Mindfulness is a form of meditation. It is a practical skill to simply observe, but not engage with, thoughts, physical sensations, experiences and feelings. The skill sounds simple but is challenging because it's so different to how we normally behave. Regular mindfulness practice can change activity levels in the brain and even its physical structure. It gives individuals a powerful tool to dramatically improve the quality of their lives.
Mindfulness is a discipline that can help most people live healthier and more productive lives. The word itself is a translation of a phrase that simply means awareness. Its origins lie in Buddhist teaching, however, over the last 20-30 years it has gained widespread acceptance as a standalone skill.
Simply put mindfulness is the ability to observe but not engage with thoughts, physical sensations, experiences and feelings. Mindfulness allows you to take your emotional reaction out of autopilot and respond in a more measured and detached way to the challenges of daily life. This sounds simple but is challenging because it’s so different to how we normally behave.
Mindfulness nurtures the emotional intelligence, intuition and creativity required to look at problems in innovative ways. It helps people to observe their thinking in a detached way and to drop constructs that are outmoded or unhelpful. Mindfulness helps people to take a step back from the immediate demands of day-to-day work and reflect upon what is important to their success and why it is important. It helps people working in fluid and fast-moving environments to better manage stress both “in the moment” and also over time and to become more emotionally and physically resilient.
Regular mindfulness practice can change activity levels in the brain and even its physical structure. There is now a growing body of evidence that regularly practicing mindfulness improves focus; increases creativity, reduces stress and anxiety, improves health, helps manage addiction and improves sleep.
In a survey of senior executives who had completed a seven-week mindfulness course at Fortune 200 company General Mills 80% reported a positive change in their ability to make decisions while 89% reported they had become better listeners as a result of taking the course (Source: “The Mind Business. The Financial Times, August 24, 2012).
What Stress Costs Your Company
There is an increasing awareness of the prevalence of stress, anxiety and depression and its impact on individuals and organisations. While the causes are complex what is clear is that this stress damage relationships, families and careers and costs companies talent.
It’s estimated that at any one time in the UK one worker in six will be experiencing depression, anxiety or problems related to stress. This goes up to one in five if you include alcohol and drug dependence. (Source: Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health website). More than 50% of people say they have “difficulty relaxing or switching off", and that they can’t stop thinking about "things they’ve got to do,” according to surveys (Source: The Mindfulness Report. London. The Mental Health Foundation). A third of people suffer from insomnia with half of this group attributing this to stress (Source: National Health Service and National Sleep Foundation).
There has been substantial work undertaken on the cost of stress to the economy and business. 12.8 million days taken off work each year are attributable to stress, anxiety & depression, and 37-45% of workplace absences are estimated to be stress-related (Source The HSE Self-Reported Work-related Illness Survey & The Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health). The Organisation of Economic Co-Operation & Development (OECD) estimates that the cost of issues such as stress to be £1,035 per employee and £70bn or 4.5% of GDP for the UK economy as a whole. Furthermore about 4-5% of staff will leave a typical company each year due to stress.
The Science Behind Mindfulness
We have discovered more about the human brain in the last 20 years than in the entirety of history, according to neuroscientists. We have learnt that simply by paying attention in a particular way we are able to change the physical structure of the brain, its performance and activity. This is underpinned by research from many of the world’s leading universities and science institutes including Oxford, Harvard and Stanford. These studies have concluded that regular practice of mindfulness can improve focus, increase creativity, reduce stress and anxiety, improve health, help manage addictions and improve sleep.
Mindfulness improves our ability to sustain attention and improves focus under pressure. It improves performance across a number of cognitive tests.
Mindfulness allows us to observe our own thought processes, feelings and experience with greater clarity and in new and interesting ways. It allows us greater access to our sub-conscious and has been shown to be linked to synaptogenesis (the creation of new neurological pathways) within the brain.
Stressful situations stimulate activity in the amygdala region of the brain, which increases heart and respiration rates and blood pressure and stops the proper working of the parasympathetic nervous system.
Regular meditation has been shown to reduce activity in this part of the brain and even change the physical structure of the brain; thus reducing the stress response and the long-term damage of stress.
Anxiety, Depression & Addiction
Mindfulness has been found to offer as much relief from some anxiety and depressive symptoms as anti-depressants and has been shown to be effective in treatment of drug, food and alcohol addiction.
Mindfulness has been shown to be helpful in reducing the time to get to sleep for people with sleeping problems and in improving the quality of that sleep.
Physical Health And Wellbeing
Mindfulness boosts your immune system, lowers blood pressure and heart disease and improves the working of the parasympathetic nervous system (which is responsible for digestion and reproduction).
YogaAt & Our Mindfulness Programmes
90 minute Introduction To Mindfulness
This is a practical and simple introduction to mindfulness. Participants learn what mindfulness is, and explore how it can help them deal with stress, anxiety, negative thoughts and difficult emotional patterns in everyday life. They will practice some mindfulness meditation under guidance and learn some simple techniques to reduce tension and relax for use in daily life.
Half-day Mindfulness Programmes
This programme includes an introduction to mindfulness including what it is, its background and the science behind it. Participants will practice a number of different types of mindfulness meditation and mindful exercises. There will also be group and small group exercises to reinforce learning and practical advice on incorporating mindfulness into your routine or within your organisation. The half-day finishes with an informal lunch for participants and the trainer. All programmes include an initial consultation to ensure your programme reflects your organisation, expectations and goals, a formal or informal feedback exercise and a review meeting.
Custom-built programmes, multi-week courses and regular classes are also available and programmes can be incorporated into existing training programmes.