Television, radio, meetings, socializing … The constant flow of noise prevents us from reflecting on life which is essential if we want to increase our emotional intelligence.
Take a few moments every day this week to practice mindfulness through meditation, reflection, and visualization. While this sounds a little touchy-feely for a few of us, it is important for our professional growth. In the June 2008 edition of Cognitive Therapy & Research, authors Richard Chambers, Barbara Chuen Yee Lo, and Nicholas B. Allen demonstrate in their paper The Impact of Intensive Mindfulness Training on Attentional Control, Cognitive Style, and Affect that mindfulness training “significantly reduced self-reported depressive symptoms, reflective rumination, and negative affect”. This is good news for those of us who spend the evening beating ourselves up over events that happened earlier in the day.
The paper goes on to show that mindfulness training positively impacts working memory capacity and other areas of executive function and may also moderate defensive behaviors. One caveat though … mindfulness training has a dose-response effect. This means the effort you put into your mindfulness practice will dictate the level of benefits you receive.
So, how do we put mindfulness training into practice?
Be still. The quieter you become, the more you can hear. ~ Ram Dass
I have used Yoga Music Yoga Tribe and Steven Halpern’s Chakra Suite for the past week as background music to help with meditation. I’ve noticed how hard it is to meditate at work when I hear the noise of the office in the distance. Music helps build a wall between me and distractions. There are also great guided meditation podcasts. Meditation Oasis and Meditation Minis Podcast are two of my favorites if I can’t seem to quiet my mind without a little help.
When was the last time you found yourself sipping the last of your coffee or eating the last bite of cake and wondered, “Where did it all go? I don’t remember drinking (eating) it.” Being present means experiencing life instead of letting it slip by. I have a horrible habit of eating almost every meal on the go. It makes it hard to enjoy a meal when you are planning for the next meeting or reading another email. My goal this year is to spend half as much time working while I eat. My goal is to be present during meals and when I’m spending quality time with family.
Focus on Your Breath
Pay attention to the air as it enters your nose. Did you feel it brush against your nostrils? With your next breath, feel the air bounce against the back of your throat. Now, place a hand over your chest and a hand over your belly. With the next five breaths, pay attention to where your breath originates. Is it in the chest or the belly? Diaphragmatic (belly) breathing is great for breaking the ‘fight or flight’ cycle that office workers suffer from.
Tune In to Your Urges
Your first urge in the morning is to snuggle deeper under the covers and pretend like you still have three hours to sleep. You crave a bag of chips or bottle of soda at 2 p.m. You desperately need another cigarette or you find yourself drawn to the mall to buy another pair of shoes. This week, take a moment to tune in to your urges. Be reflective and ask yourself why this urge is so strong? What are the worst things that can happen if you don’t give in to the urge? And, better yet, ask yourself why you need to indulge yourself right now. Don’t let your urges have power over your decisions. Even if you end up indulging your urge, you have succeeded in delaying and reflecting on your actions.
Self-reflection is simply getting to know yourself. You live with you but do you really know who you are? When was the last time you became angry and didn’t have a good reason for your outburst? Have you ever let one person get away with being late but then chastised another for the same offense? Deep, consistent self-reflection helps you understand your underlying motivations and perceived inconsistencies. I use a variety of tools to generate self-reflective conversations including Self-Scoring Emotional Intelligence Tests.
It is always exciting to visualize your future self. There are no rules. It’s like the matrix. Take some time this week to visualize (daydream) about where you will be in 3, 5, or 10 years from now. What will your morning routine look like? What car will you drive? Will you still work at the same organization or will you move on to another adventure? What type of work will you do? Will you volunteer, learn to play an instrument, or join a golf league? Take time to truly walk in your own shoes. How different is your future self?
I encourage people to daydream about everyday, routine things. Not only does it help to quiet to mind but it also a great way to include new behaviors into our daily living activities.
How do you rate your own emotional intelligence? What do you do to work on emotional intelligence?