Although the ancient practice of meditation has been around for thousands of years, some people still think of the 1970s stigma when it first came to the United States. Cynics scoffed at the idea of fringe mystical practices involving gurus, weird chants, burning incense, sitting lotus style on a cushion or drugged out people looking for ways to zone out. But not anymore. Meditation has become a mainstay to deal with job stress, anxiety and burnout.
The goal of meditation is not to zone out, empty your thoughts, withdraw from the world or get high on life. It’s not a religious practice, nor does it require you to change your beliefs or commit to a particular religious doctrine. Meditation is a tool to notice the habitual workings of your mind, watch how your thoughts routinely create stress and how you can get them to relax. A large body of research shows meditation is good medicine for mind and body. When your mind hijacks you into worry, stress or depression, it eventually compromises your mental and physical health—shrinking your contentment, well-being and work performance. Still, only 14% of people meditate, primarily because they don’t know how, don’t have the time or have been unsuccessful in the past.
What Are Microchillers?
Now, there’s good news for those who haven’t been able to meditate. The new science of Microchillers shows how you can distill the de-stressing benefits of meditation in a matter of minutes without stopping workday routines. These simple, easy-to-apply Microchiller exercises—five minutes or less in length—step you out of a stressful thought stream, bring instant calm and keep you fully engaged in the present moment so you can continue business as usual during the course of your workday.
Think of Microchillers as exercise for your mind to promote mental clarity, calm, focus and job performance—all keys to career success. They help you pay closer attention to the routines you usually fast-forward through. The more you practice them, the stronger your ability to control your thoughts and feelings. They reduce accumulated stress, reset your energy level and give you new insights into your work life. You might find your mind wandering while reading this post. If it does, just be aware of your wandering mind, let the distraction be okay, and gently bring your attention back to the words on the printed page. That, too, is a Microchiller meditation.
How To Practice Microchillers
With eyes open or shut for one minute, focus on all the different sounds around you, and see how many you can identify. You might notice the heating or air conditioning system, traffic off in the distance, a siren, voices from other areas in the building, an airplane, the ticking of a clock, or your own gurgling stomach. After one minute, instead of trying to remember the sounds, bring your attention inside and notice if you’re not calmer and more clearheaded. Microchillers are the on-ramp to what I call the C-Spot—a place inside where you feel a bunch of C-words such as calm, clarity, centered, confidence, curiosity, compassion, creativity, connectedness and courage.
Now, turn your attention to your fingers and focus on them for another minute. Wiggle your fingers. Notice how this sensory experience feels. Focus on how the wiggling looks and sounds. Do you hear crackling in your joints or sounds of skin against skin? Do you appreciate how hard your fingers work for you? Do you judge yourself or the exercise? Is it difficult to stay focused? How does it feel to slow down? If you’re like most people, this Microchiller loosens body muscles, slows breathing and reduces heart rate because you’re fully engaged in the present moment instead of regretting something in the past or worrying about the future. From a neuroscience perspective, these simple Microchillers activate your parasympathetic nervous system—also known as the rest and digest response—which brings balance to the sympathetic nervous system—the fight or flight or stress response.
Suppose you’re facing a stressful event: a tight deadline, a presentation to your colleagues or a meeting with your boss, and you hear a voice in your head (we all have one) say, “You’re going to screw up.” Using a Microchiller—instead of automatically believing the thought or freaking out—you simply notice the thought as a thought, not as a fact for a few seconds. You don’t fight it, steamroll over it, debate it or ignore it. When you notice it, instead of thinking it, you start to feel separation from the thought and the stress of it. This is another Microchiller that lands you at the on-ramp to your C-Spot.
The beauty of Microchillers is that you can practice them anywhere, anytime because they’re quick, easy, portable and cost-free. You can blend them into your daily routines without added time—while waiting in the doctor’s office or the grocery store line, you can listen to sounds or tune into your body sensations. Stuck in traffic, you can focus on your in-breath and out-breath and imbibe the calm in your body. You can intentionally walk with present-moment awareness bringing your attention to the sensations of your feet against the ground or noting the feeling of the open sky, sights, and sounds around you as you make your way to the parking garage. When you weed the garden, you can pay attention to the plants’ resistance against your hands as you tug and the sound of stubborn roots and smell of fresh soil as you unearth the weeds from their home. When you clean the toilet bowl, brush your teeth, drive your car or cook a pot of soup, you can step out of your thought stream and make yourself fully present in the activity.
As you move through your workday, start to watch your mind and notice where it goes from moment to moment. Note the difference between when you’re in the here and now and when your mind drifts to the past (the boss who did you wrong) or the future (what if your job’s on the chopping block). Once you find your mind wandering, gently bring it back into the present and focus on whatever you’re doing. When stress overtakes you, catch five minutes or less to focus on your breath or notice all the different colors within eyesight. When you continue to practice Microchillers, tension starts to subside. You feel more relaxed and confident, and your mindful productivity and career success soar.