Mental Health Awareness Week is organised by the Mental Health Foundation, and mindfulness is the theme for this year. Mindfulness is an important part of mental wellbeing; it can help us take stock of the fast-paced world around us and understand our emotions and feelings better. Practising mindfulness regularly can help reduce stress and improve mood; it can also help people to become more emotionally alert, to listen more attentively, communicate more clearly, and can increase self-awareness and the awareness of others.
Clearly, these attributes are something which are extremely valuable in a busy workplace, for employees and employers alike. Businesses including KPMG, Google, Transport for London (TfL), GlaxoSmithKline, the Home Office, the Cabinet Office, and PwC have all recognised the benefits of mindfulness in the workplace. TfL actually reported that absenteeism due to stress, anxiety and depression plummeted by 71% since introducing employees to mindfulness via a stress management course they implemented.
Employers wanting advice and information on how to bring mindfulness into the workplace and improve the mental wellbeing of their employees can visit the Fit For Work advice hub, or phone 0800 032 6235 to speak to a dedicated advisor.
We asked Joanna Carson from the Mental Health Foundation to share some information on mindfulness and how it can help to improve mental health, both in and out of the workplace:
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is an integrative, mind-body based training that helps people to change the way they think and feel about their experiences – especially stressful experiences – and is recommended as a treatment for people with mental health problems.
Mindfulness exercises are ways of paying attention to the present moment, using techniques like meditation, breathing, and yoga. Training helps people to become more aware of their thoughts, feelings, and body sensations so that instead of being overwhelmed by them, they’re better able to manage them. Practising mindfulness can give more insight into emotions, boost attention and concentration, and improve relationships.
Mindfulness and mental health
Mindfulness is recommended as a treatment for people with mental ill-health as well as those who want to improve their mental health and wellbeing.
There are also different sorts of mindfulness meditation which can help people in different ways. Evidence shows compelling support for Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), which helps people to cope with stress, and for Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), which is designed to help people with recurring depression. They provide a flexible set of skills to manage mental health and support wellbeing.
The evidence for mindfulness
Mindfulness meditation has been shown to affect how the brain works and even its structure. People undertaking mindfulness training have shown increased activity in the area of the brain associated with positive emotion – the pre-frontal cortex – which is generally less active in people who are depressed.
More than 100 studies have shown changes in brain wave activity during meditation and researchers have found that areas of the brain linked to emotional regulation are larger in people who have meditated regularly for five years. The evidence for different types of mindfulness is promising and research has grown in recent years.
So, where can I learn mindfulness?
Our Be Mindful Online Course is a 4-week online course is designed to guide you through all the elements of Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (CBMT) and Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). In as little as four weeks you can expect to be enjoying benefits including reduced stress, depression and anxiety.
Despite its proven successes, access to face-to-face mindfulness training is still limited. We are campaigning for mindfulness practice to be widely available in prisons, schools, hospitals and the workplace. But we have still got a long way to go before we can make this dream a reality. We hope you will join us this year in taking part and raising awareness during Mental Health Awareness Week 2015!
To find out more about the Mental Health Foundation and our work or make a donation visit www.mentalhealth.org.uk.