A guide to mindfulness at work - making lunch and commutes count

Written by
Kirsty Gallagher

18 Oct 2016

18 Oct 2016 • by Kirsty Gallagher

Are you structuring your work day around your wellbeing and needs? From breakfast and commute to bedtime, you can incorporate these quick mindfulness tricks.

Start your day in the right way

For many of us, the story is the same – struggle out of bed with the alarm, run round getting ready and rush out of the house with a coffee in one hand and no breakfast to speak of. This triggers so many stresses and fight or flight responses in the body and brain that you are already stressed before the day has even started. It's time for a wake-up call.

Instead try pausing mindfully upon waking for just three minutes of meditation. Simply sit quietly as soon as you get up and focus on your breath, deep breath in and deep breath out, allowing yourself to become calm and present. As thoughts come into your mind, don’t get caught up in them or dwell on them. Simply acknowledge them and let them go, returning your mind back to your breath. Feel the calm, the peace, the presence.

This one moment of respite, of gathering yourself, could provide a big shift to your day and all that follows. Don’t dwell on your thoughts.

Commute your way to bliss

We all have on average around 45 minutes commute a day. This is usually spent fighting traffic or commuter crowds, possibly checking emails or anticipating and worrying about all the work that is waiting for you at the other end.

Rather than allow your commute to be ‘wasted’, use it to be inspired.

Load up your ipod or iphone with podcasts or audio books from some of the world’s most inspirational people and allow their words to infuse and shape your day. There are so many out there to choose from – from Robin Sharma to Anthony Robbins, Eckhart Tolle to the Dalai Lama, Wayne Dyer to BKS Iyengar and Rhonda Byrne to Louise L Hay or Oprah Winfrey. If you want your dose of big ideas inspiration to be business-related, you can subscribe to Changeboard's HR podcast featuring inspiring speakers and big thinkers.

Simply choose a person or a subject that really resonates with you. Rather than a stressful experience allow your commute to become your sanctuary and watch how things in your day and life begin to shift.

Mid-morning stretch through stress

Push back away from your computer and desk for just a few minutes and move out of your head and into your body. Stress is proven to restrict blood flow and cause knots and tension in the body, particularly round the neck and shoulders.

Do a few simple neck stretches by taking each ear over to the same shoulder and then the chin in towards the chest, holding for a few long slow deep breaths feeling the tension melt away.

Take some shoulder shrugs and rolls and then interlock your fingers pressing the palms away from you to stretch out the wrists and then up over the head to stretch out the back.

Not only will these few minutes help you feel renewed but the increased blood flow to your brain through releasing this tension will help lift your mood.

See also: 9 simple desk exercises to ease stiff muscles and get the blood flowing

Lunch your way to reduced stress

Research has shown that taking time away from your desk at lunchtime will actually increase your productivity through the rest of the day.

Taking your lunch break will help to increase your cognitive performance, reduce stress levels, increase your mood and by including exercise greatly improve your health.

Ideally join a local gym. Otherwise, even 10 minutes walking outside in the fresh air will raise your energy levels and clear your mind. You could also try more stretching or joining a yoga class, or even include some meditation.

Make sure too that you eat properly – no grabbing something at your desk! Eating a nourishing, well-balanced meal will give you the energy and brain food that you need to get through the rest of the day.

Breathe through the afternoon blues

Rather than reach for the caffeine for your mid-afternoon slump, try taking some mindful breaths instead. Pranayama can help to quieten and calm the entire nervous system reducing stress and also regulate the oxygen flow in your blood lifting your energy levels and making you more alert and focussed.

  • Take 5-10 full deep breaths through your nose breathing right from the bottom of your abdomen.
  • You can also add a count to your breath, breathing in and out for a count of maybe 5 or 6.
  • If you feel incredibly stressed and overwhelmed try making the exhalation longer, as this will slow your heart rate down and relax your nervous system.
  • Try holding the breath between inhale and exhale for a few moments to really increase the benefits.

Notice how calm and centred you feel after just a few simple mindful breaths. 

Make positive notes on your day when you come home

If you find that you often take work home with you, take a few moments upon arriving home to look over your day and leave your work day behind.

If it helps, make a to do list of all of the things that you need to do the next day, so you don’t have to think about them again for rest of the evening.

As you look over your day, make sure that you also take note of all the things you did accomplish. Many of us don’t give ourselves enough credit for the things we do well, and acknowledging these things can be a mood lifter.

De-stress with yoga

Now is the ideal time for a yoga practice to help you to let go of all stress and tension from your day and stretch out your ‘chair body’ after hours of sitting. This will improve your posture, increase circulation, improve strength and muscle tone, soothe away and aches and pains and relax your mind ready for a restful evening. You’d be amazed at the difference even 15-20 minutes of regular will make to your wellbeing and life. 

Stress-free sleep

Getting a good night’s sleep is paramount to relieving stress but it’s often stress itself that is the cause of disturbed sleep. It really helps to establish a night time routine to enable your body and mind to the chance to wind down.

  • Try to go to bed at the same time each night and wake at the same time each morning.
  • Avoid all screen technology for at least an hour before you go to bed, more if possible.
  • Avoid mobile phones, ipads, computers or a television in the bedroom.
  • Play relaxing music, read a book or find an activity that relaxes you.

If you struggle to sleep try burning lavender, listening to a yoga nidra or guided sleep meditation or spend 10 minutes before bed lying on your back with your legs up the wall (viparita karni) to deeply relax the body and mind. Combine this with long, slow full deep breaths and you’ll be drifting into a restful night’s sleep in no time.