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.
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!
Welcome to week six 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!
– Not Knowing is Most Intimate
One of the concepts in mindfulness is that “not knowing is most intimate”. What this means is that no matter what happens in life, the intent with mindfulness is to see clearly what’s happening in the present moment and not add more content to it with predictions about what’s next. After all, what’s next is unknown.
Now, this doesn’t mean not to plan for the future; however, it does mean not to live into an imagined outcome about a future that hasn’t yet unfolded. As Mark Twain famously said, “I’m an old man and have known a great many troubles, most of which never happened.”
– People Like Predictability
“Not knowing” seems like an easy enough concept, but it can be challenging to practice. As I wrote in last week’s post, people often fill in gaps of unknown information with stories; it gives them a sense of control and predictability in their lives.
Consider someone who just had a medical diagnostic test. The entire week before getting the test results back, they’re sure they have the disease they were being tested for. They find it impossible to concentrate at work, since they keep planning for a future with this medical condition. Maybe they have the condition; maybe they don’t – but before they get their results, they simply don’t know.
So, if you find you’re stressed about what’s next, notice if you’re making predictions about the future and remind yourself you don’t know. Will the diagnostic test come back positive? Remind yourself, “I don’t know and it’s ok not to know.” Will I be able to juggle work responsibilities and medical appointments? Remind yourself, “I don’t know and it’s ok not to know.”
Any time you want to make a prediction about what’s next, simply remind yourself that the future is unknown. Rather than fill in gaps of unknown information with predictions about what next, simply repeat the refrain, “I don’t know and it’s ok not to know.”
Because the reality is that we simply don’t know what the next month will bring, or even the next hour or the next minute.
Reflection: Have you ever reacted to an imagined future outcome that never actually happened?
WEEK SIX PRACTICE SUGGESTION: Notice if you’re making a prediction about a future outcome. Instead, can you embrace the unknown?