Distracted? Unfocused? Incorporating the practice of mindfulness will increase your productivity, work relationships, and improve you communications skills. Here's how!

“Mindfulness” is a buzzword that you’re probably hearing everywhere right now. Often associated with meditation, it’s a practice that you might easily say “I don’t have time for that,” to, or “that sounds too New Age-y and weird,” and if that’s your response, then you and I have something in common because that’s how I used to feel about it too.

Dr. Danny Penman, author of Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Finding Peace in a Frantic World, defines mindfulness as “essentially awareness.” He says, “Becoming aware of what’s going on around you can make a huge difference because we spend so much time wrapped up in our thoughts that we lose contact with the real world.”

Okay, sounds great, but what are the benefits?

Mindfulness has been shown to support overall health and well-being, and has been linked to improved cognitive functioning and lowered stress levels.

The good thing is, unlike meditation, you can do it while going about your day – which makes it a great practice to add to your work day. When we’re constantly surrounded by distractions and stress at work, it can be hard to stay sane, focused, and mentally centered. Mindfulness is a simple way to combat the distractions and to stay grounded, even during your workday, where stress and anxiety can run high.

Here are 5 easy ways to practice mindfulness at work:

1. Start slowly.

A great way to get started is to state your intention for the day and practice focusing on that intention. For instance, “Today, I will become more aware of my reactions to stress.” That’s it – just become more aware. Mindfulness is not about judgement, it’s about awareness and attention.

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The benefit this has is that focusing on this intention can help you see patterns in the way you react to stimuli. Eventually, when you’re confronted with a stressor, being aware of your typical reaction to it can help you deal with it in a calmer way. But all you have to do to start is to state your intention, and repeat it to yourself.

2. Pay attention to your verbal cues and your body language.

You’re using to describe your work – for example, if you tell your co-worker you’re “buried,” feel what that triggers in your brain and body.

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Using negative language can be a self-fulfilling prophecy because you’re telling your brain it’s about to have a bad time. Instead, try to use more positive words as descriptors. It may seem corny at first, but it really does help.

In terms of body language, the way you use your body has a huge impact on your mental state. Be aware of how you breathe, whether your body is open or closed, and so on. Another positive side effect of this is that your body language plays a powerful role in your communication with others; improving your communication skills will transcend all facets of your life.

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3. Take time to breathe.

You’re breathing all the time. But are you really paying attention to the quality of your breath? You’d be shocked how calming it can be to tell your brain to be quiet for a minute or so, and focus only on your breath in and out. It’s a very centering and mind-clearing activity, and you can benefit from it in a very short period of time.

4. Use apps to help you along.

Based on its popularity, there’s no surprise that there are plenty of apps for mindfulness. If you’re someone who has a hard time with self-guiding practices, an app can be extremely helpful. Another benefit of using an app is that often, they track your progress so you’re able to see how far you’ve come (bonus for those of us who love instant gratification and gold stars).

If you’re willing to pay, check out iMindfulness and Calm (technically free, but most of the practices are locked). If you’re not, check out Headspace and Stop, Think, and Breathe. All are great ways to fit mindfulness practice into your busy day.

Plus, since they’re on your phone, you’ll see it while you’re flicking through your apps and think twice before choosing Instagram instead.

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5. Take time for self reflection.

At the end of the day, take some time to reflect on your day. Reflect back on your intention for the day. How did you react to things throughout the day? Practice noticing what went on through your day without judgment. This can be a hard thing to do, but noticing without judging is an extremely helpful practice.

Overall, mindfulness is a simple practice that can have a huge impact on your life. It takes a few minutes of effort, but we’ve found it to be worth it every single time.

Trying to add mindfulness in your life can be uncomfortable at first, but that’s why it’s called a practice. You get to continue building and tweaking – eventually all the changes and shifts in perception will evolve into a habit and come naturally to you.

Discussion: Do you practice mindfulness? How has it impacted your life?