Mindful Matters

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Mindfulness practitioner Anna Black explains how living in the moment at work (yes, really) can help us perform at our best.

Stress at work is a leading cause of absenteeism and can have long-term health consequences. Regularly practicing mindfulness meditation can help, both physiologically and psychologically, because it helps us to become used to noticing what we are feeling in the head, heart, and body.

This awareness can cultivate a pause that is long enough for us to stop and stand back, thereby turning an automatic reaction into a considered response, which can have a valuable practical application. Take this example, from Alex:

“I was exchanging emails with a client who, I thought, was being needlessly obstructive about something I’d been hoping to finalise that day. As I typed a reply to him I was aware of how annoyed I was – I could feel it in the way I hammered the keyboard! Noticing this was enough to make me pause”.

Alex’s awareness of what was happening in her body as well as of the rising irritation and frustration had been cultivated through regularly practicing mindfulness. Her awareness acted like a red flag, giving her the ability to stop rather than react impulsively and potentially damage a relationship.

The “workplace” can take different forms – for many of us it is an office, but it could be a hospital or clinic, a school or college, a prison or law enforcement agency, a shop, or an establishment in the service industry. You might work at a desk or in the outdoors, within a team of people or perhaps from home, interacting rarely with others.

Whatever you do and wherever you do it, the bottom line is that the workplace is where all of us spend the majority of time as adults and, regardless of whether we enjoy it or not, we work to earn a living and contribute to society. Work gives us an identity and often a particular status in society.

This is significant because if our identity is defined by what we do, and we spend the majority of our waking life at work, when something goes wrong or becomes challenging in our work environment, the effect on us can be devastating. Evidence suggests that many of us find the workplace challenging. The Health and Safety Executive in the UK reports that one in five employees feels very or extremely stressed at work. That’s the equivalent of five million people in the UK.

But how can we slow down and avoid getting swept up in the fast-paced world of work and home-life? One way we can do this is by practicing mindfulness meditation.

Mindfulness is commonly defined as ‘deliberately paying attention to your experience as it arises without judgement’. As the evidence base for the therapeutic uses of mindfulness-based approaches to health is growing all the time, the wider applications of mindfulness continue to be explored. Today there are mindfulness programmes in schools, prisons, in sports as well as healthcare, and it is practiced as much by healthcare providers as by patients themselves. In addition, there is an entire area of mindfulness in the workplace.

The evidence for the benefits of mindfulness at work is compelling. Transport for London (TfL) employees who received mindfulness-based training reported improvements in their relationships (80%), in the ability to relax (79%), in their sleep patterns (64%), and in happiness at work (53%). These improvements continued long after the course had finished. Absenteeism due to stress, anxiety, and depression fell by 71% over the following three years.

We all suffer from stress at some point in our lives, and learning to be present can make our lives feel richer and more fulfilling and help us manage the ups ands downs of everyday life.

 

For more info visit www.mindfulness-meditation-now.com

 

86% of people agree that “people would be much happier and healthier if they knew how to slow down and live in the moment” *

* According to a 2010 report on mindfulness by the UK’s Mental Health Foundation.

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