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Mindfulness exercises that will help you at work

A guest article with Mark Randall – Part 2

In last week’s article we invited mindfulness professional Mark Randall to talk to us about the theory and practice of mindfulness.

Mark explained how using simple mental exercises to focus our mind in the present can alleviate stress and help us build a healthier relationship with our thoughts, our emotions and the world around us.

Today Mark’s going to take us through three exercises which put this into practice. They take just a few minutes each and they’re easy to pick up and build into your day. Why not give them a try?

#1 Mindful Breathing (1-3 minutes)

‘This exercise is a great place to start. Find a quiet spot where you can sit comfortably:

‘I invite you to close your eyes, and adjust your posture so you’re sitting up straight, with both feet resting on the floor. And just for a moment check in on your feelings and state of mind.

‘Now shift your attention from thinking to sensing, and start to pay attention to your senses as you breathe.

‘Pay close attention to your breath. Focus on the coolness as it goes in through your nose and the warmth of the breath as you breathe out. Take slow, relaxed breaths and just follow that cycle of coolness and warmth, coolness and warmth . . .

‘Notice as you breathe out that you start to feel heavier – you feel more in contact with the chair, the floor, the present, this moment right here that we’re in.

‘And if you drift away into a thought, just be aware that your mind has drifted – it naturally does – and gently bring your attention back to your breath. Focus again on the coolness of the air in and warmness out and that feeling of heaviness, that connection to the chair and the floor.

‘Notice what changes as you breathe. Your shoulders have lowered with the weight of sitting, your upper back just starting to relax.

‘And just notice as you breathe that your body isn’t still. There are always micro-movements going on. Just sense where those movements are and tune into them– maybe to your pulse somewhere, maybe to a muscle that’s feeling tighter than another muscle.

‘Just notice these things as you breathe, sense your chest rising and falling, your stomach moving. Whenever you drift away into a thought notice it happening and again bring your attention back to your breath, the coolness of the air in, the warmth of the air out and your presence here and now, connected to the chair.

‘Sense your feet on the floor, wiggle your toes, and then you’re ready – just open your eyes.’

#2 Taking a mindful walk (5-10 minutes)

‘Practicing mindfulness doesn’t just mean sitting with your eyes closed; it can be a part of the things we do every day, like walking to or from work, or taking a stroll at lunch or at the end of the day…

‘As you walk just tune into your senses and let your mind relax.

‘Find a leisurely pace, a bit slower than usual, and just start by noticing the rhythm of your footsteps – the feeling and sound as they make contact with the ground and rise again. Notice the movement of your legs and body.

‘Instead of following your thoughts focus on your senses and look around you. Experience the journey with curiosity, as if you’re seeing things for the first time.

‘Start to pay attention to what you see, hear, smell, and feel.

‘Notice what comes first to your attention, what lingers in the background. Be attentive to those little details that are easily overlooked.

‘What changes as you walk? What’s changed from yesterday? Have you noticed something different – a plant or flower, a feature of a building?

‘If you feel your mind wandering off to a thought, just notice it happening and gently bring it back to your senses as you walk.

‘When you’re ready to stop bring your attention back to your footsteps, feel their leisurely rhythm. Relax your mind and finally take a moment to stand still as you end the exercise.’

#3 Body scan (2-3 minutes)

‘This is a great exercise to use when you’re looking to unwind after a stressful day. It begins with mindful breathing . . .

‘Start by sitting attentively, both feet resting on the floor. Close your eyes and bring your attention to your breath. Tune into the sensation of breathing – the coolness of the breath as it goes in through your nose and the warmth of the breath as you breathe out.

‘Next bring your awareness to your body, notice the rising of your chest as you breathe and the weight of your body on the chair, your feet on the ground.

‘Now focus on the feeling of your skin. Let’s start with the skin on the back of your neck. Let your attention rest there, visualise the back of your neck and hone into any feelings there.

‘Gradually expand your awareness to the skin on your shoulders, then down your back, noticing any sensations as your focus travels down.

‘Now slowly move your attention to the front of your body, over your chest and face. Do you notice any tension? Any tightness in your muscles – perhaps in the brow, the shoulders or neck? If you notice tension just relax and breathe into it and feel that tension ease with each breath.

‘Finally, move your attention over and around your legs and down to the sense of your feet touching the floor. Wiggle your toes, take one longer breath and bring your attention to the whole body breathing, then just let go on the outbreath.

Little and Often

‘And that’s it. Remember, little and often is the key. Just committing to building these three exercises into your day could make a huge difference. Try to fit in at least 10 minutes altogether per day (which is only about 1% of your waking hours).

‘See this as a starting point. Mindfulness is a broad and evolving practice. There’s plenty out there to explore.’

We’d like to say a huge thankyou to Mark for sharing his knowledge and experience. You can get in touch with Mark and find out more about his approach here.

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