Stress and burnout are real challenges and if left unchecked. Mental health is a growing national concern that we need to focus on. The charity Mind estimates that one in four UK people experience a mental health issue – such as anxiety and depression – each year.
Even if you love what you do and it’s what gets you out of bed in the morning it will also keep you working late into the night. It’s no secret that it’s hard to strike the right work-life balance.
One of the widely discussed methods of avoiding stress is mindfulness – most of us have heard this term. But do we actually know what it means, understand how to interpret it and what the benefits of practicing mindfulness techniques are?
MINDFULNESS HAS BEEN SHOWN TO IMPROVE FOCUS, REGULATE EMOTIONS, IMPROVE COGNITIVE FLEXIBILITY, AND PROTECT AGAINST STRESS. IT INVOLVES BEING AWARE OF YOUR THOUGHTS AND ALLOWING YOURSELF TO BECOME FULLY PRESENT.
Origins of mindfulness
Mindfulness has a long history, originating from Buddhism knowledge, where the word actually means “moment to moment awareness of present events“, but also “remembering to be aware of something“.
Bear in mind that Buddhism started during the 5th century BCE. And, if mindfulness knowledge has survived for such a long time, there must be at least a moderate amount of truth in its practices.
Mindfulness nowadays and how to use it
Mindfulness is gaining increased popularity as a practice in daily life.
Being in the moment entails not thinking about the past or future problems and distraction. There is always space for interpretation of terms like this, but the main focus of somebody trying to practice mindfulness should stay being in the moment and avoiding irrelevant stressors.
There are several proven techniques you and your team can use to practice mindfulness and become mindful. So read on and inspire yourself to change yourself and your company for the better:
Practice breathing exercises
Your breath can be a very grounding anchor to focus on, so why not try this technique for being in the moment? An easy way to make this a habit would be to stop everything you’re doing and focus only on your breath for one minute each hour. You can just focus on your inhaling and exhaling process by making it slower and taking deeper breaths, and get more advanced over time with special breathing exercises.
Breathing exercises are a great way to manage stressful situations and the best part is- you can practice literally anywhere.
One way to do this is to try the 3-1-5 technique, which will help you practice breathing exercises. Inhale for 3 seconds, hold your breath for 1 second and inhale for 5 seconds. If you do this for just one minute each hour, you’ll find yourself more focused and relaxed, which means better alertness towards tasks at hand.
Meditation is one of the most powerful techniques of mindfulness. Whether you have never meditated before, need a refresher or are just getting started, there is no shortage of books, articles, apps and free videos and podcasts available. If your budget allows, it is always a good idea to invest in a meditation professional who could come in and teach you and your team the best personalised techniques to use in the office and at home.
Tweak your morning routine
The way you decide to start your morning can have a major impact on how the rest of your day will go. Creating a repetitive, meaningful morning routine can make for the most productive and stress-free use of your time.
Try to wake up with one alarm and ditch the snooze button, then have some time to yourself to become more present. For some, the ritual of a cold shower followed by morning coffee or tea could be the perfect mindfulness practice. For others – doing breathing exercises or meditating while still in bed. And we all know that technology is a major contributor to stress. Try not to look at your phone, computer or TV screens first thing in the morning. This will definitely help you become more aware of yourself and your surroundings. The morning routine is something you have to personalise to your own needs, but don’t forget to base it on the interest of stress-free life.
Unplug and set boundaries
In such a fast-paced world it is easy to forget to relax. Deadlines, obligations, society, etc are making us think about irrelevant problems at irrelevant moments.
No brain is built to work non-stop for 9 hours. Take many small breaks during the day to recollect the thoughts and manage tasks more efficiently. Try walking or take a lunch break away from your desk.
And, when you finally call it a day, don’t bring work home.
The only way to reach mindfulness is to remember to unplug. What it means is basically leaving everything behind for a period of time.
Don’t check your work emails during the weekend or vacation. Leave working hours for work and weekends for yourself. These are the times you should completely unplug from work stressors and enjoy your free time.
One simple rule with mindfulness is to do it every day. It is important to practice becoming more aware of yourself and your surroundings all the time, as the more you practice it, the more it comes naturally.
The best way to do this is to create rituals that you can do every day and make sure you don’t miss a day. Start small and simple. You could start doing breathing exercises before sleep. Maybe you could make a ritual of drinking calming tea in the evening, and while you’re at your cuppa, thinking about the day gone by and how you can improve tomorrow. Or take your first steps towards meditating by setting a timer to 5 minutes and try to clear your thoughts and not think about anything.
It could literally be any ritual that comes to your mind, as long as you pay close attention to something during that time. Your feelings, your surroundings, the colours, the sounds, the emotions, the memories… As long as you become aware of something, in time you’ll realise that you notice more and more things. And that is becoming aware – the ultimate goal of mindfulness.
Any office can start to work on a mindfulness program. Companies like IKEA, ForMotorCompany, Goldman Sachs, Proctor and Gamble and others already offer Mindfulness training for their employees and it’s working out really well for them. If you would like some help creating a mindfulness programme please get in touch.