Want to boost your mood? Try a daily gratitude practice! Studies show that practicing gratitude has significant health benefits, both for mental health and physical health. Thanksgiving time is a perfect time of year to introduce this practice into your life.
To practice, devote a few minutes each day to reflecting upon someone or something for which you’re grateful. Perhaps it’s a family member or a friendly neighbor. A beloved pet. The color of the autumn leaves. Your hands as they help you care for the rest of your body, carefully lifting a warm cup of tea to your lips or washing your hair in a hot shower.
You may want to try a different reflection each day, or alternately use the same one. There’s no right or wrong. Simply notice the feelings of gratitude as you imagine that for which you’re grateful. Focus on how you feel — mind, body and spirit. You may even want to journal about your experience.
If you can, choose the same practice time each day, associating it with something you do regularly, such as brushing your teeth or getting ready for sleep at night. Consider prioritizing your gratitude practice, so you can boost your mood throughout the holiday season and in the years to come.
Being that my dad graduated MIT with an engineering degree, I learned to be efficient from a young age.
So it’s no surprise that I like to learn in a way that’s simple, clear and logical.
But learning how to meditate in the mid-1980s was anything but simple, clear and logical. Every book, every lecture, every program – for that matter, everything having to do with meditation seemed so mysterious.
Why couldn’t someone just tell me exactly how meditation worked and how to do it?!! So I did a deep dive into learning, exploring meditation piece by piece until a coherent picture emerged.
I discovered that meditation was not about stopping thoughts, but about becoming aware of them. I learned how to watch these thoughts and allow them to pass. I learned how to focus on my breath and steady my mind. I became less reactive. Less judgmental. Less stressed. More grounded. More accepting. More relaxed.
After decades of learning, I wrote Meditation Illuminated: Simple Ways to Manage Your Busy Mind to bring others the simple explanations I longed for years earlier. Published 10 years ago in July 2013, my intent was to share ideas and practices that could transform lives —and help people find some clarity, inspiration, and peace amidst life’s challenges.
Over the years, I’m been humbled that so many people have shared with me how much they value my book. I’ve received comments such as “Your book has a special place on my nightstand,” “I keep buying new copies, since I keep giving my copy to friends,” “I actually learned to calm my mind”and “thank you for writing this book!”
Meditation techniques have made such a tremendous difference in my life – and I’m deeply grateful to all the teachers who’ve so generously shared their wisdom. Writing this straightforward primer has been my way of paying it forward.
As I exited the lecture hall, I came face-to-face with the presenter, a leading meditation teacher.
Welcome to week ten, the final week of 10 Weeks of Mindfulness at Work, where you’ll discover simple tips and techniques to enrich your day with mindfulness.
– Asking a Question
The teacher smiled warmly as I said, “I loved your talk! But I have a question; would you have a moment to answer?” He graciously agreed.
I continued, “I’ve touched moments of peace and calm — when looking at a sunset, playing with my dog or listening to the ocean waves, but then that feeling disappears. How do I get it back?”
– A Profound Response
Still smiling, the teacher said softly, “If it was true before, is it not true now?”
His response surprised me. It was so simple, but also so true.
– Inner Calm
Years later, I now offer mindfulness program for the workplace.
I’ve witnessed people accessing a place of inner calm for a fleeting moment before all the STUFF (Stories, Thoughts, Urges, Frustrations and Feelings) that cycles in the mind obscures any peace of mind.
But the good news is that if you access that calm place for a few seconds, then you can learn to access it for a minute, and then for a few minutes — and then perhaps, for even longer. After all, if it was true before, is it not true now?
Remember, mindfulness isn’t a state of continual, uninterrupted present moment awareness; but rather, it’s a practice of noticing when your attention wanders and gently — ever so gently, without judgment — returning your attention to the present moment, one breath at a time.
Reflection: Have you experienced moments of quiet and calm? What techniques do you use to get back to that mindset?
WEEK TEN PRACTICE SUGGESTION: See if you can enjoy a moment of inner calm. Perhaps you can find it by focusing on just one breath, focusing on the sounds of the birds outside your window or focusing on the feeling of your feet touching the ground as you walk.
Thus ends this series, 10 Weeks of Mindfulness at Work. I hope you’ve enjoyed the posts and have found some techniques that you can practice to help you enhance your life, both at work and at home.
She stepped up to the front of the room for her presentation, touched the smooth stone tucked into her pocket and smiled confidently.
She had just learned the stone meditation when I presented mindfulness techniques to her group — and she emailed me to say how “surprised and delighted” she was that something as simple as a stone could help calm her nerves.
Welcome to week nine of 10 Weeks of Mindfulness at Work, where you’ll discover simple tips and techniques to enrich your day with mindfulness.
– Cultivating Present Moment Awareness
When I offer in-person mindfulness programs, I typically bring a basket of stones. (For virtual programs, I recommend folks have a stone or other small object handy.) The purpose of the stone is to give people a tangible focal point, since focusing on one’s breath can be challenging.
If you’re curious about meditating with a stone, here are some simple instructions. Practice for a few seconds or for as long as you’d like!
Place a small stone in the palm of your hand. Gently rest your attention on it, noticing its various characteristics, including the weight of the stone, its temperature, shape, texture and size. Any time your attention wanders, gently bring it back to your stone, even if it’s every second or two.
