Mindfulness can help us to be more in the moment, reducing stress and increasing the likelihood of achieving our full potential. The good news is, you can do it without even leaving your desk. We asked practitioners to share their top five-minute mindfulness fixes.
1. Stop, observe, accept, let go
David Brudö, CEO and co-founder at mental wellbeing and personal development app Remente, calls this exercise SOAL - short for Stop, Observe, Accept and Let Go. "Slow down, look around yourself and take a few deep breaths. As you do so, observe your emotions and surroundings, but without any judgement or assessment of your experience. Once you’ve assessed the situation, accept that it is the way it is - you might not be able to do anything to change it, but you can change the way that you respond to what is happening. The last step is letting go. Accept your feelings and the situation as it is and distance yourself from it. This will give you time and space to respond in a meaningful way, not on impulse."
2. Beat stress - breathe
"Mindfulness of the breath is a great place to start as we don't need any props - we always have our breath with us," says writer, counsellor and yoga teacher Eve Menezes Cunningham, author of 365 Ways to Feel Better: Self-care Ideas for Embodied Wellbeing.
"Sitting comfortably at your desk, place the feet on the ground, if comfortable. Lengthen through the spine and bring your awareness to your breath. Notice if you're breathing from the top of the lungs, the middle of the lungs or lower lungs, as if from the belly. We breathe more shallowly when stressed or working out. Deepening our breath immediately begins to calm the whole nervous system. After a few deeper breaths, notice if your inhale is longer than your exhale, or if they're even or if the exhale is longer. To help overcome the 24/7 society we live in, where so many things can trigger a stress response, it's more balancing overall to have a longer exhalation. If you like counting - in for one and out for two or in for two and out for four - make it comfortable for yourself. It's not going to be relaxing if it's not comfortable and we're all different."
3. Clear your headspace
Nicki Cresswell, wellbeing co-ordinator for chartered accountants’ charity CABA, recommends this exercise to help you develop clarity of thought. "Stand or sit up straight and close your eyes. Gently investigate what thoughts are crossing your mind and acknowledge them. Notice any uncomfortable or unpleasant feelings without trying to suppress or change them. Scan your body for any areas of tightness or tension. Again, acknowledge them, but do not try to change them. Use each breath to anchor yourself into the present. If the mind wanders into the past or future, acknowledge the thoughts and go back to your breath. Finally, expand your field of awareness so it includes the whole body. If you become aware of tension, imagine your breath could move into and around the tense part. Explore and accept the sensations, rather than trying to change them."
4. Say bye-bye to bolting
"When stopping for lunch or food, actually stop," says yoga and meditation teacher Chris James. "Most people, especially in the western world, eat mindlessly. It’s not a good idea to just bolt down a sandwich at your desk because you won’t be able to digest it effectively. This could lead to gastric problems. So taste your food. Take your time and get away from your desk. Pay full attention to what you're doing, eating, and drinking."
5. Stop and listen
"Working in a busy environment one can often miss the essence of listening," says psychotherapist Sam Carbon. "I encourage my clients in the course of their work to practice really listening to others. The art of listening can often shift energy to the other person and it can take the focus off them. In those moments, it’s important to look the other person in the eye and focus on what is being shared and not what you like to add."