Making the most of mindfulness techniques

CABA wellbeing manager Lucy Whitehall gives an insight into the new buzzword in training, mindfulness, with useful hints about the easiest way to put it into action at work, starting with an afternoon brew - guaranteed to make you relax

Within a short space in time, mindfulness has started to become accepted across the business world as a valuable way for individuals to stay calm, relaxed and focused, even as they work their way through high pressure situations.

This September, CABA is launching a mindfulness course as the organisation believes it has outstanding potential to become a crucial skill for 21st century chartered accountants – and because they have asked for it.

According to the Mental Health Foundation, mindfulness is an ‘integrative, mind-body based approach that helps people change the way they think and feel about their experiences, especially stressful ones. It involves paying attention to our thoughts and feelings so we become more aware of them, less enmeshed in them, and better able to manage them’.

A recent meta study conducted by John Hopkins University in Baltimore showed that mindfulness can help with anxiety, depression and pain. It is a technique backed up by hard science and is an effective way to retrain how your brain processes information.

Within accountancy, mindfulness techniques have been used by Deloitte and, in the wider business community, at Google, Barclays and Harvard Business School.

In practice

If you’d like to get a flavour of how mindfulness works, try these simple exercises, most of which take a minute or less.

The traffic light:

This can be done sitting at your desk, at home or even when actually sitting in your car while it is parked.

First, think of how you behave when you are at a red traffic light. Stop what you are doing and pause for a moment. Take a breath and concentrate on how the air feels entering your body and then leaving as you exhale. Now you’ve had that pause and breathed a little, how do you feel? What’s going on around you?

Just notice and observe your surroundings without judging.

One minute breath:

Set your stop watch or sit in front of a clock and just focus on your breath for the whole of this time.

Notice how the air feels as it enters the nostrils, how it feels cool as you inhale and how it’s a little warmer as you exhale. All you need to do is concentrate on your breath for an entire minute.

Mindful eating:

Get rid of distractions like the TV, newspaper, mobile phone or radio, and sit down to eat.

You can use almost any food as long as you give it your full attention.

How does it smell? What colour is it? What are the textures like? How do you cut it? Chew slowly and really savour your meal. Notice how it tastes different.

A mindful cup of tea:

As is well established in the Far East, making and drinking tea can be a profoundly relaxing experience.

Notice the weight of the kettle as you fill it with water, listen to the sound of the water as it runs from the tap, how the light bounces off the steam.

Sit down and reward yourself with a mindful cup of tea as you notice the heat, the taste and the different flavours as you swallow

Listen to the sounds of the water in the kettle as it comes to the boil. Stay in the present as you prepare your cup and the tea bag.

Watch as you pour the boiling water onto the bag, how it floats as the steam swirls upwards. Then sit down and reward yourself as you notice the heat, the taste of the tea and the different flavours as you swallow.

Mindful walking:

The next time you’re walking, notice what’s going on around you – the light, the sky and the trees. Feel the ground under your feet, your breath as you walk, notice the buildings and your fellow pedestrians. Remain in the present as you head towards your destination. Feel the wind on your face and notice what is different when you arrive at your destination.

CABA is offering a free one-day course that enables delegates to understand how mindfulness techniques can improve their ability to cope with pressures in the workplace or at home, manage anxiety or depression, boost their concentration and energy levels, and improve decision making. www.caba.org.uk/courses

Lucy Whitehill is CABA wellbeing manager www.caba.org.uk

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