5 Mindfulness Exercises You Can Do at Your Desk
Stress is an unwelcome visitor – one who always seems to turn up at the worst time.
Deadlines, meetings, commuting, pressure and responsibilities, they can all flood our bodies with adrenaline, often without us even noticing.
We’ve heard a lot about mindfulness and its power to relieve us of stress in recent years. But how can we make time for mindfulness when we’re all so… stressed? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Here are five simple mindfulness exercises you can do from your desk.
There’s nothing we do more often than breathing. Yet, 99% of the time, we’re not even aware that we’re doing it. Bringing awareness to the breath brings us into the present moment, reduces stress and gives us a relaxation response.
Place your hands over your belly and practice drawing breath in from deep down. Notice your hands rising and falling with each belly breath. Aim to make your exhale double the length of your inhale. You can count if that helps – in for 3, out for 6.
The best thing is that mindful breathing is a tool that we have at our disposal at any time, day or night.
Bonus tip: set an alarm to remind yourself to breathe.
Have you ever looked up from your computer and noticed that your neck muscles are tight? Clenched hands? Hunched back?
Taking a minute to release contracting muscles brings awareness to our body and our surroundings, helps us to relax and can reduce pain and discomfort. Try these easy exercises without even leaving your desk.
Slowly turn your head left to right a few times, then add a neck roll. Roll your head from left to right, tucking your chin in as you go.
Place your right hand on your chair behind you, and your left hand on your right knee. Allow your torso to twist, letting your head and neck follow. Swap sides and repeat.
Take your right wrist in your left hand and stretch up to the ceiling. Take a deep breath in and bend your body, facing forward, over to the left. Hold for a few breaths before returning to the centre. Swap sides and repeat.
Bonus tip: Paint your little finger a bright colour. Then, every time you notice it, you’ll be reminded to stretch.
Keep a small notebook on your desk dedicated to gratitude journaling. Start small, just write 1 simple thing you’re grateful for each day. You’ll notice yourself becoming more present as you look for these moments of joy to record. Feel free to expand your exercise to record 2 or 3 things once you’ve found a good rhythm.
Whether it’s celebrating a win, or finding a silver lining when things aren’t going your way, journaling fosters resilience, perspective and optimism.
How often have you brewed a cup of tea and absentmindedly sipped it until, suddenly, it’s gone? We are all champions of multi-tasking but, unfortunately, that can force small-but-important rituals to take a backseat to less fulfilling habits like scrolling through our phones.
Challenge yourself to create a mini mindfulness tea ceremony every time you make that fresh cup. In the few minutes it takes for the kettle to boil, tune into how your mind and body feel in that moment. When your tea is ready, hold the mug in your hands and focus on these new senses. Take a sip and notice individual notes and flavour profiles.
Enjoy a cup and harness time you already have to connect mind and body.
(Full disclosure: this one might actually require a bit of time away from your desk.)
Stressful events trigger our fight or flight response, which floods your body with adrenaline and cortisol in preparation for a physical threat. We’ve talked about some of the quieter, more passive ways we can use mindfulness to respond to this stress, but there’s another way. Quick, high intensity movement.
So, the next time you feel yourself breaking out in a cold sweat over a deadline or meeting, consider giving your body a chance to burn this nervous energy off. If you work from home, consider a run around the block. If you’re in an office, think star jumps, running up stairs, sneaky wall squats in the bathroom, anything to get the heart racing and shake that tension off.