Mindfulness in May
18th May 2018
With May fast approaching and winter drawing nearer, the buzz of summer and the holiday celebrations behind us, it’s fair to say we are well and truly settling into 2018. Here at the Centre for Corporate Health, we are committed to making May the Mindful Month (and not just because we like alliteration). It’s the perfect time to jump on the bandwagon and start enjoying the many benefits the practice of mindfulness has to offer.
The mindfulness movement is certainly not a new trend so we’re confident you have at least heard it mentioned before. Practising mindfulness simply means focusing your attention on the present moment. The goal is to be consciously aware of your thoughts, feelings, and surroundings in the moment they occur. It’s not about completely emptying your mind, but rather it’s about being aware of thoughts and feelings as they arise and letting them pass without judgement. In fact it’s quite normal to have thoughts pop up when you’re practising mindfulness. But the trick is to acknowledge them and then return your attention back to the present moment.
How does mindfulness differ from meditation?
There are a many similarities between the terms and both have ancient spiritual origins. Meditation is a more holistic term used to describe broad practices and techniques that drive people towards achieving total consciousness. Meditation takes many forms particularly in the modern age including techniques and practices like yoga, visualisation and prayer, and even emotional states like compassion and love. Mindfulness is therefore a form of meditation, a practice where you bring your full attention to the present moment. With time and patience, by practising mindfulness, it becomes easier and easier for a person to achieve this state of being in the moment.
What’s it got to do with breathing?
A common misconception is that mindfulness involves a deliberate and total focus on breathing. Of course this is one way to help you practice mindfulness (focus all your attention on the breath), but there are many other ways to do so! The point of mindfulness is to focus your attention on the present – the sensations, sounds, smells or feelings in that moment. The easiest way to focus on the present when you first start practising mindfulness is to focus on an object or process, such as breathing, and return your attention back to this when you begin to stray. Sure, the breath is an easy focal point, but it’s not the only option and the more experienced you become, the easier it is to practice mindfulness with less of a focus on these objects of processes.
While on the topic of common misconceptions of mindfulness, it’s important to note that mindfulness does not necessarily need to be a formal, ‘sit on the yoga mat with your eyes closed activity’. Practising mindfulness can be done in a formal way akin to how we stereotypically think of meditation. But it can be practised in far less formal settings as well. We can practise mindfulness in almost any activity we undertake. While drinking coffee for example, we can learn to be fully present and focus our attention on the coffee – noticing its warmth, colour, or the way it moves, paying attention to its taste and the sensations in the body when drinking the coffee. Hopefully understanding how seamless the practice can be makes it a little more appealing. Yes?
How can I benefit?
The benefits of practising mindfulness are far-reaching. From physical health benefits including healthier hearts, glucose levels and improved sleep habits, to psychological benefits including stress relief, higher levels of focus and control, as well as lower levels of anxiety and depression. Need we say more?
What can sometimes be difficult to understand is how to leverage these benefits in everyday life. At work for example, how can we see these benefits or use them to improve our work lives? Here are some ways mindfulness might change the way you perceive, interact or engage with work:
Mindfulness can increase levels of focus and attention meaning we are better able to complete tasks and can often do so in a shorter amount of time.
When we have more awareness of our emotions, we can control them more easily, which equips us to better deal with criticism or conflicts at work.
Practising mindfulness can mean we’re better able to listen to colleagues and really understand what it is they are saying – we may have thoughts on what they’re saying but we can learn to acknowledge those thoughts without judgement.
On that note, mindfulness has been shown to improve team relationships at work even though it’s a skill individuals develop personally.
Mindfulness can also help us think outside the box and innovate more easily.
Mindfulness is a core skill in developing resilience which helps us overcome stress and adversity (both at work and outside of work).
Mindfulness can be a useful technique to help you switch-off from work and help you recover – this recovery process has numerous benefits in terms of your functioning and performance at work.
If you’re in a management or leadership position, mindfulness can help you clarify what’s happening in your team and understand where problems may exist.
Not to mention, mindful leaders generally have happier teams, which means they are less likely to leave the team and the organisation.
These are just some examples of how the benefits of mindfulness may play out in other areas of life. So, as the colours of the leaves change, we challenge you to change too. Incorporate mindfulness practices into your routine and make May the Mindful Month.