We’re all working harder than ever, juggling working from home, staying safe and healthy while balancing family commitments and tentatively restarting social lives during these pandemic-restricted times.
It can all feel a bit stressful, so we wanted to pass on some practical tips from one of our recent Team Health and Wellbeing Days. We hold a combined total of 10 Team Development and Health and Wellbeing Days each year. Since stress can prove a debilitating factor both in the workplace and individual lives, we invited wellbeing expert Gary Young of The Mindful Enterprise to teach us some basic Mindfulness and meditation exercises that we could introduce into busy lives.
The very words Mindfulness and meditation can prove anxiety-inducing for some, yet Gary’s ‘Introduction to Mindfulness’ session, conducted over Zoom, delivered easy-to-implement tools that take just a few moments to put into practice.
Taking a ‘Mindful Minute’
So how does it work? First off, Gary stresses the importance of taking, literally, a couple of minutes to help the mind become 100% present. With so many demands on our time, it can prove challenging to pull our minds back from racing ahead – worrying about incomplete ‘To Do’ lists and unopened emails. So, take a deep breath, close your eyes and breathe in from the belly then gently release the breath with full awareness of the feeling of breathing. By silently counting in time with every in-breath, we give the mind an additional point of focus which can help us to remain present with the breath – even if just for a few seconds – before the mind invariably wanders off.
Everyone’s breathing rhythm and speed is different however – as a general rule of thumb – by counting between seven and 12 breaths you’ll have completed a mindful minute with awareness of your breath. By increasing the length of the out-breath, you might to start to feel your heart rate slowing and your body becoming more relaxed.
When you open your eyes, take a moment to reflect. How did it feel just to stop and simply ‘be’? Perhaps reflect on any thoughts, feelings or sensations that arose, whether good, bad or indifferent. And take on board that you just practiced Mindfulness.
So what is Mindfulness?
According to Jon Kabat-Zinn – American Professor Emeritus of medicine and creator of the Stress Reduction Clinic and the Centre for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School – Mindfulness is:
“The awareness that arises from paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally”.
Practicing Mindfulness trains us to respond skilfully to what is happening in the present moment – in the here and now – whether that be good or bad, as opposed to reacting impulsively or worrying about what may have happened in the past or might possibly happen in the future.
Training our minds in this way may seem like yet another ‘To Do’ item, however a study by Harvard psychologists Matthew A Killingsworth and Daniel T Gilbert showed that:
“People spend 46.9 percent of their waking hours thinking about something other than what they’re doing, and this mind-wandering typically makes them unhappy.”
So, don’t we owe it ourselves to introduce simple habits that can enhance our happiness, health and wellbeing? We think so, which is why we’re sharing this article.
Benefits of Mindfulness
Should you still be feeling somewhat sceptical, Gary Young shared this checklist outlining the benefits of regularly practicing Mindfulness:
- Increased focus and concentration (attention regulation)
- Heightened metacognitive awareness
- Reduced stress and anxiety
- Greater resilience (Improved ability to handle uncertainty and change)
- Strengthens immune system
- Improves sleep
- Less emotional reactivity (greater emotional intelligence)
- Physical pain management / reduction
Check in regularly with your breath
Gary also recommends regularly checking in with our own breathing patterns to help regulate feelings of anxiety. When we’re stressed, we can unconsciously develop a fast, shallow breathing pattern which isn’t optimal for our health. By contrast, consciously regulating our breath can help to reduce stress levels. Even taking a moment to check in whenever and whatever we’re eating for lunch, or engaging all of the senses to have a mindful eating experience. Too often, we grab a bite on the run or between calls or meetings, barely tasting the food while our minds race on what’s next from the ‘To Do’ list.
Mindfulness may feel like common sense, and much of it may be, however our entire team has felt the benefits of introducing mindfulness into our lives, thus we hope it can help to deliver positive results for you, too.