The benefits of mindfulness in the workplace

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Health Assured team

25 June 2021

The past three months has seen the lifting of a large number of COVID-19 restrictions and daily life slowly regaining normality. Many people have now returned to the workplace after periods of working from home or furlough, and our weekends and evenings are once more filled with social activities.

With our lives getting busier and busier, it’s natural for our brains to be whirring with hundreds of thoughts surrounding work, social plans, deadlines and expectations – none of which help keep our minds in the present.

Therefore, it’s more important than ever to take the time out of our daily busyness to practice mindfulness, slow down our flurry of thoughts and bring ourselves back to the here and now.

What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness is the practice of focusing your attention solely on the current moment.

When we are ‘mindful’, we are paying attention to the ‘now’. This is achieved by relaxing, concentrating on sounds and thoughts and accepting the present moment without judgement.

Why should I practice mindfulness?

Research carried out by the University of Surrey found that practicing mindfulness could reduce stress and anxiety by as much as 40-58%.

Why should workplaces encourage mindfulness?

The Office of National Statistics (ONS) found that mental health conditions were one of the four most common reasons for sickness absence at work.

It doesn’t matter how much an employee loves or is capable of doing their job; it is impossible to be immune from deadlines, workloads, early starts or late finishes all of which can contribute towards stress and anxiety. Practicing mindfulness can help reduce this.

We know that mindfulness can help reduce stress and anxiety, but this isn’t the only benefit to exercising the mind. When done correctly and consistently, mindfulness can also contribute to:

  • Improving problem-solving abilities
  • Reducing the feeling of being overwhelmed
  • Appreciating life moments as they happen
  • Being adaptable
  • Increasing empathy

How can I practice mindfulness?

There are countless ways to bring the mind into the present. Mindfulness exercises can be as short as 60 seconds or as long an hour – it is complete personal preference. Taking just a minute out of your day can help ground you in the present.

Here are some examples of mindfulness exercises which are simple, effective, and only take a few minutes:

Breathing

It might sound too simple, but breathing exercises are one of the easiest and simplest ways to refocus the mind and reduce stress and anxiety.

There are hundreds of breathing exercises available but here are some examples to get you started:

  • Equal breathing: Find a comfortable position, and inhale slowly through the nose for a count of four seconds. Hold for four. Then exhale for four. Repeat.
  • Abdominal breathing: Sit and place one hand on your chest, and another on your belly. Breathe deeply through your nose, concentrating on your diaphragm. Exhale slowly and repeat.
  • Muscle relaxation: While concentrating on keeping breath slow and regular, focus on tensing and relaxing muscle groups for a few seconds each. Feel the tension melt away.
  • Relaxing breath: Place the tip of your tongue against the roof of your mouth and exhale fully. Inhale through your nose for a count of four, hold your breath for a count of seven, exhale –very slowly- for a count of eight.

Mindful body scan

Instead of focusing on the breath, mindful body scans focus on sensations within the body. By directing your attention to how each part of your body feels, you can better manage pain, stress and anxiety and improve on sleep, self-awareness, and self-compassion. Follow our easy steps to mindful body scans below.

  1. Find a comfortable position and close your eyes.
  2. Focus on how your body feels and feel the weight of yourself on the floor or the chair.
  3. Start by taking a few deep breaths, in through the nose out through the mouth.
  4. Starting from the top of your head, slowly move your attention through your body. Stop at each body part and notice how it fees, whether it is tense, relaxed, tingling, painful. Pay attention to each sensation and simply note it. If there is not sensation at all – just notice how that feels.
  5. Your attention will wander but when it does bring it back to the body part you were on and continue all the way to your toes.

The 54321 Grounding Technique

A very simple but powerful technique which is recommended to help with anxiety and stress if you are feeling overwhelmed, or just need to bring your mind back to the present.

The trick is simple and relies on the five senses of the body to refocus the mind:

  1. Notice 5 things you can see: this can be as simple as the colour of the walls, the leaves on a plant or the pattern of a wooden desk.
  2. Notice 4 things you can touch: the cool feel of a desk, the softness of your shirt or the feel of gravity itself.
  3. Notice 3 things you can hear: traffic in the distance, voices around you or birds outside.
  4. Notice 2 things you can smell: this can be a little trickier as there might not be an obvious answer. Focus and try and pick up something – it could be a subtle fragrance or even the smell of your own skin.
  5. Notice 1 thing you can taste: perhaps the lingering taste of coffee or mint from brushing your teeth.

 

This exercise can be repeated as many times as necessary. There are no right or wrong answers, it is all about breaking the cycle of stressful and anxious thoughts and centering the mind.

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Mindfulness tips and breathing exercises are accessible for all Health Assured customers within the My Healthy Advantage app, available for apple and android devices.

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