Mindfulness might sound like a swoony, pop-psychology word tossed around by Yoga fanatics and gurus, but the hard science behind mindfulness and how it relates to better productivity and better entrepreneurship is real. Critical thinking skills, stress management and creativity-just to name a few-can be improved when practicing regular, intentional mindfulness.
Want in on the calm and productive vibes?
Here are five really simple, but not always easy mindfulness practices that everyone should try.
1 - Breathe Through It
The perfect antidote to anxiety is breath. It sounds so simple, right? We do it all day long. In fact, we literally can’t survive without it. But taking in air and breathing aren’t the same things. How often do you feel tight in your chest? Irritated in your thoughts. Panic scrolling through Facebook when you should be hitting a deadline?
Studies have shown that even twenty-five minutes of mindfulness based meditation can reduce stress levels. Lower levels of stress lead to higher productivity because your head isn’t clouded, worrying about ten steps ahead and procrastinating online just to cope.
Right now, 25 minutes of meditation might sound like a lot. Start with three. And remember the goal isn’t to turn off your thoughts, but to notice them.
2 - Slow Down To Go Faster
Rushing through anything - especially your giant to-do list - won’t make anything get done faster. In fact, speeding along the dangerous preoccupied highway can cause more harm than good. Think: bad decisions, car crashes and hitting reply-all.
Slowing down might seem counterproductive, but slowing down now speeds up progress. Even nine minutes of intermittent rest vastly improves overall productivity.
Step away for coffee (or tea) breaks every few hours and sip your beverage outside. Being outdoors immediately has a calming effect on our brain and helps us experience the world -or those nine minutes- in slow motion.
3 - A Little Exercise Goes a Long Way
Before you cringe at the “E” word here’s quick science lesson : Exercise increases blood flow to the brain.
With more blood flow, the brain sharpens its awareness and can better combat those natural slumps associated with mentally taxing tasks.
And if that’s not productivity-inducing enough, exercise kicks up your energy levels, improves brain function and a recent study from the Journal of Experimental Psychology indicated that just simply walking can stimulate creative thinking.
Even if the thought of going to the gym makes you want to hurl, make the time to get up from your desk, do some jumping jacks or take a walk outside on a beautiful day.
4 - Be Grateful
In general, most of us could use a gratitude adjustment.
When it comes to first world problems, it is just TOO easy to get caught in the cyclone of negative stimuli (hello, social media) instead of focusing on everything we have to be happy about. The problem? When we’re in a bad mood or focused on the negative outcomes, we have more trouble finding the solutions to our problems.
An easy way to use a gratitude to boost your productivity is to start your day focused on 10 things you’re grateful for. By keeping a positivity or gratitude journal, you’ll feel more optimistic and when negative situations do arise, you’ll be able to better shift your focus to the solutions instead of problems - which help you reach goals faster.
5 - Live in the Moment
At the end of that day “live in the moment” is essentially mindfulness at its core and is Oprah’s definition of the word itself.
Whatever you’re dealing with - launching a business, working on getting funded, landing a new job - taking time to be OK with where you’re at and using each moment to intentionally build your momentum, to deal with setbacks is what will make you the most productive at whatever you set out to do.