Most of us will relate to the stress that comes with work, whether it is your workload, management responsibilities or just general office politics, there becomes a point when enough is enough.
Most of us will also relate to that stress reoccurring when we get home – finances, relationships, running a home, etc..
What most of us won’t do is take a moment to be mindful, but that is not surprising considering the lack of understanding around Mindfulness.
To help explore this further, we invited Chartered and Registered Forensic Psychologist, Jenny Ingram along to one of our events to talk a bit more about Mindfulness, particularly in the workplace. The event was predominantly targeted at Senior HR professionals looking to improve employee well-being and implement new strategies in their respective businesses.
Mindfulness was described as “paying attention in a particular way”, which can be broken down into 3 key elements;
making a conscious effort to be aware of your surroundings
In the present moment
not worrying about the things in the past or what might come in the future but simply taking in the present moment
trying to become aware of our thoughts and feelings, without making judgements
Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention to the present. When you are mindful you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them as good or bad.
Instead of letting life pass you by, Mindfulness enables you to live in the moment, free of worry.
As with many things that concern our minds, we encountered a level of scepticism which, Jenny has been quick to address.
So let’s talk about the science behind it…
The amygdala is the primal region of the brain (aka the “fight or flight” centre); it is associated with emotion and is involved in our body’s response to stress. It is the part of our brain that often causes us to make rash decisions when we are angry or stressed!
MRI scans show that this area of the brain appears to shrink when we practice Mindfulness techniques over time, causing its connection with the rest of the brain to weaken, apart from one important area… the pre-frontal cortex. This area is associated with awareness, concentration and decision-making, and does appear to strengthen.
This makes us more rational, more productive and ultimately helps us to make better decisions. Research has also shown that over time, Mindfulness techniques help improve our cognitive (thinking) function, memory and concentration.
This is the bit that really keeps people’s attention; how can we use this in our workplace?
Jenny recently delivered a programme at MAG-O (Manchester Airport Group’s digital brand). In this instance, the course lasted for 6 weeks and was run via a series of weekly 1 hour sessions.
The programme introduced the attendees to Mindfulness and the core principles, as well as supporting and encouraging lots and lots of practice. It gave staff a chance to reflect on the benefits they had seen and to discuss the barriers to applying the skills to day to day life.
There isn’t a one-size-fits-all package for businesses, as each environment will have its own unique challenges. Therefore, through consultation, Jenny has successfully created packages that focus on: developing/supporting good mental health awareness in the workplace; Mindfulness and stress management packages to meet the needs of the individual teams/organisation.
“Some suggest that Mindfulness should be a lifestyle change, but actually just 10 minutes of Mindfulness a day can have a massive impact over time.”
Jenny spoke about the benefits but also the challenges associated with applying Mindfulness ‘24/7’. Whilst it can take 6-12 months before we really master the skill and see results, in her view, just a few minutes each day can have a long-lasting impact.
Here are a few simple tips to get you started:
Eating your lunch – try not to sit and eat at your desk, take some time and enjoy your lunch ‘mindfully’. Really try to appreciate how the food looks, the tastes, smells and sounds whilst becoming aware of your own thoughts and feelings in that moment.
Go for a walk – taking a few minutes to get some fresh air and spend time looking at your surroundings (without your phone!)
Brushing your teeth – don’t try and multitask as we often do in the mornings, use those 2 minutes to really concentrate on the task of cleaning your teeth, gaining awareness of the present moment.
Mindfulness is something that comes with time with lots of practice, but there is no doubt about its benefits in day to day life and within the work environment.
If you would like to find out more about introducing Mindfulness programmes into your business please get in touch.