With everything at the click of a button, our ability to stay focused and maintain attention is constantly worsening. This is happening at the expense of our mental health, with 1 in 4 people experiencing a mental health problem every year.
Stress is known to be one of the leading factors contributing towards mental health problems such as anxiety and depression. High levels of stress can also lead to eating unhealthily, increased drinking, smoking and other unhealthy behaviours, as well as sleeping problems. Many individuals cite work-related problems as one of the key reasons for stress. Stressful workplace environments not only lead to detriments in the individual, but also within the company as it causes loss of productivity and increased time off work. Findings from the Labour Force Survey in 2017/18 found that 15.4 million working days were lost due to work-related stress, depression or anxiety, accounting for 57% of all working days lost due to ill health.
Practicing mindfulness helps to target this stress by allowing you to slow down and become present in the current moment. Originating from Buddhist teachings, mindfulness is now widely accepted as an important way for us to increase awareness and reflect on our emotions as it has been proven to greatly decrease stress and anxiety. This is not only a benefit for our mental wellbeing, but the neurological benefits of mindfulness have also been shown to improve emotional intelligence, which improves communication and leadership skills. For example, in a study by the Institute for Mindful leadership, out of 80 individual leaders who participated in the mindfulness program, 93% said that the training had a positive impact on their ability to create space for innovation, 89% said the programme enhanced their ability to listen to themselves, and others, and 70% said the training made a positive difference in their ability to think strategically. Mindfulness at work is therefore a new way to improve team relationships and employee skills, while also benefiting individual levels of productivity by improving well being.
How do you practice mindfulness?
To practice mindfulness in its simplest form would be to find a quiet place, to shut your eyes and focus on your breathing. When your mind wanders, as it always does, your response would be to bring your attention back to the breath, whilst calmly acknowledging your thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations.
Mark Williams’ book ‘Mindfulness: A practical guide to finding peace in a frantic world’ is a good place to start to help to learn the basic principles of mindfulness.
However, this can be hard to do by yourself as it requires a lot of mental discipline which takes practice. There are a number of different apps available which help you to practice mindfulness in this form of meditation. Apps such as Headspace or Calm allow for guided meditation practices, which make it easier to stay focused and are great if you are a beginner.
Mindfulness at work may also be incorporated in more subtle ways, such as;
- Preparing daily tasks to focus your work
- Taking breaks, even if short intervals of time (e.g. 10 minutes) to reground yourself and reflect upon your work
- Keeping a journal to help to focus your thoughts
These simple steps will encourage you to slow down and take a moment to ground yourself and evaluate your situation. Ensuring you are appropriately prepared for a day of tasks helps to focus your work and enhances productivity. By reflecting on your work, it will help to highlight any issues that you may have or help you to understand the root of any stress you may be experiencing that day. Taking a break while at work is important for your wellbeing, although it may not be practical for it to be a long break, even just a 10 minute breath of fresh air has been proven to be beneficial for your mindset while at work. If it is possible, taking a walk and connecting with nature is perfect way to do this. Being outdoors, even just in a local park, has been proven to have benefits for our mental wellbeing. This is a great way to clear your head while at work or during your lunch break.
Another, less conventional way to incorporate mindfulness at work is through eating. Eating is a necessity for survival, so not many people think of it as anything more than a mindless task. However, it is possible to practice mindfulness during meals and it can be beneficial to our health. Mindless eating often leads to overeating or eating unhealthily which has negative health consequences. Mindful eating however, encourages you to slow down during your meals and be aware- this involves removing any distractions (such as your phone or TV), eating slowly and embracing your senses. By eating consciously and appreciating your food you are more likely to make better decisions that will nourish your body and contribute to your wellbeing.
If you would like to find out more about the practice of mindfulness and how it can benefit you in your everyday life, check out our Resilience and Stress Management course here.
Alongside mindfulness, our resilience training also offers a number of other tools, designed to help you to manage stress and improve mental fitness.