How many times have you heard phrases like these in the workplace, “She has such a sunny personality!”, “Ugh, I'm feeling under the weather.”, “He's been under a dark cloud all day.”, “Hey, don't rain on my parade!”? Meteorological terms and phrases can describe the situations in which we find ourselves with our emotions and health. Not only are meteorological terms helpful in our emotional lexicon to provide a picture of what we are trying to say, but we can also use the concept to affect mindfulness. The benefits of mindfulness are endless, including reducing stress, anxiety, and depression, lowering blood pressure, and improving memory.
Watching the mental weather
Imagine lying in the grass and watching the clouds in the sky, looking for shapes and patterns. Now, imagine your mind as the sky and your thoughts as the clouds. What shape do your thoughts take? Are they light and airy or gray and heavy with worry?
With the sheer volume of thoughts throughout the day, it is tough to differentiate between those that are beneficial and those—such as unsubstantiated concerns and self-criticism—that hold us back. But by taking the time to consider your thoughts, you can gain a sense of distance from them, learning to pick out the ones that matter while letting the others go.
The aim of mindfulness is not to clear the mind but to recognize thought patterns and observe objectively. By learning the patterns of our mental weather, we can better predict negative shifts, accept that they are not representative of ourselves, and trust that, like with any other storm, will pass.
Stop and survey the sky
We often dismiss discussions of the weather as neutral small talk, but they can be a helpful tool for practicing mindfulness. One of the fundamental tenets of mindfulness is feeling present, and it’s natural for thoughts to wander, spanning numerous interests, responsibilities, opinions, and worries throughout the day. Feeling present is often hard to achieve and maintain.
A common misconception is that meditation must occur in a specific location in a predetermined way, but that is not true. Working a few minutes of meditation into your day is as easy as breathing. Take a series of slow, deep breaths through your nose, noticing the cold air you breathe in and the warm air you breathe out. Focusing on that rhythm for even five minutes can help center you and relieve stress. Scientists estimate that people have as many as 70,000 thoughts each day. Grounding yourself in the present with something as simple as noticing the weather can help calm your thought processes and focus your attention.
With thousands of thoughts sprinting through our minds, it’s no wonder we sometimes become overwhelmed. But feeling present can help calm the storm.
Keeping the skies clear at work
Since it increases self-awareness and emotional intelligence, mindfulness is critical for avoiding toxic emotions that disrupt the workplace and hinder productivity. If we think of stress as a cyclone of thoughts, mindfulness is the shift in weather that calms it, clearing the skies back to blue.
Two fundamentals of mindfulness are focus and patience. To cope with the busyness of our lives, many people turn to multitasking. But when practicing mindfulness, do a single task instead. Focus on one task at a time and give yourself the time you need to do it well.
To keep your skies clear in the workplace, follow these four steps:
- Anchor the day. Begin each day with an intentional moment of mindfulness. Whether by practicing yoga, deep breathing, or simply taking a few minutes to center yourself and your thoughts, you can prep before beginning your tasks for the day.
- Remember your purpose. Essential to practicing mindfulness at work is reminding yourself why you’re there. Between stresses and responsibilities and repetition, it’s easy to lose sight of the bigger picture. To counter this, take a moment to reflect on the core tenets of your work, your ambitions, and your goals.
- Practice presence. If you find your day becoming chaotic and stressful, find a quiet spot to pause and practice feeling present. Whether you focus on the sounds of the keyboard or the variations in color in the sky, spending a few minutes concentrating on your current surroundings can help you regain a sense of calm.
- Review. To keep stress at the office, take a few moments at the end of the day to reflect. Make a note of tasks accomplished and those that still need to be finished, then focus on leaving any lingering concerns behind.
Though there are several more intensive programs and processes for practicing mindfulness, there are simple steps you can take each day to calm your mental meteorology. Mindfulness is not just a practice; it's a way of life, and it begins with taking notice of the subtle details in the world. Living more fully in each moment will help you keep your mental forecast clear and allow you to appreciate the vivid hues of joy, the gentle breezes of gratitude, and the occasional clouds of sadness as they pass through your emotional landscape.
By nurturing this awareness and embracing the ebb and flow of your thoughts and feelings, you can navigate the ever-changing skies of your inner world with more serenity and resilience.
Ready for more resources to calm the storm? Blue Ocean Brain offers microlearning on topics like mental health and resilience, mindfulness, and brain health to help you and your organization incorporate mindfulness into daily practice. Click here to schedule a consultation with one of our learning experts.