what is mindfulness?
The focus of good health and well-being is very much at the forefront of today’s business world. Thankfully more of our leaders today are understanding, that if you look after your teams and employees, productivity, performance and individual resilience will also improve.
Modern mindfulness is an evidence-based practice and although a concept based on ancient Buddhist principles, it is most definitely a non-religious form of meditation. In today’s modern world it has been adapted and developed to help people manage chronic stress, anxiety, depression and pain in a clinical environment. Originally developed as Mindful Based Stress Relief (MBSR) at the University of Massachusetts, Mindful Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) was later developed at Oxford University and due the the 1000s of research studies proving the benefits of these programmes MBCT is the only mindfulness course approved by the National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) and used within the NHS.
what is mindfulness?
Introduction to Mindfulness
the benefits of mindfulness
Research studies show that mindful practice strengthens the pre-frontal cortex of the brain and by doing so we improve our executive function and regulation skills. There are many health and well-being benefits of practicing mindfulness including, but not limited to:
Better management of, and recovery from, stress and anxiety.
Reduction of depression relapse rates by up to 43% (Mark et al 2014).
Self-regulation skills; being able to respond rather than reacting to thoughts, emotions and triggers.
Improvement in attention and flexibility of attention.
Enhanced relationship and communication skills.
Management of chronic pain.
Improvement in general wellbeing.
how to practice mindfulness
There are many different views on the best techniques and to practice mindfulness. Here at the Mind Hub, we believe that by practicing a regular combination of mindfulness activities such as meditation, breathing techniques, awareness, movement and cognitive exercises it is possible to gain a wider perspective on our lives and have a greater sense of well-being. In fact, one research paper has shown that depression relapse rates may be reduced by up to 43% (Mark et al 2014) if Mindful Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) is practised regularly. Following that research study, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommend MBCT as a treatment for people who suffer from depression.
Suitable from the very young to the very old, Mindfulness is extremely accessible and can literally be practiced anywhere without the need for any special paraphernalia. Lying down, driving the car, eating, sitting at your desk and being in motion are all opportunities to be mindful in addition to the more formal practices. We practice mindful awareness by simply focussing attention onto the moment to moment experience of whatever we are doing, this is called being 'present' as opposed to floating around on automatic pilot often with a scattered mind. It sounds simple, and it really is, but staying attentive can be difficult as the mind becomes increasingly distracted but this is helped by doing the meditation practice. You might like to think of meditation as brain training. In fact, research shows us that people who meditate can actually reshape their brain through Neuroplasticity!
my mindful day
I am not perfect and I certainly do not strive to become the next Zen master. I just try to be as mindful as I can be when going about my day and do as much formal practice as I can fit in around my busy schedule of work and family life. I will often start the day with some mindful breathing and stopping for mindful pauses helps navigate through the morning chaos until the children have been safely deposited at the school gates! I am very grateful for Nellie, my Border Terrier, as she takes me for an early morning mindful walk every day come rain or shine, which is a wonderful way to focus the mind and connect with nature before emersing myself into the work day.
My work is varied and I often need to reset myself to switch between tasks or into a different mode if I am teaching, for example. This isn't always easy as I can be easily distracted and have an anxious disposition so by simply bringing my awareness back to the present, as many times as I need to, helps me to do that with much more ease. Mindful working has helped me to be more focussed, more productive, more resilient yet at the same time be more of a human 'being' rather than just a human 'doing' which leaves me with a greater sense of overall wellbeing.
Try my top 5 mindfulness exercises below to get you started.
1. Mindful breathing. Set the intention for the day ahead by sitting on the edge of your bed when you wake up to pay attention to your breath for a few cycles. It might be enough to shake off your mood and give you a different perspective on the day ahead.
2. Listen to this F.O.F.B.O.C (Feet On Floor and Body On Chair) audio to help switch you from an automatic pilot into a more conscious mode of mind whenever you need it to help calm you or prepare for the next activity.
3. Instead of ploughing straight into your 'to do' list, do the F.O.F.B.O.C practice when you arrive at your desk to skilfully plan your day with realistic goals.
4. It is impossible to give 100% of your attention to multiple tasks at the same time. As best you can, give 100% of attention to one task at a time and when you notice your mind becoming scattered again, take a moment to stop, follow your breathing and refocus.
5. Set a regular timer to remind you to stop, take a few mindful breaths or practice the F.O.F.B.O.C to 'check-in' with yourself to see if you need a drink, a snack or simply a break.
6. When something goes wrong, try to be less critical of yourself freeing you to learn from what happened rather than allowing it to knock you down. Remember that you are only human and will not be the only person to have ever made the same mistake.
As Richard Branson once said: