Getting started with mindfulness
26 March 2018
Next month (April) is Stress Awareness Month where many organisations will be raising awareness about stress, and also highlighting the mental health support that’s available. Stress is not something to ignore. Although most of us will experience stress at times, if you suffer for a prolonged period of time it can be very damaging to both your mental and physical health.
Workplace stress is a prime example where in some sectors – especially healthcare – staff work in stressful situations day in, day out. Fortunately there are things you can do, and support available. One very effective technique is to practice mindfulness. In this post we explore why.
Mindfulness is the practice of being in the moment. This means training your mind to pay attention to the present rather than thinking about what has happened in the past or what will be coming up in the future.
Mindfulness has gained in popularity over the past few years, especially with the increased awareness of mental health issues. It’s also backed up by scientific evidence outlining its benefits to mental health and wellbeing, and is being practiced not only by individuals but also within workplaces and schools. The scientific evidence and the adoption of the practice within large institutions like the NHS, shows that mindfulness is by no means a fad.
Mindfulness is a mental skill that can take some time to master but with regular practice there are a lot of benefits.
The Benefits of Mindfulness
Some of the reasons why people practice mindfulness are:
Lower Stress Levels
Mindfulness has been proven to reduce the levels of stress hormone cortisol in the body making practitioners feel calmer.
Improve Cognitive Function
Being mindful can help you perform better at work and be more successful. Verbal reasoning and memory can be improved which can help in tests and even presenting to large groups of people.
Improve Symptoms of Physical Ailments
Mindfulness has helped people deal with physical ailments such as arthritis. While it can’t cure medical conditions, it can help you to cope with the pain, fatigue, stress and other symptoms.
Protects the Brain Against Mental Illness and Depression
Ever heard the phrase ‘prevention is better than cure’. Mindfulness can be a great way to reduce your chances of developing a mental illness and reduce the likelihood of getting depressed.
Many people practice mindfulness for self-improvement, to become more well-rounded. It can help improve interaction with others, and increase capacity for compassion and empathy. People who practice mindfulness are more inclined to help others and be more charitable with their time.
Help Cope with Illnesses
Being mindful can help people to cope with illnesses. It can help people come to terms with being diagnosed with a serious condition and it has also been linked, anecdotally, to avoiding catching the common cold. Mind over matter and positive thought are all thought to reduce the risk of succumbing to minor ailments.
Helps with Sleep
Mindfulness helps people to control their emotions and behaviours which helps to control thoughts and feelings before bedtime. This means you are more likely to get high quality sleep.
Supports Weight Loss Goals
If you are trying to lose a few pounds, mindfulness can help you to control your cravings for junk food, increase willpower, and even keep you on track with workout routines that you may not have stuck to previously.
How to Incorporate Mindfulness into Your Day
It can seem like quite a big ask to be mindful everyday. Many people don’t feel like they have enough hours in the day to do anything for themselves – ‘me time’ is in short supply. If you do shift work or work in a really stressful environment, finding the time to exercise or participate in any wellbeing activities can be a challenge. However, you probably could benefit from me time and practicing mindfulness the most!
Here are just some of the ways that you can be mindful during the day, whether you’re at work or at home:
Practice During Routine Activities
If there is a mundane task you do at work every day, almost on autopilot, take this time to work on your mindfulness. It’s about living in the moment, training your mind not to jump ahead to the next task you’ve got to do, or backtrack over something that happened early that day. Just focus on the activity you’re doing, how you’re feeling, what you body is telling you, and just be.
Be Mindful as Soon as You Wake Up
Waking up five minutes earlier than usual to sit in silence and be in the moment is one of the easiest ways to practice mindfulness. It’s the time where you are least likely to be disturbed and are more likely to be well rested.
Be Mindful in Short Bursts
Mindfulness in short bursts throughout the day has been proven to be more effective than one 20-minute block. Taking five minutes to yourself every three hours can help you to deal with the stresses and strains of the day more effectively.
Mindfulness While You Wait
If there is ever a moment where you have to wait for someone or are waiting for a meeting to start, this is a great opportunity to practice mindfulness. Similarly, if you commute to work on public transport, you can practice while you wait for your bus or between stops on the train.
Use a Prompt to be Mindful
If you walk through a certain doorway 5-6 time a day, why not use that as a prompt to be mindful? Alternatively, there are many apps available that notify you at certain intervals or times of day to take a few minutes to live in the moment.
Hopefully you now have a better idea about the benefits of mindfulness and how to incorporate it into your busy lifestyle.
Mental health is a really important issue. Even if you’ve never experienced any specific problems it is important to be aware of how you’re feeling and build resilience. Mindfulness can help you to do this and protect yourself from external pressures that might give you problems in the future.
Many employers provide mental health and wellbeing support and resources for their staff. If your employer uses the Vivup portal you will find support including mindfulness techniques available in the mental health & wellbeing section. Login or sign up today to find out more, and get support if you need it.
What are you doing at work for Stress Awareness Month? We would love to hear about any activities either you or your employer is planning to help people get the support they need. Tell us about your plans on our Facebook page here.
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