Mind over matter

CIWM’s professional development manager Claire Poole explains how to have a mindfully productive day.

We all work hard, long hours. Often, there’s so much to do, it’s easy to become stressed, which – if prolonged – can inevitably affect not only your mental wellbeing, but also the quality of your work.

Mindfulness is a tool each of us can use to increase our productivity, hone our focus and deliver a better quality of work quicker – meaning we shouldn’t need an eighth day of the week to get through our ‘to do’ list.

Mindfulness can offer us a break from the anxiety of deadlines and workloads.

You might think it’s just a fad, or something that’s only used to treat conditions such as anxiety and depression, but that’s a myth. Being mindful can help anyone relax, refresh and prepare themselves to focus on an important task and be more productive.

Being mindful gives our brain a chance to have a break from worries, concerns and the general ‘stuff’ we might be dwelling on, freeing us to focus on the important task at hand.

It doesn’t need to take a lot of time, although it does help to practise it on a regular basis, and it’s easy to fit into everyday life. Simply follow these golden rules:

  1. Spend a few minutes focusing on you and what’s around you, whether walking in the park, sitting outside the office, in your garden or even in your office.
  2. Focus on what you hear, taste, touch, see and feel (not what you are thinking). Take time to notice things, colours, sounds and textures.
  3. Don’t panic if your thoughts wander. How many times have we found ourselves drifting into a thought? This is natural, so just be aware of it happening; don’t jump into those thoughts, just acknowledge them and let them go. It helps to refocus on the rhythm of your natural breathing. Be aware of your thoughts, but don’t let them take over.
  4. Making your out-breath longer than your in-breath can relieve tension. In through your nose and out through your mouth is ideal, but whatever is most comfortable for you. You can do this at any time you feel you are getting stressed and the tension is rising.
  5. Away from work – or in your lunch break – try something different. Do something that you can focus your mind and thoughts on, rather than dwelling on the work you have to do or past events that you can’t change. Mindful activities can include a puzzle; sport; a five-minute walk; or reading a book (leave email and social media alone for a few minutes).
  6. Learn something new or do something that requires total focus – for example, learn a musical instrument or play a game.
  7. Find a mindfulness course – check out your local adult education courses – or try a tai chi class.

For an impartial guide to mindfulness and how it can be helpful for our mental wellbeing, visit nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/mindfulness/

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