“STOP…” she shouted very loudly.
Is this how you feel about your life? Homeschooling, homeworking and family responsibiities made lockdown very stressful for many people.
Mindfulness was first taught to me by the great Sir Cary Cooper, Professor of Organisational Psychology, over 25 years ago. I attended his class organised through my then work about workplace stress. Nobody was talking about mindfulness at this time. Lucky since then mindfulness has become well discussed and documented.
Stress in that era was competitive. You showed your worth and your value by being more stressed than the next person. It was seen as a weekness to not be able to cope with high pressure living.
Cary talked about just this. Competitive, work-stressed people ‘relax’ by taking up competitive hobbies. Running faster, play golf better or sing louder than anyone else is the thing to do because all this stress makes us better people. Well, guess what? It doesn’t, and it has probably already shortened my life by a few years. So, I decided a few years ago to make a change.
47% of our life is spent with our minds wandering
A Harvard study says that 47% of our life is spent with our minds wandering and usually not in a good way. Wandering, worrying and planning. We may already have spent half half our life feeling anxious. Don't let the next half to be the same.
Mindfulness - the way forward?
Mindfulness is the way forward, but it can be hard to do. Distraction is waiting at every turn. Your phone, remarketing banners or 24 hour access to our lives through technology all cause distractions. Is there any hope for any of us to really practice mindfulness with all this going on? Well in short, yes, there is and you don’t have to go into a full-blown state of meditation to benefit from it.
For a start, there is a great TED talk by Andy Puddicombe that gives a brief and amusing insight to the subject in “ten mindful minutes”.
Ruby Wax's very irreverent and amusing book “Frazzled” is an easy read about mindfulness. This was recommended to me by a friend and is amazing. Ruby has suffered for much of her life with depression and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Her book is not for people with the same horrible debilitating illness, it is for people like you and me who are quite simply “frazzled” with modern life. She tells the story in such a way it takes the stigma out of admitting how stressed and anxtious you are.
There are some quick and simple tools you can use. Reading about mindfulness it sounds like a cure for a problem, but it really isn’tmoreover it is prevention. Prevention from rushing through life and being in danger of exploding one day. The government will soon be recommending mindfulness just like our 5 a day because modern day life is interrupting our enjoyment at every available point.
Where to start? Do nothing.
Much of what you read about mindfulness is about taking out ten minutes at least twice a day to do nothing, empty your mind and do and think about nothing apart from maybe your breathing. This is a big ask for some people but there are other ways to start the process of mindfulness.
Here are a few quick mindfulness tips supported by the NHS:
1. STOP (yes, the opening line was very relevant!) what you’re doing and take time to notice your breathing and your surroundings. Listen to your breathing, and you’ll soon be aware of the rise and fall of your body as you breathe in and out.
2. Take time to sit in the garden or perhaps a park during your lunch break. Sit somewhere peaceful and just notice the nature around you, the sounds of the birds or the way the grass moves in the wind. Notice determinedly the first two bites of your lunch and concentrate on the textures and tastes.
3. Breathe in the smells around you, this can help you feel positive about your day. This may include the freshly baked bread from the bakery on the way to work or the scent of flowers as you pass a garden or a florist.
4. Take a moment to think about when you zone out. This may be while emailing, texting or doing the washing. Next time you do that activity, practise being more aware of it. Breathe slowly while concentrating on the task and bring yourself back to focus on what you are doing. Ground yourself to that task or activity.
5. When you are walking, don’t worry or feel stressed about your destination or your to-do list, tune in to how your body moves as you put one step in front of another.
6. Each evening, plan the next day. Take time to prioritise what is important. Doing this will avoid a stressful rush in the morning helping us to enjoy our environment. This may include breakfast with your partner or family, or catching a later train to avoid the rush hour.
Enjoy ‘me’ time
Mindfulness greatest benefit is that it allows you to enjoy some quiet time with yourself and your thoughts. This can easily be forgotton with the demands of busy lives, this can easily be forgotten.
Research has shown that people who practice mindfulness see positive changes in their lives through improvements in their wellbeing, concentration levels and ability to enjoy themselves. Where better to see these benefits than in the workplace?