reflect positively before a meeting or entering into your next task is easy. You can do this without having to leave your desk. Another way to give yourself a mental break between tasks is to read a poem or take a walk around the office to get your blood flowing.
3. Say “No” Out Loud. “For everything we say yes to, we’re saying no to something else. When you reflect on that and verbalize it, the decision is much easier, e.g., ‘I’m saying no to my kids so I can respond to a non-urgent email’ or ‘I’m saying no to planning this pivotal project so I can say yes to surfing Twitter.’ When you put it out there, the distinction often makes the real choice laughable. What’s taking away our full and focused presence doesn’t deserve it at all,” says Hedges.
4. Try a Three-Minute Breathing Space. To help you calm your nerves and de-stress during an especially hectic day, try unplugging at your desk or in another quiet space. Stop what you’re doing for three minutes and inhale and exhale deeply. Focus your attention fully upon your breath and then your whole body.
Penman says, “You do that two or three times a day, and it will transform the day. If you’re feeling especially frantic, a three-minute breathing space will help clarify your thoughts, calm down your whole approach to life and will make you so much more productive and on-the-ball. It’s just transformative.”
- Begin by taking three deep, long breaths. As you breathe out, bring your consciousness to what is causing your stress.
- As you become aware of exactly what is stressing you out, say: I am willing to move on and see this in a new light.
- Take another three slow breaths using your exhalation to sigh and release your strain.
- Once you have done this, wiggle your body around and envision your stress evaporating. You can do this for as long as you like.
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