Dana Zelicha is a leading academic on the topic of Mindful Leadership, and a former corporate high-flyer whose first-hand experience with the mounting stress and pressure of the modern workforce inspired her to launch OWBA – The Organisational Well Being Agency (wellbeingagency.com). Her goal is simple: to help the organisational world become more mindful. Here, she shares her seven steps to achieving a more mindful life.
In your life’s journey, are you the passenger, or the pilot? You wake up in the morning, drink coffee, go to work, have lunch, go to the gym, eat dinner, go to sleep, and repeat. But are you truly engaged in these activities?
Do you feel wholeness and meaningfulness, as if you are living with intention and purpose? Or, do you simply go through the motions, riding on a conveyer belt without much control over where you are going, or what choices you make along the way?
“In your life’s journey, are you the passenger, or the pilot?”
We all like to think that we are fully engaged in life, taking control in the driver’s seat. However, in reality, most of the time we are on autopilot. We go through the motions of our routines without stopping to give sincere attention to any of the activities we are ‘engaged’ in.
Through daily mindfulness practices and meditation, you can turn off your autopilot, and experience true engagement with your body and the environment around you.
“In Britain, someone becomes ill as a result of stress at work every two minutes.”
It’s important we start doing this. In 2016, the Labour Force Survey showed that absenteeism has increased by 25%, and a TUC study revealed that in Britain, someone becomes ill as a result of stress at work every two minutes. Last year, a total of 17 million working days were lost due to stress. In addition to this, in 2015/2016, the total number of cases of work-related stress, depression and anxiety was at 488,000. Stress is at an all-time high, and practising mindfulness has become increasingly important.
Many people believe that mindfulness is only about meditation, and while this is may be one component, this practice is about so much more! There are many different ways to incorporate this quality of presence into your daily life, and with practice, any activity can become a mindful activity. To bring more attention, awareness, and engagement to your daily routine, here are seven steps for mindful living:
- Start Meditating 10-Minutes A Day: You’re probably thinking: “Meditation? I don’t have the time to meditate, I’m too busy!” While you’re very busy juggling your personal and professional life, you may feel as if there aren’t enough hours in the day. The good news is that meditation can be done in just a few short minutes when you find a spare moment, or are in-between tasks. Think about all the times you idly scroll through your Facebook newsfeed or browse the internet for the same (if not more) amount of time. Using those pockets of downtime for meditating could be just what the doctor ordered to get you refocused and back on track.
- Observe Your Thoughts: Focus on your breathing, and where your mind is focussed in that moment. Is it wandering? If so, where is it going? It is important to understand that our minds do wander, and by being aware of when it happens, we can bring ourselves back to the present moment. A Harvard study found that people’s minds wander on average 47% of the time, regardless of what they are doing (Killingsworth & Gilbert, 2010). Moreover, they found that mind-wandering causes people to feel unhappy. Therefore, taking a moment to observe your thoughts can help you to bring your mind back to the present moment, and in turn feel happier.
- Listen To Your Body: Are you comfortable with your own body right now? Scan your body for one-minute to become aware of the different sensations you may be feeling. Our bodies are our homes and we should take good care of them. Are you hungry? Tired? Are there certain areas of stress? Do you need movement right now? This allows you to really recognise what is going on in your body and be attentive to its needs, whether it be getting some rest or doing exercise.
- Label Your Emotions: Do a check-in with yourself to see how you are feeling at that moment. Are you feeling lonely or bored? Is that why you are mindlessly checking your phone? Are you feeling anxious or excited? Is that why you want a cigarette? Recognise the connection between your emotional state and your behaviour, and see how your feelings may be affecting what you do. Once you identify your present emotion, label it, and let it go.
- Tweak Your Daily Routines: Take an everyday activity that you may normally do mindlessly, such as brushing your teeth, drinking your coffee, or walking the dog, and make it mindful. Every day you should approach the activity with curiosity; be mindful of what you are doing and how you feel throughout the experience for two minutes. When you pay attention closely, you may pick up on things you haven’t noticed before, or find more enjoyment in the seemingly simple task.
- Find a Mindfulness Buddy: While mindfulness training at its core may seem like something that you do alone, the Mindful Buddy can give you the platform to encourage and be encouraged to take part in the mindfulness activities and meditation. Choose someone who will be a good support for you, download a mindfulness app together, and make an appointment during the week to meet and meditate together. Check-in with each other over the course of the week to make sure the other person is practicing mindfulness. Push each other to grow in this journey.
- Eat Mindfully Once A Day: When you sit down for a meal, are you fully present with this experience? Or are you multi-tasking – checking social media, watching TV, or talking with your friends? Always ask yourself: “Am I really hungry right now? Does my body really need that?”. Instead of trying to rush through, take the time to enjoy your food and set a timer for 20 minutes to make sure your meal lasts at least that long. Try to be mindful of the experience, and really pay attention to the texture, taste, and temperature of the food, as well as to your bodily sensations.
Killingsworth, M. A., & Gilbert, D. T. (2010). A Wandering Mind Is an Unhappy Mind.