Mindfulness at Work is the leading provider of quality professional Mindful Leadership & Mindfulness Workplace Training in Ireland. We go into organisations and deliver courses, workshops and talks to develop and inspire leaders and teams develop skills so they can work and live more consciously.
Did you know that over 40% of professionals report loosing sleep because they can’t get the job off their minds, and 60% of millennials?
The ‘always on’ culture is a major contributor, with over a third of workers admitting that they check their phone for work immediately before sleep and when they wake up. (1)
Sleep is a wellness issue – at work and at home
Yet, sleep is vital to positive wellbeing. It enhances your memory, enriches your ability to learn and make good decisions. It keeps you slim, fine tunes your metabolism and your appetite. It protects you from cancer and dementia. It wards off colds and flu. It lowers your risk of heart attacks and stroke, not to mention diabetes. It re-calibrates your emotions, re-stocks your immune system, inspires creativity.
In ‘Why we Sleep’, Matthew Walker maintains that a silent sleep-loss epidemic, “is having a catastrophic impact on our health, our life expectancy, our safety, our productivity and the education of our children”(2). Walker’s advice to everyone is to sleep 8 or 9 hours a night.
He describes how insufficient sleep harms the brain, demolishes the immune system, disrupts the body’s blood sugar balance and damages coronary arteries. Long-term consequences include elevated risks of Alzheimer’s, cancer, diabetes, heart disease and stroke.
Sleep is a workplace wellness issue
When it comes to work, obviously sleep deprived employees do not make for effective and engaged staff.
“When we are sleep deprived, concentration is impaired, we are more likely to demonstrate greater risk-taking behaviours, communication is decreased, performance deteriorates and sickness increases “(3).
Yet, almost one third of employees sleep less than 7 hours per night. Rand Europe carried out a very comprehensive study on the impact of sleep, which concluded that the economic cost of tired employees being less productive or absent from work altogether amounted to almost 2% of GDP.
How can employers support good sleep for their employees?
Making employees aware of the research and providing them with practical tools so they can improve their own sleep can be helpful, including breathing techniques, good diet routines, relaxation rituals etc.
At work, fostering a healthy culture in terms of sleep means encouraging people to take breaks, leave the office to walk, get natural light, take holidays; creating quiet rooms for rest etc.
What can you do to help yourself to sleep better?
(Matthew’s Tips for Good Sleep – see the full article here)
Stick to a sleep schedule
Aim to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day.
Don’t exercise too late in the day
Exercise is great, and we should try to exercise at least 30 minutes on most days. But try to time it no later than 2-3 hours before bed.
Avoid caffeine & nicotine
Colas, coffee, teas (that aren’t herbal) and chocolate contain caffeine, which is a stimulant. Nicotine is also a mild stimulant.
Avoid alcoholic drinks before bed
The presence of alcohol in the body can reduce your REM sleep, keeping you in the lighter stages of sleep.
Avoid large meals and beverages late at night
A lights snack before bed is okay, but a heavy meal can cause digestive issues. Drinking fluids late can cause frequent awakenings to urinate.
Where possible, avoid medicines that delay or disrupt your sleep
Some commonly prescribed heart, blood pressure or asthma medications can disrupt sleep patterns. It may be possible to take them earlier.
Don’t nap after 3pm
Naps are great, but taking them too late in the day can make it hard to fall asleep at night.
Make sure to leave time to relax before bed
It’s important to have time before bed to unwind. Try to schedule your days so that there is time to relax before bed.
Take a hot bath before bed
The drop in body temperature after a bath may help you to feel sleepy, and the bath can help you to slow down and relax before bed.
Have a dark, cool (in temperature), gadget free bedroom
We sleep better if the temperature in the room is kept on the cool side. Gadgets such as mobile phones and computers can be a distraction.
Get the right sunlight exposure
Sun exposure during the day helps us to regulate sleeping patterns. Try to get outside in the natural sunlight for at least 30 minutes per day.
Don’t stay in bed if you (really) can’t sleep
If you find yourself still in bed for more than 20 minutes, awake or you’re starting to get anxious in bed, get up until you feel sleepy.
Sources for Sleep is a workplace wellness issue
Business in the Community and Public Health England launched a toolkit to provide information, resources and actions that employers can take to maximise employee energy through effective sleep and recovery. The toolkit can be accessed here
Did you know that when we have untreated depression in mid life, it doubles the risk of developing dementia later in life compared with people who don’t have that history?
So, actually saving your mental health in midlife, actually saves your brain health later in life.
Mindfulness, mental health and the prevention of dementia
This is the sobering message that Nasreen Khatri gives us in her presentation.
She explains the connection between cognitive health and mental health – both of which make up brain health…
Cognitive health is simply things that involve thinking, concentration and mental activities, planning etc.
Mental health is our sense of emotional wellbeing and our psychological stability.
Depression is a risk factor for dementia. This means that people who have untreated depression in mid life are twice as likely to develop dementia later in life than people with no such history.
