Mindfulness meets IT: 4 practices to impact your day
By Lou Markstrom
Want to stress less at work? Different mindfulness techniques are easy to incorporate into your daily routine.
Would you like to minimise emotional reactions? Calm yourself when feeling stressed? Improve attention span and focus? Or increase your energy level when in your sluggish part of the day?
All of these can be accomplished by utilising different mindfulness techniques that are easy to incorporate into your daily routine.
Mindfulness has become much more accepted and mainstream than ever before. Talk about awareness, mindfulness and meditation are taking place in organisations around the world.
The worldwide success of the Search Inside Yourself program, developed by Google is a prime example of this. Not too long ago, these ideas would have been considered too “fluffy” or “woo woo” in an IT organisation.
To put these principles of mindfulness into practice, lets first establish a simple definition of what we mean. It is the ability to separate yourself, observe and not get caught up in the “little voice in your head.”
You know what I mean by that little voice, it has constant judgements and opinions about everything. Right now it may be even saying, “I don’t have a little voice, this is crazy talk.”
Some of us will even say we have multiple little voices up there and sometimes they even argue with each other. Our aim is to separate our "self" from our "little voice."
A mentor of mine used to say, “how could that little voice in your head be you, if you are the one listening to it?” Once we develop “awareness” of the voice, we then have the ability to make a conscious choice about whether we go along with what our little voice is saying or not.
In his famous book, Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl talks about how we need to develop awareness so that we have choice. He says that we need to understand that when it comes to our thoughts and reactions, there is no law of cause and effect.
Something happens and then there is moment in which we get to choose how we act that occurs before the way we react (the effect) and recognition of this “space” between cause and effect is one of the objectives we are looking to achieve with our practices of mindfulness.
Below are 4 practices that you can incorporate into your day, each of which can have a different impact on your state of mindfulness or awareness.
Practice 1: Developing awareness
Sit in an upright posture in a chair. Take a few deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth. Take 30 seconds and observe each of your senses one after another.
Observe your sense of hearing, what do you hear, what do you hear that you weren’t first aware of? Observe your sense of touch, do you feel the chair, your clothes touching your skin?
Observe your sense of smell, what fragrances can you pick up that weren’t aware of? Observe your sense of taste, what can you taste? Finally open your eyes, what do see?
Can you experience your senses as if it were the first time you were using them? How quickly does your “little voice” come in and define what everything “is” and interrupt you “experiencing” it?
Practice 2: Calming emotions
A great technique to calm oneself is called “square breathing. Sit in an upright posture. Take a few deep breaths in through your nose out through your mouth.
Inhale to an even count of 4 – 1,2,3,4. Now, hold your breath in for an even count of 4 – 1,2,3,4. Now exhale your breath out for an even count of 4 – 1,2,3,4. Now hold your breath out for an even count of 4 – 1,2,3,4.
Repeat this process for 4 cycles, then increase the count to 5 for each count then to 6 then 7 then 8. Take a few deep breaths to finish and slowly return to regular breathing.
Practice 3: Increase energy and concentration
Here’s a quick way to get your energy up when you are feeling slow, tired or sluggish.
Sit in an upright posture in a chair. Lift both arms straight up next to your ears, pull both arms down to your side, elbows down to your ribs take a short quick breath out. Repeat this 30 times. Take a few deep breaths and repeat up to 4 times. If you watch the Netflix documentary on Tony Robbins, you will see him practicing this technique.
Practice 4: Quieting the mind
When you find yourself getting caught up in all the whirling thoughts in your head, find a nice quiet place to sit. Close your eyes. Imagine it is a quiet day with a clear blue sky.
As you observe the sky, white clouds slowly drift by. As you watch cloud after cloud drift by, start to observe the random thoughts or feeling that arise, then picture them inside one of the white clouds and watch them drift away one after another after another. You can do this for a simple practice of 5 minutes then take a few deep breaths in and out, then slowly open your eyes.
Mindfulness meditation really does work. Give it a go and make it part of your daily routine.
Lou Markstrom is the co-author of Unleashing the Power of IT: Bringing People, Business, and Technology Together, published by Wiley as part of its CIO series.