You don’t need to set aside hours every day to take up meditation.
Few will have missed the mindfulness zeitgeist. Employers from Google and Goldman Sachs to TfL are backing this Buddhist-inspired technique, which essentially promotes “awareness”, or the ability to focus on the present moment, as a way to reduce stress. But if your company does not offer mindfulness classes, there are still a few ways to build it into a busy routine.
HOW TO BE MINDFUL
Mindfulness is best achieved through meditation sessions. Sit upright on a chair or cushion, either cross-legged or in the lotus position, and allow the spine to rest in its natural curve. Focus on your breathing and recognise what you are doing, says Thich Nhat Hanh in his book You Are Here. If your mind begins to wander, don’t get frustrated. Rein in your thoughts and concentrate once more on your breathing.
Headspace, a popular mindfulness app, advises you to choose a particular time and space to meditate and stick with it, so that practising becomes a habit.
If you’re not going to meditate, when dealing with overwhelming or negative emotions throughout the day, many experts advocate the RAIN formula. This acronym stands for recognising a difficulty, acknowledging its presence, investigating the sensations and emotions it provokes in you, and not identifying these emotions as intrinsic to you as a person.
WHERE TO PRACTISE
If sitting cross-legged on the Jubilee Line at 8.10am doesn’t sound reasonable, don’t worry. More practical forms of meditation can be performed almost anywhere, even public transport. “See whether you can be mindful of your breath from one station to the next”, writes Shamash Alidina in Mindfulness for Dummies. He recommends listening to the pitch, tone and volume of any announcements made, rather than thinking about the sound itself.
“Make a conscious attempt to stay present as you go through your daily routine: showering, getting dressed, washing the dishes”, say Jonty Heaversedge and Ed Halliwell in The Mindfulness Manifesto. “Paying attention to these everyday activities can radically change the way you experience them”.
Research by Herriot-Watt University has linked walking in gardens and parks to heightened awareness, less frustration and increased engagement back in the office.
KEEP IT SNAPPY
Some experts recommend that practised meditators sit for up to an hour, but certain studies have shown that mindfulness is actually more effective in short bursts, which could be easily incorporated into a busy working day. A study on Chinese students recorded lower levels of anxiety, depression, anger, fatigue and stress-related hormones after just 20 minute sessions of mindfulness and meditative training over five days.
Taking just sixty seconds can be beneficial, argues Dawn Groves in Meditation For Busy People. “When you take even a moment to wake from the somnambulance of everyday business, you begin to reclaim your right to enjoy life instead of endure it”.