“When we practice mindfulness, we’re practicing the art of creating space for ourselves—space to think, space to breathe, space between ourselves and our reactions.” -Mindful Staff at mindful.org
Have you ever arrived at the end of your day, or maybe even your entire work week, and you look back and realize you cannot pinpoint even just one moment where you weren’t multitasking, overstimulated, or racing off somewhere at 100 MPH? Maybe you hardly even remember certain conversations that you engaged in, meals you enjoyed, or music that you listened to. This is becoming more and more common in our ever increasing fast-paced world. And while it’s inevitable that we experience this from time to time, it’s not healthy for our minds or our bodies to operate like this day in and day out. It makes sense then that we now hear more about ‘Mindfulness’ in today’s world than ever before. I don’t think anyone would argue against the idea that the more high-speed and technologically driven our environment becomes, the more important it is to slow down. To be still. To just, be. But while Mindfulness is becoming exceedingly more trendy in recent years, it by no means is a new concept.
Historically, the origin of Mindfulness in the United States is attributed to Jon Kabat-Zinn in the 1970’s, a professor and the creator of the Stress Reduction Clinic and the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. Kabat-Zinn was first introduced to Buddhist philosophy while he was a student at MIT, which acted as a catalyst in his work in and understanding of mindfulness practices. He defines mindfulness as “the psychological process of bringing one’s attention to the internal and external experiences occurring in the present moment, which can be developed through the practice of meditation and other training.”
Now, you may be thinking that this sounds a little too new agey, and Kabat-Zinn was first to try to secularize ‘Mindfulness’, plucking it from it’s spiritual ties and grounding it more in scientific beliefs. Mindfulness can easily be extracted from the realm of Buddhism, Eastern philosophy, and even your run of the mill yoga class if that’s your preference. But there is something present in all of those frameworks that cannot be ignored, and today, I’d like to encourage you to find ways to integrate Mindfulness practices into not only your personal life, but your professional one as well.
First things first, here’s a few facts (inspired by mindful.org) you need to know before getting your Mindfulness ball rolling…
- Do not be fooled and think you need to go out and buy anything. You don’t need a special pillow to sit on or mala beads to chant with to begin your practice (though both of those items can be great down the line). The beautiful thing about Mindfulness is that it can be practiced anywhere and anytime.
- I hate to break it to you, but meditation will not shut off your mind. That will never happen, it’s not even the goal. Our advanced brains are built for thinking and that is exactly what they do best. The idea is to try and detach from those thoughts by focusing fully on the present moment.
- As you practice Mindfulness, be it in seated or moving meditation or other forms, your mind is bound to wander. The key is to not be too hard on yourself when it does. I guarantee that the first time you sit in silence or mediation to practice mindfulness, your brain will kick into overdrive about your to-do list, or a conversation you had last week, what you’re cooking for dinner tonight, etc. It can feel so incredibly frustrating! But I once heard an amazing analogy from a wonderful yoga teacher and idol of mine, Elena Brower, that meditation is like cleaning your house. When you first start, everything seems to get messier and more hectic to begin with, but eventually, with time, the dust settles and all the random things start to find their place. If you keep up with the maintenance, the house stays pretty clean and clear and it’s easier to keep it that way. Meditation is exactly the same. That’s why we’re calling this a mindfulness practice.
Which brings us to Mindfulness 101:
Mindfulness in Your Workplace
Perhaps your office is a large enough for a dedicated ‘mindfulness area’ or room that both you and your chiropractic assistants can utilize on breaks, and if that’s the case, fabulous! But for a lot of us, that’s not a reality, so most likely you and your team will need to approach mindfulness practices differently in your workplace. Here are a few ideas on ways you can call in this beneficial practice into your office.
