In a previous Grant Funding in Action blog post here, I spoke about my work with the Mindful Veterans Project and completion of an eight-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) course. Like most other careers, grant professionals deal with stress on a daily basis. Deadlines, grant rejections, dealing with difficult people, budgets, finding the right words, research, striving for perfection, proving our Return on Investment (ROI), staying creative, and finding enough time in the day are only a few of these stressors. So how can practicing mindfulness help us be more productive and happy? Consider the following.
There are numerous research studies that support the ongoing practice of mindfulness, and it is becoming a much more common practice supported in the workplace. For example, after Aetna ran an employee mindfulness program for a year, their out-of-pocket health care costs decreased (https://on.wsj.com/1O0qvhR). Some companies provide online mindfulness training, video conferences, Mindful Leadership education, or use in-house meditation practitioners to work with employees. These companies are willing to invest in helping employees become more productive, healthier, less stressed, and happier.
Tips for Mindfulness to Consider
Most people spend 47% of their daily hours dwelling on something other than the present moment, surviving on autopilot. How many times have you driven to work or home not realizing how you got there? Or waking up in the morning with a long list of things to accomplish, and nine hours later you realize you didn’t complete one of them? Perhaps you run a red light because of that list or numerous thoughts circling your head instead of mindfully driving.
Staying present in each moment leads to a sense of well-being and better concentration, focus, clarity, insight, strength, self-confidence, resiliency, and energy. Physical benefits include lower blood pressure, healthy sleep patterns, improved immune functioning, and brain growth. Relationships are enhanced, involving increased patience, flexibility, humility, acceptance, and empathy for others. The following attributes are decreased: anxiety, depression, anger, fear, stress, chronic pain, and intrusive thoughts and feelings. As one MBSR graduate says: “I learned how to be more compassionate with myself. To note a thought as just a thought, an emotion just an emotion—I do not need to act or react to them.” Mindfulness takes practice, but anyone can hone this skill with dedication and an open mind. Here is an article with suggestions for using mindfulness at work, including a sample breathing exercise: https://bit.ly/1T4Iwxt.
I make it a habit to start out most days with a meditation as much as my schedule allows before powering up the emails. Sometimes, the emails win, but I don’t beat myself up about it. When I meditate first thing in the morning, I have a better day. If a stressful situation happens later, I find the time to complete another meditation or simply focus on my breath. Within minutes after waking, we release the stress hormone, cortisol, into our bloodstream. This happens because that long to do list pops up or some nagging worry enters our brain, and we immediately respond with a fight or flight attitude. Instead of focusing on those thoughts as soon as you wake up, take a few minutes to concentrate on your breathing and the peaceful morning sounds of birds. If there are not birds around, perhaps play some peaceful music or enjoy the silence. Simply repeat to yourself: Breathing In, Breathing Out.
According to www.MindfulLivingLA.org, there are seven things mindful people do differently. These would make a great poster to place on the wall in our offices.
- Get curious. Approach everyday things with a beginner’s mind.
- Forgive mistakes. Find peace with imperfections.
- Show gratitude. Savor the good and find grace for the bad.
- Feel compassion. Be kind to yourself and others.
- Accept change. Appreciate that all things come and go.
- Find courage. Embrace vulnerability and build confidence.
- Play more. Try new things, take risks, and have fun.
In an upcoming blog post, I will delve into more tips for grant professionals to incorporate mindfulness into their busy lives. Remember, as you go through your day today, focus on the breath every now and then. When a stressful event occurs, don’t let it go, but instead, let it be. Stay tuned!
And in the meantime…what are some of the ways that you try to be mindful in your work or in your work life/balance? We would love to hear – share your experiences with us in the comments section of the website or via social media.