What is mindful working and how can it boost your mental health?

Five steps to becoming more aware at work, which will result in better concentration and control

Published: 14, Jun 2019

Dr. Ambrish Dharmadhikari is Psychiatrist & Head – Medical Services at Mpower – The Foundation.

Image: Shutterstock
Image: Shutterstock

Often, at work, you may suddenly realise it is evening, and wonder where the day has passed. When was last time you considered what your office ceiling looks like? Any interesting things outside the window? We work most of our day on autopilot mode. This mindless working could trap you into a pool of negative emotions, and lead to mental health issues. Here's why we need to distinguish between mindless and mindful working.

What has brought us here?

Mindfulness is a way to harmonise the mind and body. In simple words, it is about ‘being aware of the present’. This could be the breath you take, the weight of your clothes over your body, a clock ticking nearby, the sound of the air conditioning, the aroma of coffee or tea at your table and so on. Mindful working helps increase your concentration. It also allows you to be more observant and receive more information. Practicing mindful working can make you more creative. Most importantly, it will provide mental hygiene and happiness in today’s stressed-out life.

The idea is that the more we are aware, the more we are in control of our actions, behaviour and emotions, which can lead to better professionalism This will not only boost your career path but quality of life as well.

Thich Hath Nhan, a Buddhist monk from Vietnam, teaches how you can achieve mindful working in five steps.

Breathe
The first step is to be aware of your breathing. A simple, effortless activity. Take a few moments each day to inhale and exhale consciously, taking in your surroundings as you do.

Focus
The second step is related to focused breathing; now, be observant of how your muscle move up and down as you breathe. A practiced focus on breath improves your concentration.

Posture control Have you felt drained after work or gone home with aches? The third step is to be aware of your posture. Relax your shoulders. Take control of your posture, observe the pain and pressure you are feeling. This provides you with an opportunity to intervene.

Relaxing muscle tension
When you are aware of your body, you will be surprised to find that most of your voluntary muscles are tense, as if there is imminent threat and your body is prepared for fight or flight. This is typically borne out of an imagined mental threat due to work pressure. Relax your muscles and neutralise unnecessary physical responses. Doing this, you set a feedback mechanism to relax yourself even in stressed situations. This helps you to think clearly and take better critical decisions under pressure.

Walking meditation
Thich Nhat Hanh says, “The miracle is not walking on water or flying in the air, but walking on earth being aware”. The fifth step is called walking meditation. Something as simple as taking a walk will help you become aware of your surroundings, and be in the present.

The author is Psychiatrist & Head – Medical Services of Mpower – The Foundation.

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