Mindfulness originated over two thousand years ago, as a core component of Buddhism. In 1979, molecular biologist, yoga teacher and mediation practitioner Jon Kabat-Zinn founded the first Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, based on those Buddhist teachings. Later, in 1992, British based clinicians and researchers devised the 8 week Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy course for depression, and in 2009 MBCT was given ‘key priority’ in the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) Guidelines as a treatment designed to reduce relapse or recurrence of major depressive disorder.
Since then, MBCT for Life courses (sometimes known as Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction courses) have been designed for people who have not currently or previously experienced depression, as a way of developing strategies aimed at staying well, and enjoying life to its fullest potential.
The courses we offer through The Wellbeing & Performance Company are aimed at participants who are currently well, as they are not provided in a clinical setting, and nor are we medical professionals. If following our initial screening process and discussion you feel you may currently be suffering with depression, we can signpost you to the right place to help you now.
How will Mindfulness help me?
Modern life has evolved at a pace that our brains cannot keep up with, and in ways that are making us ill, and it’s not our fault. However it’s much easier to prevent illness if we understand how our brains and our bodies work, and notice what is happening as a result. Our bodies have two nervous systems – the parasympathetic nervous system, also known as ‘rest and digest’, and the sympathetic (some say it should be called the ‘unsympathetic’) nervous system (SNS), also known as ‘fight or flight’. Our original reptilian brain which operates these systems means we have little or no control over them – luckily in some cases – if we stopped to debate whether we should jump out of the way of a speeding car, we might not make it in time. However, the SNS is triggered by both real and ‘perceived’ threats, causing the same bio-chemical results in the body – stress.
The brain and the body can at times get stuck into a feedback loop of stress, becoming more attuned to ‘threats’, and so more easily triggered. Over time this can lead to problems in the body such as a malfunctioning immune system, heart and blood pressure problems, pain and sleep issues. It affects mood too, causing anxiety from an over activated amygdala and increased cortisol, and depression from suppressed serotonin.
Our modern, rational brain attempts to ‘fix’ problems, which can result in rumination and obsessive thinking. Those continued attempts to fix problems that often can’t be fixed keeps the negative cycles turning.
Mindfulness involves meditating on a daily basis. There’s no special clothing or equipment involved, and practices range in length from 3 minutes to as long as you want, however many participants say that the 3 minute breathing space is the most useful and helpful tool that they learn.
Through mindfulness, learning to open to thoughts and feelings, without trying to change them allows us to relate to them differently, and leads ultimately to freedom.
By being more fully aware and alive in each moment, life can become more enjoyable, interesting, vivid and fulfilling.
How will Mindfulness help my employees?
The narrowing area of the circles illustrates the narrowing of life as we give up the things in life that we enjoy, but that seem ‘optional’ to us. The result is that we stop doing activities that would nourish us, leaving only work or other stressors that often deplete our resources. Paradoxically, it is often the best and most conscientious workers who are most likely to continue on that downward spiral, leading to exhaustion, burnout, and ultimately sickness. Practicing mindfulness means an employee will notice when they are beginning to enter the exhaustion funnel, at which point they can practice self care and seek help to avoid becoming unwell.
How will Mindfulness help my business?
Self-care resources such as Mindfulness should never be used as an alternative to good and supportive working practices. It is simply unethical for them to be used as a sticking plaster over problems, in order to keep people working in ways which will ultimately make them ill. However, as a supportive practice, Mindfulness builds resilience and enables its practitioners to stay healthy, both physically and mentally. Research shows that the presence of stress alone is not the deciding factor as to whether a person feels ‘stressed’; the key factor is how that person approaches stress in their lives.
Mindfulness builds awareness, both about the self and others. It allows us to make informed, more creative choices and decisions, rather than those made automatically, based on old patterns of thought or behaviour. It leads to a greater ability to focus under pressure, leading to greater productivity. Relationships between employees improve through mindful communications, and a greater sense of connectedness. Work can become more meaningful and inspiring, happy employees are loyal employees.
One of the core lessons in Mindfulness is learning how to approach, rather than avoid problems, which can ultimately lead to stress. Learning to approach a problem in an open minded, non-judgemental way instead of avoiding or ignoring it is a key skill for any leader in an organisation, allowing them to work, communicate, and lead effectively.
What does taking a Mindfulness course involve?
Our Mindfulness training can be delivered both to individuals and in groups, and can be tailored to fit your organisation in the most effective way. If room permits, participants can lie down on the floor on yoga mats, or sit in chairs. All that’s required is a willingness to take part, an open mind (and heart), and a commitment to personal practice. Our Mindfulness teacher has undertaken the year long teacher training course provided by the Sussex NHS Mindfulness Centre, which fulfils the training requirements of the Good Practice Guideline. The course adheres to the 8 week research-based course devised by Zindel Segal, Mark Williams, and John Teasdale, authors of Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for Depression and The Mindful Way Workbook.
If you would like to experience a Mindfulness taster session, or learn more about how our courses can enrich the lives of your employees and make for a happier and more productive working environment, please contact us, we’ll be very happy to help.