What is mindfulness?

Hearing the word mindfulness often conjures up images of someone sitting peacefully on a yoga mat, surrounded by candles, the sound of calming music, eyes shut and breathing rhythmically as they shut out the outside world. Whilst this isa form of mindfulness (more mindful meditation), mindfulness is the every day practice of being in the present moment. It’s the practice of focusing all your attention and senses on one moment and acknowledging the feelings and emotions that arouse from it.

 Why is mindfulness important?

We live in a fast-paced world in which we are constantly multi-tasking and thinking about the next thing on our to-do-list. Have you ever gotten to work and not really remembered the journey? Watched a television programme and not been able to recall what happened, or eaten a meal and not paid attention to the flavours and textures? For many of us we spend our free time scrolling through our phones; browsing the internet or social media, catching up on emails or texting friends or loved ones – our minds are never still, and we are constantly stimulating our brains. Whilst we are thinking and doing our brains do not have the time and space to process everything that is going on around us, which manifests in many different forms, such as stress, a feeling of being overwhelmed, anxiety, depression, insomnia etc.

What are the benefits of practicing mindfulness?

  1. Better stress management – if we can focus on the present and not allow ourselves to get lost in thoughts about what could happen in the future, or has happened in the past, the opportunities for worrying and feeling overwhelmed suddenly become fewer.
  2. Our relationships improve – being mindful around people means that we listen to what they say, notice how they look and feel, respond to their body language and make true connections through quality conversations. We’re all guilty of pretending to listen whilst our mind wanders to a totally different place.
  3. Productivity increases – focusing on one task at a time and not allowing yourself to be distracted by roaming thoughts, the constant flow of messages on your phone or reliving a conversation you had earlier, means you will work better and faster creating so much time for yourself.
  4. It improves your relationship with your body – there is no doubt that there is a strong connection between our brain and our body. Ever eat too much and suddenly feel fatigued and unable to concentrate? Ever feel uncomfortable in your clothes and feel a bit low all day? That’s the connection right there. Being mindful about the foods we eat and the impact they have on our body can do wonders for our confidence and energy levels.
  5. It improves sleep – if we allow ourselves enough time in the day to process our thoughts and emotions and provide our mind with some space without being overstimulated, then when it comes to going to bed at night our brain is not still running at a million miles an hour, making it impossible to get some quality sleep.

It’s easy to see how mindfulness does not just impact your mind but your overall health and wellbeing. Make sure you are giving yourself the time and space to be more mindful. And remember; it’s a process – you won’t master it straight away, but practice makes perfect! Click here for ways to incorporate mindfulness in to your daily routine.

 

Seven ways to be more mindful every day

7 ways to be more mindful

Mindfulness can sound overwhelming and technical, but it doesn’t have to be. It’s important to remember that getting good at practicing mindfulness takes time; start with small changes and build on them as you get better. Here are seven simple ways that you can start incorporating mindfulness into your everyday life:

1. Mindful mornings

So many of us reach for our phones as soon as we open our eyes. We don’t even give our brains the opportunity to acknowledge how we feel when we wake up, what our concerns are about the day ahead or what we’re excited about – whatever we see on our phones dictates this to us. Spend the first five minutes of your morning checking in with yourself; how does your body feel, what thoughts enter your mind, acknowledge them and let them pass. Sometimes it can help to write things down, not as a to do list but just as a way of acknowledging the way we feel.

2. Put your phone away

Do you reach for your phone as soon as you sit down, stand in a queue or have time to kill? Put it away and let your mind be still for that time instead, check in with your mind and your body and how you’re feeling.

3. Practice mindful eating

How often do you eat in front of a screen, whether it’s a computer, a TV or a phone? We’re all guilty. This draws your attention away from your food, the flavours you’re tasting, the smells and textures as well as your body’s natural signals which let you know when you’ve had enough. Practice eating away from a screen

4. Mindful listening

The next time you have a conversation with someone, listen. Don’t allow your mind to wander, pass judgement on what is being said or think about what you are going to say back. Don’t just hear what they are saying, listen to their words.

5. Check in

So often we rush from one task or event to another and do so with a list of things rattling through our head. We’re never fully present when we arrive as our mind continues to rattle through and add to that list. The next time you arrive somewhere, take a deep breath, acknowledge where you are and what you’ve come to do and leave every other thought at the door.

