In the UK, 1-in-6 working-age adults suffer from symptoms associated with depression, anxiety or stress. These mental health problems are often debilitating and seriously impact every aspect of an individual’s life, personal and professional. It’s important that if you are struggling with these issues, you find techniques to help you cope with and overcome them.
Mindfulness can be an effective tool to achieve this, improving health and wellbeing as well as boosting workplace performance.
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is the practice of purposely focusing your attention on the present moment and accepting it without judgment. It involves focusing on your environment as well as relaxing, meditating, or concentrating on sounds and thoughts. These exercises can be as short as 60 seconds or as long as an hour. During this time, you can become more aware of yourself and your surroundings.
Mindfulness can be a powerful technique to help calm your mind and understand your emotions. Being mindful can benefit numerous mental health conditions, helping reduce stress, burnout and social anxiety. Mindfulness practises allow you to take a step back, away from the stress and worries of everyday life, helping you understand why you feel the way you do.
Being mindful is something which is actually quite easy to do but in today’s busy world it is easily forgotten and very few people do this naturally. Through practice and patience anyone can learn and benefit from this technique.
Mental Health and Mindfulness
Mindfulness practices can help with managing conditions such as stress and anxiety. The techniques associated with mindfulness can also minimise worries about uncontrollable factors – so you can focus more on your health and wellbeing.
While mindfulness practices can be beneficial, the benefits vary from person to person. It’s important to note that while mindfulness can help reduce the symptoms of various mental health conditions, it may not have the same beneficial effect on everyone. You should try a variety of mindfulness techniques and see what works best for you.
Relaxation – Sit quietly and focus on your natural breathing or on a word or “mantra” that you repeat silently. Allow thoughts to come and go without judgment and return to your focus on breath or mantra.
Body sensations – Notice subtle body sensations such as an itch or tingling without judgment and let them pass. Notice each part of your body in succession from head to toe.
Sensory – Notice sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and touches.
Emotions – Allow emotions to be present without judgment.
Cope with cravings such as chocolate and allow them to pass. .
Pay attention. Notice external sensations such as sounds, sights, and touch that make up your moment-to-moment experience. The challenge is not to latch onto a particular idea, emotion, or sensation, or to get caught in thinking about the past or the future. Instead you watch what comes and goes in your mind, and discover which mental habits produce a feeling of well-being or suffering. Learning to take notice and be more aware of the present or being ‘mindful’ can have a great effect on your personal health and wellbeing.
It might sound too simple, but breathing exercises are one of the easiest and simplest ways to refocus your mind and reduce stress and anxiety. There are hundreds of breathing exercises available, but here are some examples to get you started:
Equal breathing: Find a comfortable position, and inhale slowly through the nose for a count of four seconds. Hold for four. Then exhale for four. Repeat.
Abdominal breathing: Sit and place one hand on your chest and another on your belly. Breathe deeply through your nose, concentrating on your diaphragm. Exhale slowly and repeat.
Muscle relaxation: While concentrating on keeping your breath slow and regular, focus on tensing and relaxing muscle groups for a few seconds each. Feel the tension melt away.
Relaxing breath: Place the tip of your tongue against the roof of your mouth and exhale fully. Inhale through your nose for a count of four, hold your breath for a count of seven, and exhale – very slowly – for a count of eight.
Mindful body scan: Instead of focusing on the breath, mindful body scans focus on sensations within the body. By directing your attention to how each part of your body feels, you can better manage pain, stress and anxiety as well as improve sleep, self-awareness, and self-compassion. Follow our easy steps to mindful body scans below.
Find a comfortable position and close your eyes.
Focus on how your body feels and feel the weight of yourself on the floor or the chair.
Start by taking a few deep breaths, in through the nose and out through the mouth.
Starting from the top of your head, slowly move your attention through your body. Stop at each body part and notice how it feels, whether it is tense, relaxed, tingling, or painful. You should pay attention to each sensation and note it. If there is no sensation at all – notice how that feels.
Your attention will wander, but when it does, bring it back to the body part you were on and continue to your toes.
Make it Happen
Some suggestions to increase mindfulness and taking notice:
Resolve to walk more often and notice your surroundings paying particular attention to anything you notice which is new e.g. a house you never noticed, a particularly beautiful tree or plant, the sounds, birdsong etc
Pay attention to the food you eat and how the foods you eat make you feel
Try something, new anything that you are interested in
Join a club
Join a meditation class
Look for the good in those around you
Help out a friend in need
Do something kind things for others
Begin to say “Thank you” more often
Take time to notice things around you.
Say thank you to a colleague who has pulled out all the stops to help you
Say thank you to the next person who treats you kindly
Spend time with a loved one and notice all the special things about them.
Benefits of Mindfulness in the Workplace
There is a wide array of benefits associated with mindfulness. These practices can help you relax your body and clear your mind – enabling you to make decisions without being influenced by negative thoughts or emotions. Here are some common benefits of practising mindfulness:
Minimise stress and anxiety
Improve problem-solving abilities
Appreciate moments as they happen
Cope with difficult or unhelpful thoughts
Increase empathy and emotional intelligence.
Want to support your employees’ mental health? Get in touch with Health Assured to discuss a bespoke package for you and your employees.
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