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Mindfulness May

What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness – we hear so much about it that the word alone can lead to eye rolls. The mindfulness hype often complicates the concept, putting people off using an incredibly powerful tool.

However, mindfulness is actually a very simple concept. At its most basic, mindfulness is the art of paying attention to the present moment with a non-judgmental attitude.

In the 21st century, our brains are constantly occupied in things other than the present moment, particularly at work. How many times have you been in a meeting while at the same time thinking about your grocery list, replying to emails, working on an ongoing project, and remembering something you forgot to do at work yesterday? Very rarely we have a moment to be still and silent in our modern era. This can often lead to high levels of stress and burnout, impacting our mental and physical health; however, when we approach activities with a ‘beginner’s mind’, we can start to engage in the world around us and notice huge differences. 

Mindfulness practice is simple, powerful, takes just a few minutes and can be done almost anywhere, so it can be a great addition to your everyday mental health self-care, especially when you are at work.

Key Elements of Mindfulness
When a person is being mindful they are:

  • Focusing on the present moment
  • Noticing if their mind becomes focused on the past or the future or gets distracted
  • Being non-judgmental about any aspect they notice
  • Using mental and physical skills
  • Training their brain to create new neural pathways – this training takes physical and mental energy.

What Isn’t Mindfulness?

  • Mindfulness isn’t religious or mystical. It can be part of spiritual practice however can be used by anyone.
  • Mindfulness isn’t a way to ‘get rid’ of unwanted thoughts or feelings. Instead, you let your thoughts and feelings come and go without judgement.
  • Mindfulness isn’t a quick fix. It can help you cope with the stresses in your life and help you respond to them in a different way.
  • Mindfulness isn’t a way to ‘get rid’ of unwanted thoughts or feelings. Instead, you let your thoughts and feelings come and go without judgement.
  • Mindfulness isn’t meditation. Meditation is one way of being mindful but is not the only way.
  • Mindfulness isn’t easy. Training our brain to be present is one of the hardest skills to learn, it takes a lot of practice!

The Science-Backed Benefits of Mindfulness

Mindfulness is nothing new – the technique has much in common with traditional Buddhist teachings and Eastern philosophies. It was first integrated into the West and into psychological therapies in the late 1970s and since that point, masses of studies have been carried out showing its benefits.

Some of the key findings from scientific studies have found that mindfulness:

  • Increases efficiency, productivity and focus in the workplace
  • Contributes to a feeling of contentment
  • Reduces the likelihood of getting caught up in worries about the future or regrets about the past
  • Assists with mood regulation
  • Boosts creativity
  • Improves individual’s ability to form deep connections to others.
    improves sleep habits
  • Decreases levels of stress, depression, anxiety, addiction, eating disorders, and suicidal ideation
  • Can improve physical problems such as heart disease and blood pressure
  • Alleviates gastrointestinal problems
  • Can help in chronic pain management – lowering perceived levels of pain severity
  • Improves working memory.

Integrating Mindfulness into Your Day

1. Mindful Tech

Technological advances have revolutionised our world and the way we live within it; however, it can also be a huge distraction from reality as well as highly addictive. Technology encourages us to become highly reactive – immediately dropping our attention when we hear the buzz of our phone or emails. This can lead to reduced productivity and increased stress levels.

Try to bring awareness and mindfulness to your use of technology when at work. Allocate some time in your day (whether it is 5 minutes or 30 minutes) where you do not check your emails. Remind yourself to physically reset every 30 mins or 1 hour – get up, walk around, grab a coffee etc. Take a breath before responding to emails to check in with your stress levels. Would it be more beneficial to take a break before responding?

Take some time offline – if you are on a computer all day, try to spend some time offline whether you are on the bus or at home. Notice how your mind and body feels in these moments of peace from technology.

2. Mindful Moments

Set up moments in your day where you remember to draw your attention to the present moment.

When?

  • Intention setting: pause for a moment before you begin the day of work and set the intention of being as present as you can be during the day
  • Use mindful reminders: set a reminder to prompt you to become aware of what is happening for you in the present moment. This might be an alarm on your phone, a sticky note on your desk, or assigning activities during the day as your mindful moments – e.g. when you eat lunch.

How?

  • Connect to your senses: think of one thing you can hear, one thing you can smell, one thing you can touch
  • Take a breath: pause and take one or two deep breaths paying attention to how each breath feels

Notice what your mind says to you when you think about taking a mindful moment – do thoughts like ‘I don’t have time for this’, ‘this is stupid’, ‘I’m too busy’ come up? That’s normal! Our brains are our worst critics. Notice and allow your resistance to the activity.

3. Be a Single-Tasker

Trying to do multiple things at once by switching repeatedly between tasks has been found to be hugely inefficient.

Try to do one thing at a time to give your full attention to each task.

You might like to organise your time into activity chunks e.g. check emails, project work, and try to focus on each activity one after the other.

4. Take Pleasure in Work When You Can

Notice what brings you joy at work – whether it is looking out the window at a nice view, laughing with a colleague, the cool breeze of the air con on a hot day.

Gratitude, as well as noting the pleasurable, as well as the not-so pleasurable, things in our day is key to mindfulness.

5. Mindfulness Meditation

Mindfulness meditation involves spending specific time focusing on your senses and allowing your thoughts to come and go calmly, without judging or trying to change them.

Try this basic mindfulness meditation:

  • Sit quietly and focus on your natural breathing. If this is difficult to do count your breaths as they pass up to a count of 10 and start again.
  • Allow thoughts to come and go without judgement and return your focus on your breathing.

Mindfulness Workshops

The Acacia Group’s The Workshop Lab offers Mindfulness workshops and programs which have been specifically designed for busy workplaces. Participants will learn the science-based benefits of Mindfulness and how they can apply it to reduce stress and return to a state of calm. Conducted by popular, highly experienced Mindfulness experts across Australia, these workshops have proven to deliver exceptional benefits. Workshops go for 1 – 2 hours. 

If you or someone close to you needs support, contact Acacia Connection for an appointment.

P: 1300 364 273 | Text or Live Chat: 0401 337 711 | W: acaciaconnection.com