This one daily habit can make you happier (and more successful)
Information is at our fingertips 24/7, and the temptation to check our devices is near-constant throughout the day. But constantly checking e-mail, news feeds, updates, tweets, and chats makes it harder to focus on one thing at a time. We’ve all been there; we don’t get as much done as we set out to in a workday (how often are you able to tick off all the boxes on your to-do list at the end of the day?), and we leave feeling stressed out and zapped of energy.
As the Nobel Prize–winning economist Herbert Simon has remarked, “a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention.”
What can we do?
Meditation and mindfulness can help
You might think of mindfulness as a fuddy-duddy concept, but what it means simply is focusing our attention on one task at a time. Whether it’s how we walk, breathe, listen, or talk, mindfulness makes us concentrate on the present moment, and more importantly, the purpose of the present moment.
Forget about the meeting you have later this afternoon or the errands you have to run after work, and just do the one thing that needs to be done right now. If you find it difficult to get to that stage on an ongoing basis, meditation can help. But it’s also encouraging to remember that that our brains are plastic enough to create new circuits in response to our surroundings and thinking, and that the brain does grow new grey matter at any age. We can learn new tricks – including adopting new habits that will make us happier, more productive, and less stressed out.
Search inside yourself
Google has figured out how to help employees become more mindful, self-aware, and focused: by encouraging introspection and meditation. It all started during Google’s 20% free time allotment (the company gives its engineers up to 20% of their time to work on personal projects), where former Google software engineer Chade-Meng Tan (commonly known as Meng) first developed the Search Inside Yourself program.
Meng’s goal was to “create a better world,” but to do so, he argued, you needed to create a happier person. He started by leading meditation sessions at Google, training co-workers to be more aware of themselves and their feelings. His main message was to use meditation to slow things down and live in the moment.
Meng left Google in 2012 to co-found the Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute, a non-profit organization that promotes the benefits of meditation and mindfulness to individuals and corporations.
Why you should do it daily
There is scientific evidence to suggest that people who practice meditation and mindfulness have better developed areas of the brain associated with learning, memory, perspective, emotional control, empathy, and compassion.
In short, Meng was right: meditation and mindfulness can not only boost your emotional intelligence and productivity, it can make you a better, happier person.
How to start meditating
Start by gradually implementing meditation into your daily schedule. It can be a simple as converting everyday acts like brushing your teeth, vacuum cleaning, or shaving into moments of mindfulness that, according to SIYLI, offer great “opportunities to check out of the madness and check in with ourselves.” You can also set aside five minutes at the end of the day to focus on your breathing and your muscles (you could also stay in bed after your alarm goes off in the morning and do the same before getting up).
The idea of meditation is to help you create a clear and calm mind at any moment by removing negative thoughts. So, if you’re going through a stressful phase at work, take a moment to focus on the rhythm of your breathing, or the way your feet feel pressed against the floor. Doing so can help calm your nerves and make you more aware of your emotions. It’s also important to understand that things like anger or stress are feelings – they are not what we are (“I feel angry,” not “I am angry.”).
If you’d like to give it a shot, the Integrative Health Partners, which works with SIYLI, has an online practice session that can help you get started.
So sleep, eat, work, meditate. Repeat. Because practice makes perfect.