Most of us face various frustrating challenges at work that spike our stress — everything from burnout to boredom to increasing demands to distraction.
In her latest book Real Happiness at Work: Meditations for Accomplishment, Achievement and Peace , bestselling author and meditation teacher Sharon Salzberg invites us to think of these obstacles and blocks differently using meditation practices.
“Through meditation, we can come to understand work problems as a potential source of achieving greater clarity, rather than as obstacles without redeeming value, and begin to recognize the true potential of the challenges that work brings our way.”
Salzberg quotes teacher and former executive Michael Carroll, who has said: “Maybe problems arise at work not as interruptions or intrusions, but as invitations to gain real wisdom.”
In Real Happiness at Work Salzberg discusses eight pillars of happiness in the workplace: balance; concentration; compassion; resilience; communication and connection; integrity; meaning; and open awareness. At the end of each chapter she features formal meditations that take about 10 to 20 minutes, along with mini meditations and practices throughout the book.
Below are some of my favorite tips from Salzberg’s book for helping us have a more peaceful and happier day at work. The great thing about these exercises is that they’re simple, small and totally doable ways we can enjoy greater calm and satisfaction.
- Before starting a project, meeting or even a conversation, ask yourself: “What do I most want to see happen from this?”
- Before starting your day, set an intention. Salzberg gave this example: “May I treat everyone today with respect, remembering each person wants to be happy as much as I do.”
- As you sit down at your desk, spend several moments listening to the sounds around you. Take note of your reactions to the sounds.
- Notice how you’re holding something in your hand, such as a pen or cup. Are you holding on tightly? “Sometimes, we exert so much force holding things, it exacerbates tension without our realizing it.”
- Try to perform a simple act of kindness every day. Salzberg included these examples: “holding an elevator door, saying thank you in a sincere manner, or listening to someone with a clear and focused mind.”
- Pay attention to your feelings. For instance, if you’re feeling irritated toward a co-worker, pay attention to your irritation, “not so much the story of why you’re irritated, but the actual feeling of it.” What does it feel like in your body? Where do you feel it? Identifying irritation as it starts helps you prevent an action you might later regret. “With a more immediate recognition of what we’re feeling, we have a choice as to how we want to respond in that moment.”
- As you heat up your lunch, stop, and simply pay attention to your breath until your hear the ding of the microwave.
- If you’re feeling upset, consider helping someone out. (“The more you help, the happier you can be.”)
- Think about the people who make your job possible, such as a housekeeper, elevator operator or fundraiser – and thank them.
As Salzberg writes, “Being happy at work is possible for all of us, anytime and anywhere, with open eyes and a caring heart. We need only to take the first step.”