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Frustrated with a co-worker? 5 mindfulness tips for workplace calm

Mindfulness in the office to help your career? Here's how.

A woman sits cross-legged on top of an office table surrounded by a laptop and books
A woman sits cross-legged on top of an office table surrounded by a laptop and books

The workplace can be a breeding ground for frustration. Between passive aggressive notes on lunchboxes, office buzzwords (a deep dive into the deliverables to find best practice, anyone?) and clashing personalities, it’s no wonder that workplace stress affects 73% of us.

Instead of letting the resentment build up and suffering through every business day with clenched fists and jaw, it could be time to reap the benefits of mindfulness.

We spoke with Dr Addie Wooton, CEO of mindfulness organisation Smiling Mind, to get some tips on using mindfulness to help you go from office frustration to workplace calm.

1. Breathe

Pause and take ten slow, deep breaths. Focus on breathing out as slowly as possible until your lungs are completely empty; then allow them to refill by themselves. Notice the sensations of your lungs emptying and refilling. Notice your rib cage rising and falling. Notice the gentle rise and fall of your shoulders.

A man in a suit sits on top of rocks and looks out at the sun setting

2. Notice 5 things

Pause for a moment and look around. Notice five things that you can see - any five things. Now listen carefully and notice five things that you can hear. Tune in to the sounds around you. Finally, notice five things that you can feel in contact with your body (for example, your feet upon the floor or your back against the chair).

3. Take a mindful walk

Mindfulness isn't all about sitting in the lotus position with our eyes closed. It can be practised in motion, in everyday life. Sometimes what is needed when we are faced with strong emotions (such as frustration) is to leave the environment for a few minutes. If time permits, take yourself on a ‘mindful’ walk – and it’s even better if this can be outside in nature. Notice the places, people and objects around you. Tune into your senses. Feel the weight of your body pressing down into the soles of your feet as you walk, the breeze on your face, sun on your skin etc.

4. Replace judgment with compassion

The human mind is very good at judging. It does it all the time and automatically. One of the key mindsets we are trying to cultivate with mindfulness is an attitude of non-judgment. See if you can tune in to your thinking and notice what judgments your mind is making about particular situations or a particular relationship with a co-worker. See if you can offer a little bit less judgment and maybe even replace it with some compassion. As the famous quote says, “everyone you meet is facing a battle you know nothing about; be kind, always”.

We are all wired with negativity bias, so make an effort to focus on someone's postive attributes.

5. See the best in others

We are all wired with a ‘negativity bias’. This is the mind’s natural tendency to focus more on negatives than positives; this extends to our relationships with others. With a co-worker for example, we are more likely to notice and ruminate on their faults or weakness rather than their strengths or what they are doing well. See if you can bring your attention to some things that they do well or ways they have helped you. It mightn’t completely override whatever it is that has frustrated you, but it may help balance out your thinking a little and in turn, reduce the frustration.

Keen to learn the art of mindfulness? nib foundation partner, Smiling Mind offers a free, easy-to-use app that provides mindfulness meditation training programs that you can do anywhere, anytime. The app has already reached over two million people across the globe and is used by tens of thousands of educators in schools. nib is also proud to support Smiling Mind and the NPY Women’s Council – Ngangkari Program to deliver Australia’s first mindfulness-based meditation app and accompanying resources which cater to the language and culture of Indigenous Australians. For more information, head to the Smiling Mind website.