Dr. Suzanne B. Phillips

Licensed Psychologist, Psychoanalyst, Diplomate in Group Psychology, Certified Group Therapist, Author, Radio Host and Media Consultant Covering a Wide Range of Psychological Topics

Post: Mindfulness in the Workplace: The Pause that Refreshes

We may be unable to change our job or the workplace environment but we can change our response to it. Mindfulness is particularly relevant because to be mindful is to pause, observe and own your present moment. Drawing upon Coco-Cola’s famous slogan from 1929 – It can be the new pause that refreshes.

Initiated by a deep breath, the pause might offer a self-soothing mantra like “Relax- You Know Who You Are!” or a private boost of “ Bring it On.” It may be a random act of kindness to someone else struggling, or the few moments to walk down the hall breathe and restore.

 “ Feeling good about what we do for a living depends more on our moment to moment experiences than it does on prestige, status or pay.” Sharon Salzberg

Mindfulness Strategies in the Workplace:

Using mindfulness strategies empowers us with options. If we choose, we can re-set our body state, change our mood, re-define our focus, and own the leverage to respond vs. react. We may even influence those around us.

Acts of Kindness

When asked how to apply mindfulness to the workplace, Sharon Salzberg suggests that the easiest first step is an act of kindness. Hold an elevator door, make a compliment, share a funny one-liner, wish someone who least expects it – a good day.

As incongruous or small as such an act may seem, in the workplace it is big and has potential.

  • There is evidence that generosity changes our mood and (like rudeness) is contagious. Research shows that those who experience generosity are more likely to act in a generous way.
  • In her research, Christine Porah found that despite people’s fears of being too friendly or helpful, being civil results in success. In a study in a biotechnology company, those seen as civil were twice as likely to be viewed as leaders.
  • Confirming this, Dr. Tom Clark having had corporate experience for many years, stresses that kindness and compassion are not incompatible with business realities. The boss who has to reduce staff but shows respect and concern for employees’ future options fosters a trusted environment that is sustainable.
  • It is noteworthy that in her research on bullying in the workplace, Dr. Tye-Williams found that the most viable antidote to the bullying of an employee was the demonstration of care and kindness, even in small ways, by other employees. People reported that knowing they were not alone made a big difference.
  • In her book, Hand to Mouth: Living in Bootstrap America, Linda Tirado makes the point that the problem is not just being underpaid and undervalued, it is enduring behavior intended to make you feel useless. She suggests, “Next time you see someone in a basic job being ‘sullen’ or ‘rude,’ try being nice to them. It’s likely you’ll be the first person to do so in hours.”

Breathing Breaks

Psychologist, Dr. Tom Clark says mindfulness always starts with the breath. A few minutes of relaxed breathing centers you for moments of choice.

While the thought of meditative breathing in the midst of the multi-tasking, high paced demands may seem preposterous it is worth considering:

  • The few minutes you take to focus on breathing are negligible to the outside world but momentous to you.
  • There is nothing that brings you physically as quickly to a calmer body state than relaxed diaphragmatic breathing that fills your lungs with oxygen. (Diaphragmatic Breathing guide with Dr. Buse)
  • Training yourself to focus on breathing, even for a few minutes, is actually a discipline. It won’t take you off your game. It will send you in having had a physical and mental time-out.
  • I have often thought that we need to step out of offices to take “ breathing breaks” rather than smoking breaks. 

Positive Mantras

We all know that the English school yard rhyme ‘Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me’–  while well intentioned is simply just not true. Everything from subtle put-downs to verbal violence and threats have their impact- especially when we are directing them against ourselves.

Yes, there is power in words and as such there is considerable power in positive self-directed talk. Mantras are “short rhythmic states that use positive and uplifting words to create a positive and uplifting mindset.” 

“ I Am Excited By The Opportunities Today Will Bring” (Tanaaz Chubb)

 Said at different times a particularly as part of the beginning of one’s day, at difficult moments that call forth a “ pause” to re-set and refresh – they restore a positive sense of self and hope.

A short phrase that has come to have emotionally meaning is a powerful and mindful tool in an office situation you cannot control.

 “I Have Control Over How I Feel, And I Choose To Feel Peace.” (Tanaaz Chubb)

Reading more about the use of everyday mantras will offer you another mindful way to address the workplace stress.

 A Moment to Respond vs. React

 As bad an impact as bullying or workplace stress has on mind and body our reaction to it can compound the toxicity.

  • The goal of mindfulness is not to deny our rage, hurt or fear, or to tolerate anything that comes our way; but to recognize it for what it is and use a moment to choose how we want to respond.
  • Mindfulness encourages us to think of feelings like visiting guests – we may recognize them at the door, acknowledge them, investigate them – but we don’t have to identify with them.
  • The conditioned ability to take a moment before you respond or react is very powerful.

Regardless of the Workplace Situation, Empower Yourself with Mindfulness – A Pause that Refreshes

Listen in to Anne Corley Baum, a Senior Lehigh Executive and author of “ Small Mistakes, Big Consequences: Develop Your Soft Skills to Help You Succeed On Psych Up Live – You will find it very helpful -Suzanne