– Cultivating Strength
You can also use the stone to help cultivate the quality of strength. To practice, rest your attention on the solidity and strength of stone — either the stone in your hand or by imagining another form of stone, such as a mountain. Whenever your attention wanders, gently bring it back to the stone and its quality of strength.
Imagining this strength in your mind and body will help cultivate this quality within you. You can also keep the stone in your pocket as a reminder of your inner strength, just as I described at the beginning of this post.
– Adding Space
Here’s a third way to practice with your stone. This technique is designed to add space to your STUFF — the Stories, Thoughts, Urges, Frustrations and Feelings that typically cycle in the mind.
Imagine your mind is like the surface of a lake. Now imagine skipping your stone over the surface. Watch as the spaces between the waves of your STUFF become wider and wider, just as the rings of water become wider when you skip a stone on a lake’s surface.
WEEK NINE PRACTICE SUGGESTION: Find a smooth stone to hold in your hand. Try any (or all!) of the three techniques described.
As I walked along the sidewalk, chimes started ringing above my head. I glanced up at the breezeway ceiling, high above the sidewalk.
Welcome to week eight of “10 Weeks of Mindfulness at Work” where you’ll discover simple tips and techniques to enrich your day with mindfulness. I hope you find some inspiration!
Curiously, tiny chimes and other small wind instruments had been installed on the breezeway ceiling, evenly spaced along the way — part of an Art in Architecture Program.
I was grateful for the sound vibrations rippling through the air, as I was feeling a bit frazzled after driving in unexpected traffic. A perfect time to practice a sound meditation.
I shifted my focus to the vibrations of sound, rather than focusing on the thoughts in my busy mind. A feeling of calm washed over me — thankfully, since I was about to present a mindfulness program to the FDA on how to manage stress!
Sound meditations are a great way to manage stress — and you can practice this type of meditation in so many different ways. Take birds, for instance.
Last month, I was quoted in a Woman’s World article on listening to birds.
As I shared with the columnist, “When I ‘listen’ to the thoughts in my busy mind, depending on what those thoughts are, I can become stressed. This is because of the meaning I give the thoughts.”
“But when I shift my attention to listening to bird songs, I’m not judging the sounds of their songs or giving them a particular meaning. I’m just listening with an open attitude. I don’t have to ‘do’ anything. The sounds come and go on their own. I just listen to the songs and the sounds of silence between the songs.”
“Shifting attention from my busy mind to the sounds of bird songs is a practice I’ve come to appreciate over the years. And it’s a simple practice to do! Simply go outdoors and enjoy the gifts of the natural world.”
After posting about this article in my newsletter and on LinkedIn, I was surprised at how many people responded, saying listening to birds is a practice they’ve come to enjoy, as well.
Sound meditations are simple to practice. Just listen with an open, non-judgmental attitude.
Now,imagine taking this sort of listening and applying it to colleagues and clients. Rather than focusing on how they’ll respond or what you’ll say next (or what you’re going to eat for lunch!), bring your full attention to the person you’re talking to. Listening in this way helps build understanding, trust and strong relations.
WEEK EIGHT PRACTICE SUGGESTION: Practice listening with an open, non-judgmental attitude at work — and even at home with family and friends. They’ll likely appreciate the attention!
As I wrapped up my presentation, one of the participants approached me. “You know that walking meditation we learned last week? It literally saved me. I was dealing with such a difficult time that I just wanted to curl up on the floor and shut out the world. But I needed to function. I stopped everything I was doing and just put one foot in front of the other and focused on the feeling of my feet connecting with the ground.”
Wow. The power of a practice as simple as a walking meditation “saved” her. And the wonderful part of a walking meditation is that it’s easily accessible no matter where you are — physically or emotionally.
Welcome to week seven of “10 Weeks of Mindfulness at Work” where you’ll discover simple tips and techniques to enrich your day with mindfulness. I hope you find inspiration from this series!
– Practice a walking meditation anywhere and anytime
You can practice a walking meditation most anywhere and anytime. When I presented a program at Marriott Corporate Headquarters, I recommended practicing a walking meditation for the one minute it took employees to walk under the long canopy leading from the parking lot to the main office.
Look for opportunities to practice. Try a walking meditation when you walk to the water cooler, the coffee machine, the rest room, down the hall, up the stairs and so on. You can practice a walking meditation anytime you walk, whether for two steps or two miles.
– How to practice
Simply rest your attention on the movements of your legs and feet as you walk. You can be practice indoors or outdoors, for just a few steps or for as long as you’d like.
Lift your right leg to take a step, and silently say to yourself “lifting.” Move your right leg forward, and silently say to yourself “moving.” Place your right foot down on the ground, and silently say to yourself “placing.” As you shift the weight onto your right foot, silently say to yourself “shifting.” Begin the process again with the left foot: lifting, moving, placing, shifting.
Continue silently repeating these words to yourself with each step. Any time your attention wanders, gently refocus on the words and the movements of your body.
– A simple phrase to help you remember
The phrase “let my peace show” may help you remember these instructions, since the first letter of each of these words corresponds with “lifting, moving, placing and shifting.”
WEEK SEVEN PRACTICE SUGGESTION: Try a walking meditation — even for just a few steps.