1. Introduce Mindfulness to Your Team
The notion of mindfulness can be intimidating or confusing to those who are familiar. Consider introducing this concept at your next chiropractic team meeting. Much of the time people don’t realize that there are a lot of approaches to mindfulness, so starting a conversation and allowing others to share their experiences could provide a rich experience. You could even start the meeting with a short guided meditation before you go into any specifics. Too nervous to lead one yourself? There are SO many pre-recorded guided meditations out there. Try searching on Youtube or using an app such as Headspace or Calm.
2. Lead by Example
This is a big one, and not as easy as it sounds. If you ask others to integrate more mindful behavior into their work routines, you better be prepared do it yourself. So pause, put your phone away, and stay present, especially when interacting with your patients and team members.
3. Get Up and Take Breaks
Let your CAs see you take breaks! I have had several supervisors in past jobs that would constantly talk about work-life balance and get on my case about working too much or too hard but they never walked the walk. Thus it was so much more challenging for me to put down my work and walk away for a break when I never saw them do the same. But this is imperative! You will not function at the same level of efficiency if you’re constantly in go-mode. Our brains need breaks. Or bodies need breaks! So get up from your desk and take a short walk. Not only will that fresh air be good for you, but moving your body will release endorphins, boosting your mood and lowering your stress. How can you afford NOT to do that at least once in your work day?
4. Look at Your Response from a Different Point of View
Sometimes mindfulness simply means pausing and thinking, before you respond. Whether it’s an email, text message, or face to face interaction, try to really consider what you’re saying before you spout it out. If the conversation is a challenging one involving a patient or one of your employees, see if you can empathize with the other person and put yourself in their position. Before you respond make sure that you’re C3- clear, calm, and confident.
5. Just Breathe
In yoga, our breathwork, or pranayama, is an essential part of the practice. It’s literally thought to be our lifeforce and is what dictates our movement, always. When we meet areas of tension or tightness in our physical bodies, the best way to work through it is to focus on our breath. We can work with our mental and emotional bodies the same way. Try it now! Close your eyes, focus on your breathing. When you’re ready, exhale your air out of your mouth and then take 3 slow, cleansing breaths. In through your nose, out through your mouth. Afterward, pause with your eyes closed and see if you can sense your physical and energetic shift, post-deep breaths.
6. Notice the Small Things
Do you remember when you were a kid, how exciting the most mundane things could be? Going to the grocery store, taking a walk, writing your name! The wonder of it all. What if we called in that same awe or simple appreciation for little joys throughout the day? A fresh breeze coming through the window, a parking space opening up right where you need to be, a friend or workmate bringing you a coffee, a stranger smiling at you when you pass. Even just being aware of how comfortable your shoes are, how nice the hand soap in the bathroom smells, or how that cough that you had last week is totally gone– a few minutes of mindfulness mixed in with a sprinkle of gratitude can go far.
7. Slow Down & Block Out Unscheduled Time for Yourself
Truly one of the best things you can do to increase mindfulness is to slow down. When we’re racing around like a headless chicken, we naturally are out of our bodies and more prone to stress, anxiety, and overexhaustion. So slow down, check in with your body and breath, and maybe do something out of the ordinary for yourself today.
8. Don’t Micromanage
You can talk all day to our CAs about the importance of mindfulness until you’re blue in the face, but to really encourage them, start by giving them some space and time. Stress is a huge blocker of mindfulness and one of the biggest stressors in our workplace? Micromanagement. So do yourself and your team a favor, try not to hover. You’ve built your incredible team to be inspired and independent. Trust!
9. Incorporate Mindfulness Into Meetings
If you start each meeting by leading a quick meditation or having everyone unite their breaths, your team will naturally become more familiar with the concept of mindfulness. Encourage everyone to actively listen to one another and refrain from interrupting each other. You can create a mindful work culture.
Have I at least peaked your interest? Even if you just incorporate one or two of these ideas into your life, I guarantee you’ll notice a difference. And if you still need some convincing, hop into a local yoga class and see what all the hype is about. Good luck, Chiropractic Friends, on your Mindfulness journey.
Meaghan (the Yoga Teacher on Staff at Inspired Practice Solutions)