Take a Minute to Breathe: Mindfulness Meditation at Work

Gap Inc.
Is “GAH, I'M SO BUSY!” your default answer when somebody asks how you’re doing? If you’re wearing your stress on your sleeve, it might be time to take a breath (or several), get centered and bring a little bit of mindful calm to your work day. As we near the end of Wellness Month at Gap Inc., we’re sharing some tips for staying well at work all year long.
 
These days, it feels like we’re all more stressed than ever. According to a 2017 Gallup poll, nearly 80 percent of us feel stress sometimes or frequently during an average day. That’s bad news not just for our collective mental health, but for our physical health, too: Because it evokes a fight-or-flight response, stress can lead to headaches, sleep problems, trouble concentrating, stomach upset, chest pain and more.
 
Taking a few minutes each day to face down workplace stress can boost creativity, improve efficiency, sharpen your focus and make you a better co-worker. In addition to eating right, exercising and getting enough sleep, one effective way to beat stress is through mindfulness meditation — an approach you can practice at your job whether you’re at a desk or on your break.
 
Three Ways to Meditate
Mindfulness meditation is about becoming aware of the present moment, noticing thoughts and feelings and moving through them without judging. You don’t need special equipment or lessons, although some people find meditation classes and phone apps useful. All you really need to get started is a quiet space where you can take a few minutes.
 
To try out the following meditation techniques, sit in a chair with your feet flat on the floor and your hands relaxed in your lap. Set your phone timer for five minutes at first, and gradually lengthen the time as you get more comfortable with your practice. 
 
  • Mindful breathing: Focus on the movement of your breath in and out, without holding your breath or changing the rhythm. Your mind will definitely wander; when it does, gently direct your thoughts back to your breath.
  • Body scan: Begin by focusing your attention on your feet, then move to your knees, then hips, then back, and so on, one body part at a time until you reach the top of your head. Without judgment, simply notice the sensations you’re feeling in each body part.
  • Loving kindness meditation: Silently send a series of positive wishes to a widening list of people: yourself first, then family, then friends, then acquaintances and co-workers, and finally to everyone on earth. 
Become the Boss of Your Brain
For many people, getting into the habit of meditation makes it easier to detach from a bad mood and step into a good one. Discomfort becomes less uncomfortable and more manageable. And meditation benefits the people around you, too, because you’re more likely to show kindness and compassion when you interact with others.
 
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