Mindfulness is good for mental health and the prevention of dementia
So, it’s really important to make sure that you are doing all the right things for your heart and mental health. The basics apply like: Exercise, good diet, sleep, social connection and also Mindfulness.
She says: Mindfulness has something for everyone. It is consistent with ageing and developing wisdom:
It slows you down
Lets you relax and reduce stress
Proven benefits are improved mood, memory and learning, a healthy brain health even with a very short 5 – 10min practice.
More on: The Link between Mindfulness, mental health and the prevention of dementia
The secret of happiness is to savour the moment we are in.
Because this moment is really the only time any of us have to see the sky, to hear the birdsong, to smile or hug someone, to say a kind word, to be generous to a stranger, to love with our whole hearts, to live our precious lives…
Savour moment by moment
The past is over, the future may never come but THIS MOMENT is ours to be in as we choose.
Savour moment by moment – ‘presence of heart’ matters…
When we are present and mindful, we get out of our heads and into our hearts. We experience life more deeply and begin to see that the small things aren’t small after all.
Have a look at this wonderful clip by Louie Schwartzberg to remind you to savour each moment…
Gratitude HD - Moving Art™ - YouTube
Savour moment by moment – the sublime is in the ordinary
Whether it is the sound of the sea or our child’s laughter, the smell of cinnamon or lemon, the feel of a cuddle or a bracing breeze, how good it is to have time to share with loved ones…we notice and savour the sublime in the most ordinary moments of each day ….
The moments that make up Christmas 2017, build memories; are the story of our lives…
Listen to this short Guided Mindfulness Practice
Click below to access an 8 minute practice to encourage you to savour each moment…
Despite all of our best intentions to avoid the pitfalls of the season – stress, sadness, loneliness, anger – we may end up failing.
What do we do then? When everything feels like it has fallen apart and we are such a mess?
Bring it back to self – Be Response Able
“If your house is on fire, the most urgent thing to do is to go back and try to put out the fire, not to run after the person you believe to be the arsonist…. so when you are angry if you continue to interact or argue with the other person, if you try to punish her, you are acting exactly like someone who runs after the arsonist while everything goes up in flames.” Thich Nhat Hanh
The first step is to take responsibility for your own feelings instead of blaming someone or something else.
We avoid doing this because we are afraid and don’t want to feel bad. So, it is important that you are able to support yourself with compassion and kindness at these challenging times.
Bring it back to self – Self Compassion helps…
Most of us feel compassion when someone we care about is struggling but we can be very harsh and judgemental with ourselves which only makes a difficult situation worse.
Self compassion is an act of courage that stands up to harm, including the hurt that we inflict on ourselves through self-criticism / isolation / rumination when we are ‘not getting it right’. This attitude helps us to take responsibility for our feelings, admit our mistakes, forgive ourselves and move on.
Guided Self Compassion Practice helps you to support yourself
Click below to access a guided Self Compassion Break to help you support yourself when challenged.
Did you know that human beings are wired for survival rather than for happiness?
Our brain has evolved to facilitate survival. From a simple survival perspective, it makes sense to pay more attention to negative or threatening experience than to the good and beautiful parts of our lives.
This is called the negativity bias. Our default position is to ruminate over the past and scan the future looking for problems.
And, these problems don’t even have to be ‘real’!
Our buttons can get pressed by things we imagine.
Our bodies don’t discern a difference.
We interpret events not as they are but as we are.
As many of us are grouchy and under pressure now, we may imagine we have been ‘snubbed’ for instance and build a big story around something entirely fictitious, “how could she treat me like this?”
One of my Mom’s great legacies was her generosity.
This was a quality she held dearly, one she was determined to pass onto her children.
So, she used to recite endlessly,
“It is better to give than to receive”.
It turns out, that my mom was right!…
Give generously – and be happier…
Research shows CAUSAL relationship
Research now shows not just a positive correlation but a causal relationship between generosity and happiness. The generosity can include yourself. We know how nice it feels to treat ourselves from time to time but actually generosity towards another (even a total stranger) makes us even HAPPIER.
Giving your time and money away creates neurochemical changes in your brain that make you happier.
So, what would you like to give this Christmas?
Why are we not more generous if it makes so much sense?
That little voice in the head – fear – tells us that we don’t have enough and if we give something away we will have less.
The truth is the opposite…
Irish people are known around the world for their generosity and kindness. The gift of our history is a deep compassion for poor people or anyone struggling (a knowing deep inside – “there but for the grace of God go I”).
It is a legacy to be proud of and to foster and grow.
The Paradox of Generosity shows that generosity is a circular flow so, like a boomerang whatever you give out comes back to you! and of course, we know this…
11 minute Guided Loving Kindness Meditation Practice
“not an absence but a presence; not emptiness but repletion. Silence is something more than just a pause;
it is that enchanted place where space is cleared and time is stayed and the horizon itself expands…
In silence, we often say, we can hear ourselves think; but what is truer to say is that in silence we can hear ourselves not think, and so sink below our selves into a place far deeper than mere thought allows. In silence, we might better say, we can hear someone else think.
