I’m going to be honest, had Jess not been the one to start discussing the benefits of mindfulness with me I probably would have pushed it off as something you were only able to do while eating granola, wearing Birkenstocks with wool socks on, and smelling like patchouli.
In fact, I think I had ignored all the scientific research all over the news about the benefits of mindfulness for precisely that reason.
I mean, I really hate the smell of patchouli.
But because Jess is one of a handful of people in the universe who totally and completely “gets” me and someone I deeply respect from an intellectual perspective, as her interest in—and education around—mindfulness deepened, so did mine.
Mindfulness to the Rescue
I’ve talked indirectly about mindfulness before when addressing self-doubt.
One of my favorite tricks when I’m beating myself up is to pay attention to the tone I speak to myself in.
It can be pretty hard to stop saying harsh things to yourself, but if you just focus on changing the tone of your words first, you can eventually defuse yourself and change the words to.
I’ve mentioned this concept several times here and it’s one that has really transformed the very nature of my self-talk.
Exercises like this, my friends, are case studies in mindfulness.
Mindfulness for Communications Professionals: No Patchouli Needed
As communications professionals, our jobs are often very externally facing.
We tend to be quick moving, high-performing, and often Type A personalities, who are all cracked out on adrenaline and the need to please.
We expect more and more….and more of ourselves every day.
I guarantee at least 90 percent of you reading this right now have a minimum of eight different trains of thought going on in your head concurrently.
Right? Did I catch you?
Are you simultaneously reading my post, thinking through the agenda for your upcoming client call, worry about how long exactly you’ll be on shelter-in-place and if you have enough toliet paper, recalling how you forgot to send that email, and wondering what you are going to have for lunch (mmmm…lunch!).
That’s OK. I get it. I do the same thing.
And no doubt, our current situation does not make this easier. Our brains that normally go a million miles a minute just added an extra million .
Even more importantly, until I called you out on it, did you even realize you were thinking of eight things at once?
My guess is probably not.
And that, my friends, is where mindfulness comes in.
The Benefits of Mindfulness
So what are the benefits of mindfulness in a business setting??
- Decreased anxiety and stress, and in turn improved resilience. This is so important in your daily work, and especially in crisis communications. Plus it allows you to separate yourself from the stressful situation to make smarter choices and preserve your sense of judgement (because we all know smart choices are never made on the edge of FREAK OUT mode).
- Emotional intelligence. Which benefits client service, team cohesion, and overall leadership….to name a few.
- Improved creativity. Um…duh, creativity is a pretty important part of what we do.
- Improved focus and productivity. Because you have eight million things to get done and so you could use a bit of extra focus and productivity points.
And these benefits don’t even begin to dive into the overall health and immune system benefits of mindfulness.
Long story short, mindfulness can actually create long-term changes in brain function and structure, which improves how your brain performs and recovers.
How to Add Mindfulness to Your Day
And while you might already acknowledge the benefits of mindfulness, adding it to your own life is a different situation.
Here is where I think many people jump off the mindfulness train before it leaves the station. Choo choo!
Mindfulness isn’t an all or nothing thing. Instead it’s a process.
You don’t need to start meditating an hour a day.
You don’t even need to burn incense that smells like patchouli!
All you need to do is cultivate awareness of both your environment and your intentions.
AND you need to find what works for you.
There is no right or wrong way to be mindful. And if you get stressed or start judging yourself over the fact you are “doing mindfulness wrong,” well….then YOU REALLY NEED TO LEARN MINDFULNESS.
A few years ago I read, “10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works–A True Story” by Dan Harris.
It was funny, interesting, and a perfect book for any Type A, patchouli-hating professional who wants to understand and integrate the benefits of mindfulness into their own lives.
This year I purchased a year-long membership to the 10% Percent Happier App as part of my New Year’s resolution to develop a mediation practice.
And I love it. They even have “on the go” mediations for people like me who don’t like to sit down.
Oh and don’t forget the 10% Percent Happier podcast. (Does it sound like I”m a groupie? I am.)
Dan (I call him by his first name now, be-ause we obviously are friends, he just doesn’t know it yet) takes the concept of mindfulness and apply it to our everyday professional lives (using his own journey as a ABC television anchor as a guide).
If you use this link, you’ll get a free three month membership to the app (I don’t get anything out of this and there are no strings, helping others is just part of their mission).
I’m not a sit still and meditate type person, but I am an outdoor, run around in circles and climb on things type of girl.
Out hiking is one of the only times I can turn off many of the millions of dialogues, demands, and to-dos going on in my head and just be.
It helps me tune into my senses—all of my senses and be very aware of the thoughts going on in my head and how I respond to the environment.
It’s a slice of stillness (although I’m moving), which I can’t cultivate elsewhere.
For this reason I make sure I do at least a short hike every week.,
Where is that place for you?
It might be cooking, or walking someplace. It might be knitting or playing an instrument. I think it could take many forms, the secret is finding it and making sure you consistently go there.
The tone thing is big for me.
I can be very hard on myself. Very hard.
And so, I really work on paying attention to the tone I use with myself.
It’s made a huge difference and is something I’m want to continue to cultivate.
I started doing this by consciously being aware of how I talk to myself and what I say.
It’s taken some time, but now I’m at the point of being able to catch myself (most of the time) when my tone becomes unproductive and I need to realign to something that’s more effective.
“Is This Useful?”
This one I took away from my BFF Dan’s book.
He questioned a mentor as to how one balanced the need to be concerned with life and career and the constant drive for success with the idea of being in the present moment and detached from outcome.
And the mentor told him to ask himself “is this useful?” when he started going down the rabbit hole of anxiety.
A certain amount of stress is good.
Stress often drives us forward and motivates us.
Good stress is beneficial, but the goal is to watch for when that good stress turns negative and it stops being useful.
Now IS The Time
Sure, it can feel a bit overwhelming to try to add one more new habit on top of the millions of new habits you’ve had to develop during this new reality. But THIS is the one to develop. And THIS is the time to do it.
Even if it’s just five minutes a day to tune in while you walk or a mediation before you go to sleep (another of my favs), those five minutes will pay off for the rest of your 23 hours and 55 minutes. I promise.
Image credit: My personal photographer, who snapped this picture of me being mindful on top of a mountain. Rule #1: Always have a personal photographer on-hand to capture your moments of mindfulness.