Mental Ill Health Accounts for 70 Million Sick Days a Year. Is Mindfulness the Answer?
Is your job having a serious impact on your mental health? Last year over 526,000 people reported suffering from work-related stress, depression or anxiety. The UK’s leading mental health charity, Mind, notes that “if you often experience feelings of stress, you might be at risk of developing a mental health problem, like depression or anxiety.”
We here at Gibson Hollyhomes understand it’s not always possible to tackle stress at the source so we are looking into alternative methods for combatting stress and mental ill health in the workplace. You may have heard the word mindfulness before and dismissed it as one of those new-agey practises that is all talk and no trousers. However, research from Harvard Medical School  has indicated that mindfulness practises can have a positive impact on brain activity and those who regularly practise mindfulness report a significant decrease in stress.
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a daily thought practice that teaches us to be present in the moment. It focuses on combatting distractions by redirecting thoughts back to the present the minute the mind begins to wander. The beauty of mindfulness is that it can be practised anywhere so you don’t have to worry about finding a quiet place to sit with your legs crossed and your eyes closed.
How to Practise Mindfulness
There are a number of different ways you can practise mindfulness throughout your day, but the easiest way is just to focus on your breathing. It’s that simple. Your mind will wander and when this happens don’t beat yourself up or fixate on distracting thoughts, especially if they happen to be negative. Be kind to yourself and come back to your breathing each time this happens.
Other mindfulness practises include active listening and practising gratitude. Active listening encourages us to focuses entirely on what someone else is saying, as opposed to what our responses will be. This helps us be more present in the moment and absorb more information. Practising gratitude helps us combat negative thoughts by redirecting our attention to the positive things in our lives. It works by setting time aside each day to make a list of the things we are thankful for, even if the items don’t always change day to day.
What are the Benefits of Mindfulness?
Studies suggest  that mindfulness can impact the part of the brain responsible for self-regulation, improving both focus and discipline skills. Findings indicated that those who regularly practised mindfulness meditation stayed on task longer and reported fewer negative emotions after completing a task.
A study in stress treatment for employees  took 152 middle-level managers and assigned half to an 8-week mindfulness intervention course and half – as a control group – to a cognitive behavioural therapy course. Those who took the mindfulness intervention course demonstrated a significant decrease in work-related stress and psychological distress as well as an overall increase in job satisfaction.
So, is mindfulness the answer to combatting work related mental ill health? It can most certainly help! For those looking for a starting point in improving their mental health in the workplace, we would absolutely recommend incorporating mindfulness practises into your daily routine. Be it at the breakfast table, on your morning commute, during your lunch hour, or even before bed.
Mindfulness shouldn’t be a substitute for seeking professional help if you are living with on-going mental health problems. If your symptoms persist or get worse, we recommend visiting https://www.mind.org.uk/ for information and support.