Lessons for Life

Be more mindful for a better workplace

An expert shares the mindfulness techniques that can help employees thrive

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Mindfulness at work

Before you send that email, think about what you're sending. (Getty Images/iStock)

Can you be a success in the world of business and still be mindful? What exactly does it mean to be "mindful" anyway? According to Mirabai Bush, one of the creators of a mindfulness course developed for Google employees called "Search Inside Yourself," you will be more productive and motivated if you use respect, compassion and generosity in the workplace.

"Mindfulness has to do with paying attention to what's happening in the moment without judgment," said Bush. "Sometimes people think being mindful means being slow — it's not about being slow, it's about being slow enough that you can pay attention to things. It requires a certain intelligence to be able to focus on many things at the same time."

Bush, who is the co-founder of the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society, has helped several companies benefit from mindfulness techniques, but admits it can be challenging to try to convince those in the business world to embrace things like meditation and compassion.

"The ... research has helped validate the benefits of mindfulness, but it's pretty impossible to make people be mindful or make people meditate," she said. "You can bring them into the room, you can get them to close their eyes but you can't get them to meditate unless they are motivated to meditate. So we talk a lot about the research.

"Meditation is proven to reduce cortisol, which is the stress hormone. And everyone wants to lower their stress levels," Bush added. "It doesn't matter if it's a chemical company or a communications company, happy employees are more motivated and more loyal, and that makes for a better workplace."

Here are some tips for bringing mindfulness into the workplace:

Accept your co-workers.

One exercise Bush uses in her mindfulness training includes having workers stand across from each other while the leader of the exercise says certain phrases.

"The leader will say, 'Just like me, this person has suffered in life. Just like me, they've made mistakes and have regrets. Just like me, they want to be happy,'" she said. "It cultivates an appreciation of that person as someone trying to do the right thing ... even if their behavior hasn't been to your liking. It gives you an understanding that like you, they have desires and they also have insecurities. People do things that can hurt you and most of the time in the workplace, it's not personal."

Challenge yourself.

"We discovered that giving good salaries and good benefits doesn't necessarily make people happy ... being happy had more to do with feeling challenged and satisfied by the work itself," Bush said.

Practice mindful emailing.

"When you type out an email, before you send it, sit back, take three deep breaths where you're not thinking about the email, then return to email and re-read it — not so much for the data but for the emotional impact it will have on the reader," Bush said. "Imagine being that reader and try to look at the impact it might have. Then change it accordingly and send it.'"

Learn to let go of your fears.

"Often if you really look into a situation that is upsetting you a little more deeply, maybe you realize you are afraid ... Learning to let go is so important. Notice that your ego is operating and causing these fears and then practice letting go in that moment," she said. "These practices do have the capacity to reduce fear. They increase a kind of radical self-confidence and introduce you to what's going on inside yourself and in your environment to help you see things more clearly."

jweigel@tribune.com

Twitter: @jenweigel

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