6. Schedule time for nothing

It may feel like a weird thing to do, many of us feel uncomfortable and guilty even just sitting down and doing nothing. You’ll be amazed at how much difference even just five minutes of stillness can make. Whether you flop on your bed, sit in your favourite chair or find a sunny spot in the garden, take time to just be alone with your thoughts.

7. Exercise

Many of us don’t realise just how mindful we become when we exercise. You’re often left concentrating so hard on doing a certain exercise or just making it through the class that your mind has no space to think about anything else – that is mindfulness at it’s best. It’s one of the reasons exercise is so good for stress management and linked to making us happier people.

Try adding one or two of these to your daily routine and gradually add more as you get better.

Five tips for workplace wellness

Workplace wellness blog image

One-third of your adult life is spent at work. That’s a pretty big chunk of your life which is why it’s important to make sure that your work place is having a positive impact on your health and wellness and not a negative one.

Whilst more businesses are offering a spectrum of ‘wellness’ benefits to employees there is still a long way to go for some, and we can still take ownership of ensuring we are looking after our own health. I’ve created a list of the five things I think are most important when it comes to looking after yourself in the office:

Stay hydrated

We often get to the end of the day and realise that we’ve been sipping on tea and coffee all day and only had the occasional glass of water. Up to 60% of the human body is made up of water which helps the body function on a daily basis by aiding digestion, flushing waste, delivering oxygen to different parts of the body, and the list goes on. Keeping a bottle of water on your desk helps as a constant reminder to keep drinking. Drinking herbal teas also counts towards your daily fluid intake. It’s recommended that we aim for 2 litres of water per day, if you’ve participated in exercise where your daily losses (sweat) would be higher then you may need a little more to replace this.

Keep moving

Many of us have a job which involves siting at a desk for 6-8 hours a day, followed by relaxing in front of the tv or with a book (in a seated position). Inbetween all this we are commuting – mostly seated. When we are siting we are using very little energy and not a lot of muscle movement is happening, which is not great for our health and wellbeing. Where possible, try to get up and walk around, use your lunch time as an opportunity to go for a walk (even 10 minutes is better than nothing) and on your way to and from work find ways to walk a little more – whether that’s getting off the bus one stop earlier or parking a street or two away. All of these little batches of steps add up and can make a big difference. Going for a walk and some fresh air at lunch time can also do wonders for your energy levels and productivity.

Be aware of non-hunger snacking

Snacking can often be caused by emotion; we snack when we’re stressed, upset, frustrated or even bored. All common workplaces are full of emotions, so it’s no wonder we find ourselves reaching for a little pick-me-up, not to mention all the treats that get brought in by the office star bakers which make it near impossible to choose an apple over a gooey chocolate brownie. Whilst the occasional treat is most certainly allowed, avoid getting into the habit of reaching for a sugary snack. Go to work armed with healthy options, as having these to hand makes it easier to make a better snack choice. Nuts, fresh fruit and vegetables, wholegrain crackers with peanut butter, air popped pop-corn, yoghurt are all great options.

Be conscious of your caffeine intake

Although there are benefits to drinking caffeine, such as increased concentration and alertness, having too much can have a negative impact. Consuming more than the recommended amount of 400mg per day can cause headaches, irritability, nervousness, upset stomach and sleeplessness. Coffee, tea, soft drinks and energy drinks are all sources of caffeine so try and be aware of how much your consuming. For more information on the caffeine content in certain drinks click here. If you’re struggling to sleep at night, try and avoid caffeine in the afternoon as it can stay in your system for 5-10 hours.

Practice being mindful

It’s so easy to get stuck in a rut of going to work, charging through the day and heading home again. When last did you stop and take the time to think – think about how that healthy lunch gave you energy to be productive in the afternoon or how that walk you went for at lunch time gave you perspective after a challenging meeting? How did it feel to take five minutes out of your day to catch up with a colleague and share a few lol’s? What about spending a few minutes after each meeting thinking about what you learnt, what could have been done differently, what didn’t work well? Giving yourself time to reflect on your day and different elements of your day helps you to identify things you do and do not enjoy as well as, areas of strength or gaps in skill/knowledge that you can develop further. It can also help you to become aware of tasks that energise or drain you and by learning more about yourself you can improve your overall wellness.

Always remember that you’re not only at work to do a job and earn a pay cheque – you’re there to grow and develop, improve your skills and knowledge and stimulate yourself. In order to do these things well we have to be well so looking after yourself should be your top priority.