Or simply breathe.
For silence is responsiveness, and in silence we can listen to something behind the clamor of the world.
“A man who loves God, necessarily loves silence,” wrote Thomas Merton, who was, as a Trappist, a connoisseur, a caretaker of silences.
It is no coincidence that places of worship are places of silence: if idleness is the devil’s playground, silence may be the angels’.
So it is that we might almost say silence is the tribute we pay to holiness; we slip off words when we enter a sacred space, just as we slip off shoes.
A “moment of silence” is the highest honor we can pay someone; it is the point at which the mind stops and something else takes over (words run out when feelings rush in).
A “vow of silence” is for holy men the highest devotional act. We hold our breath, we hold our words; we suspend our chattering selves and let ourselves “fall silent,” and fall into the highest place of all.
In silence, suddenly, it seems as if all the windows of the world are thrown open and everything is as clear as on a morning after rain. Silence, ideally, hums. It charges the air.
…Silence, then, could be said to be the ultimate province of trust: it is the place where we trust ourselves to be alone; where we trust others to understand the things we do not say; where we trust a higher harmony to assert itself.
We all know how treacherous are words, and how often we use them to paper over embarrassment, or emptiness, or fear of the larger spaces that silence brings.
“Words, words, words” commit us to positions we do not really hold, the imperatives of chatter; words are what we use for lies, false promises and gossip. We babble with strangers; with intimates we can be silent. We “make conversation” when we are at a loss; we unmake it when we are alone, or with those so close to us that we can afford to be alone with them.
In love, we are speechless; in awe, we say, words fail us.
Our bodies like to move and we feel better and more energetic when we are active.
Feel good chemicals are released in our brains, we let go of tension, which alleviates anxiety, stress, irritation and fatigue.
Move Your Body
We relax muscles and other tissues in the body and sleep better. We open the joints and detoxify cells.
But, often this time of year, we are so busy rushing around that we forget to allow some space for something that is so good for our state of mind and heart and of course our body too.
So, why not take some time today to be active… I’m just off for my leap in the 40′!
Move your body – Mindfully
And remember to do it mindfully and really benefit. That means being aware – so purposefully moving your attention from thinking into sensing your body, attentive of physical sensation, how you are feeling, aware when attention wanders and your whole experience moment by moment.
It does not have to be complicated. You can:
Go for a walk inside or out – it is a beautiful day!
Most people are so immersed in thinking that they don’t question the validity of their thoughts.
They fully believe and identify with the story their mind is telling them.
One of the most liberating insights, that people get on a Mindfulness course is that they see the truth.
They realise their thoughts are just thoughts and they are not ‘me’ or ‘reality’.
Come to your senses
Even more, they notice how much of their behaviour is unconsciously driven by uninvited thoughts – ‘Do the shopping’, ‘wash the oven’, ‘I really can’t forget to collect the cleaning’, ‘must write a list’… on and on…
Our thoughts have the potential to drive us quite crazy ESPECIALLY AT CHRISTMAS TIME, when they are telling us “there is so much that HAS to be done” … and they often do…
Come to your senses and a wider Awareness
By coming to our senses (hearing, feeling, smelling…) we wake up from the dream in our mind to something more real and fundamental.
Just by moving attention from the thinking mind to the felt sense of the:
Our awareness opens up and we free ourselves from the tyranny of habitual, automatic, unhelpful thinking patterns that often lead us to stress and bad form.
Then, we can see more clearly what really has to be done and do it without all the stressing and drama.
Guided Audio to introduce you to intentionally moving attention
Have you ever noticed how kindness changes an experience completely?
Maybe, someone took care of you sometime when you were sick… just a soothing touch, a gentle tone, a kind word.
Kindness and compassion can make even bad pain or difficulty bearable.
We don’t like to see anyone suffer. A natural wish to alleviate pain arises when we see it.
But, we are conditioned to ignore this… to walk over the homeless man or woman sleeping on the street.
“if you want others to be happy, practice compassion, if you want to be happy, practice compassion” – Dalai Lama
We know this deeply.
Much of what we celebrate at Christmas – is our natural wish to care, to share, to give.
Cultivate Compassion – starting with self compassion
However, we may be less familiar with feeling compassion for ourselves in times of difficulty.
I see so many people who treat themselves harshly, when struggling with inadequacy, anxiety, grief.
All this self sabotage does is make a difficult situation harder to bear.
Cultivate Compassion – ‘WE’ focused, not ‘you’ or ‘me’
“For someone to develop genuine compassion towards others, first he or she must have a basis upon which to cultivate compassion, and that basis is the ability to connect to one’s own feelings and to care for one’s own welfare… Caring for others requires caring for oneself.”- Dalai Lama
Imagine instead responding to yourself with kindness and understanding rather than criticism and isolation when you’re struggling with difficult feelings?