The what, why and how of Mindfulness in the workplace
About the author:
Robbie Hunter-Paul is a former professional rugby player; playing 19 seasons and representing his country, New Zealand, 29 times. Robbie graduated from Huddersfield University with a BA in marketing and pr. Never one to back down from a challenge, in 2016 Robbie launched his own company: Xtra Mile Marketing and is an official ambassador for Rugby League Cares.
Hi, or Kia ora, as they say in New Zealand.
Modern life has us rushing about preoccupied and worried about what has happened in our past, what might happen in our futures and what we might be missing out on now! This isn’t a healthy state to be in 100% of the time.
Mindfulness is a state of awareness where you internally review your thought patterns with the aim of becoming more aware of the present, giving your head a break from this mind traffic overload.
In 2011 I retired from professional rugby following a 19-season long career. Those that know me will understand that I loved being a pro, living my childhood dream and learning incredible skills along the way, skills I’ve been able to transfer into my post-sportsman career in the business world.
There were a few skills, though, that I didn’t need in the ‘real world’, like reacting both physically and mentally to aggression with aggression. I quickly learnt that by letting impulse control the reigns of my actions instead of composed rational thought, it created more problems than solutions.
I searched for a way in which to help me unpick the years of conditioning and help me rewire my brain to allow me to manage stressful situations, help me understand what triggers I had, and how to keep the ‘chimp’ caged in its box (sometimes it’s a gorilla).
I ‘discovered’ mindfulness: this approach has revolutionised my understanding of the world, or at least how I understand my world to be. Occasionally when life gets tough it helps me release the pressure valve and it has now become less something that I do when needed, rather an actually part of my daily routine and who I am.
In this blog we aim to explain the why, what and how of mindfulness. We focus on our needs, benefits of practice and the research proving its viability as a health and mental fitness support tool.
The headline areas covered in this blog:
Why we need mindfulness
What is mindfulness
How it helps
The Offload Approach
So, let’s take a look in detail.
Why we need mindfulness
We live in an extremely busy world, with work responsibilities keeping your thoughts on deadlines, the extensive list of tasks and duties your role requires and even managing egos (both above and below you in your corporate hierarchy).
Along with work, you’re thinking of home life, about spouses, kids, cooking dinner, food shopping, cleaning the house, how many calories you’ve eaten, will you still fit those jeans, health and fitness, mortgages, rent, and bills.
It’s no wonder we often feel like our heads are so full they’re ready to burst! We live in a ‘Always On’ culture constantly thinking about either what we did, what we need to do or what we are missing out on, leading to stress and anxiety and lowering our ability to be resilient and cope.
Learning how to take a break from this overloading of information and thoughts is incredibly important to our health and mental fitness.
Mindfulness is the approach that can be learned and used to reach the state of being present and rested from our own busy minds.
What is Mindfulness?
We’ve all done it, jumped in a car and then arrived at our destination and thought to ourselves ‘How on earth did I get here?’ Your body went into robot mode and automated all of your actions bringing you to your destination while your mind wrestled with a subject that had almost the entirety of your attention.
You remember your thoughts about the issue that was troubling you but you had no recollection of making a left or right turn, using the indicator, changing gear or giving way to traffic. Your full concentration was preoccupied and, in a sense, your subconscious was driving the car. Scary, right?
Often what we are preoccupied with can leave us mentally exhausted, which can lead to further mental health issues. So, the aim of being mindful is to consciously engage with the ‘present’ moment or a ‘present’ activity, which offers the user respite from our own busy minds.
When practicing mindfulness, you explore the feelings created by your thoughts, with curious detachment and like a passenger in your own mind, whilst at the same time still being connected and in control.
You aim to not judge but to acknowledge what being ‘present’ challenges us with, whether the impressions are positive or negative, helping us to avoid being overwhelmed by them and better able to manage them.
Many practitioners will deliver and use mindfulness in its specific form of activities like meditations, breathing and yoga. They can take the form of observing your breathing, body scanning, hyper exploration of a single object, walking with awareness and expanding your awareness to notice previously unnoticed details and much more.
How it helps
Mindfulness helps by engaging in attention and awareness training with a goal of being able to deal with experiences more productively.
It involves paying attention to thoughts, feelings and body sensations to increase awareness, acceptance and self-compassion.
Studies published by the University of Surrey in 2018 provide evidence of the effectiveness of the Be Mindful online course.
- A 58% reduction in anxiety levels
- A 63% reduction in depression
- A 40% reduction in stress
There is further evidence of mindfulness becoming more widely used among addiction treatment providers dealing with substance misuses and gambling.
There are strong indications that if we can cope with the negative experiences in our lives better we will become stronger and more productive. Being at your best will allow you to deliver your best and then reach your potential. Helping you maximise impact at home and in the workplace.
The Offload Approach
The message is that everyone can benefit from mindfulness practices. We all face pressures and stress and finding ways to release the associated emotions carefully will help us react constructively as opposed to amplifying negative situations.
The things that stress and challenge us may not change, but the way in which we deal with them can shift, making it all feel easier.
Being more aware and accepting of our thoughts and feelings means we are in a better place to make wise choices and deal with difficulties more effectively.
Rugby League Cares’s ‘Offload’ programme harnesses the tools and skills developed for and by elite athletes that help them deal with the pressure of life as a professional sportsman.
The Offload programme uses ex-professional sportsman and associated experts to deliver support and educate on mindfulness in the work place.
The programme will work with your staff to coach them on mindfulness, its practical uses and techniques for implementation include: (but aren’t limited to) mindful breathing, eating and listening.
The goal will be to help them to live in the present moment in an enjoyable way rather than worrying about the past or being concerned about the future.