“Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us. Mindfulness is a quality that every human being already possesses, it’s not something you have to conjure up, you just have to learn how to access it.” www.mindful.org
Mindfulness in the workplace
For many companies, addressing issues relating to staff stress and alienation brought on by the pandemic has become a priority. Many studies have indicated better relaxation and stress management by meditation techniques where one learns how to stop trying to control the content of the mind. With a view to limiting burnout, disengagement, sick days and strained relationships in the workplace, more and more businesses are turning to Mindfulness practices as a form of mental first aid preventative care for their employees.
"In the wake of COVID-19, it’s never been more critical for business and HR leaders to address the mental well-being of their teams head-on." www.get.headpsace.com
Near the end of the tumultuous year that was 2020, EHL staff members were invited to participate in a Mindfulness Introductory Workshop. The workshop’s aim was to improve well-being at work and in home office, and offer relaxation tools to improve stress management.
The benefits of calming mind and body
In recent years, the term “Mindfulness” has come to mean an easily-accessible form of meditation. Whereas the latter may have had too many mystical or spiritual connotations in the past, the newly-marketed secular concept of mindfulness has helped bring the benefits of calming the mind and body to the average western layperson. What was once thought to be attainable only after many trips to India and years of reclusive training, has actually been revealed as a very simple technique involving breathing and awareness, available to anyone.
The proven mental, physical and emotional benefits of detaching oneself from the busy ‘monkey mind’ are many:
- Better brain function
- Better sleep
- Increased clarity, awareness and concentration
- A strengthened immune system
- Less automated responses
- Calmer response to stress and anxiety
Mindfulness workshop insights:
- We are very tied to our past/the familiar/the known.
- Many of our reactions and responses are on auto pilot.
- 95% of our thoughts today are tied to what happened yesterday.
- Humans and machines have become inextricably tied, impacting how we respond to our environment.
- Living and working via screens has led to an increase in sensorial overload, addiction to information, reduction in attention span, difficulty in de-connecting, sleep problems and stress.
- Today’s society expects us to quickly adapt without allowing time to re-center ourselves.
- Our perception of the stress we experience is not always based on the true situation.
- Reconnecting to our breath gives us access to the consciousness of our nervous system.
- During meditation, we access a state of serene vigilance, a “flow state”. Beta brain waves (associated with goal-orientated tasks) are reduced and alpha waves increased.
Alpha waves are more abundant in the posterior parts of the brain during meditation than during simple relaxation. They are characteristic of wakeful rest. "This wave type has been used as a universal sign of relaxation during meditation and other types of rest," comments Professor Øyvind Ellingsen from NTNU. "The amount of alpha waves increases when the brain relaxes from intentional, goal-oriented tasks. This is a sign of deep relaxation, but it does not mean that the mind is void." www.sciencedaily.com
Mindfulness best practices:
- Choose a seat. A chair, a meditation cushion, a park bench, the floor - find a spot that feels solid and stable to you. If on a cushion on the floor, cross your legs comfortably in front of you. If on a chair, the bottoms of your feet should be touching the floor. Straighten but don’t stiffen your upper body. Arms should rest gently on your thighs or knees.
- Chin slightly dropped, gaze gently downward. You can slightly lower your eyelids, or if preferred, lower them completely, but it’s not necessary to close your eyes when meditating. You can simply let what appears before your eyes be there without focusing on it.
- Feel and follow your breath. Place your awareness on the natural in and out movement of your breath. If you notice it is quite fast and shallow, you may wish to deepen it by breathing more via the lower belly. Follow the physical sensation of breathing: the air moving through your nose, the rising and falling of your belly or chest.
- Gently retrieve your attention. Inevitably, your attention will leave the breath and wander to other places. When you notice this – whether it’s a few seconds or even a few minutes – gently return your attention to the breath. Don’t judge yourself, fret or engage with the content of these thoughts. Be kind to your wandering mind, even if at the start it seems to dart around all the time.
- Simple but not easy. The theory is simple to take in, but the practice can prove less easy to execute. The secret lies in starting with short, regular sessions. The idea is to gradually train the mind to detach itself from its constant flurry of activity and simply settle on the breath. Beginners may benefit from guided meditations with a reassuring voice that accompanies them through the process.
Keep practicing, results and benefits will increase exponentially!
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