Mindfulness for the Fitness Industry

The fitness industry is starting to take holistic health more seriously.

This has been seen in the growth of yoga and pilates classes and now mindfulness classes are getting onto the time table.

In this article, published by the leading fitness magazine for fitness professionals, the current trend of mindfulness classes are reviewed usng my programme as a benchmark.

Mindfulness for Kids

Mindfulness is increasing in popularity every day. The government are promoting Mindfulness as an affordable and sustainable practice to prevent mental health conditions developing. They see this as a perfect antidote to relieve the stresses of modern life that results in anxiety and depression that can be implemented into any institute. Mindfulness for schools and mindfulness for education is seen as the next big area that is being focussed on by government as they recognise how much this sector needs it.

It is sad to say that one of the most stressful environments is schools. Children have enormous pressure placed on them from an early age to perform well in exams and think about their future career. The teachers have a bigger workload to manage these expectations often having to work over their scheduled hours to complete paperwork that shows they are meeting targets. All this leads to an environment that is not healthy for mental health. This is why it is essential that mindfulness is brought into schools … not only for the children but also for the teachers. If the teachers are less stressed then they will be a more positive influence on the children they teach. They will also be able to manage their workload better as a recent study showed that mindfulness training increased concentration which meant those in stressful situations were better able to focus. At Satis, we are working with teachers to provide training in mindfulness so they can reduce stress for themselves, learn how to practice mindfulness with their colleagues and teach mindfulness to their students.  To find out more please contact john@satis.org.uk.

There are plenty of established resources to help school children access mindfulness. Below is listed some of the most popular and well established programmes for school children. there are also plenty of free resources that can be access through a quick google search. Like the below video.

 

Mindfulness in Education

The Mindfulness in Schools Project provides resources for schools in line with the National Healthy Schools Programme. The syllabus stands on its own as a teaching guide to Wellbeing. Their programme .b, pronounced [dot-be], stands for ‘Stop, Breathe and Be!’ is the name for the range of courses created to encourage, support and research the teaching of secular mindfulness in schools. For more information visit: http://mindfulnessinschools.org/

The Youth Mindfulness Kids programme is a 16-lesson introduction to mindfulness for 7 to 11 year olds comprising fun games, engaging videos, and kinesthetic activities, with a strong emphasis on experiential learning. The 16 one-hour lessons build up sequentially, introducing and exploring new facets of mindfulness with each lesson. The first six lessons focus on cultivating the foundations of mindfulness: intention, attention and attitude. As the course progresses, children then learn to cultivate gratitude, handle difficult thoughts and emotions, and finally develop kindness towards themselves and others. The purpose of the programme is for qualities such as awareness, empathy, kindness, compassion, and joy to become living realities in the lives of young children as well as embedded in their classroom community. For more information visit: youthmindfulness.org/ym-kids-programme/

Connected-with-Myself is Mind With Heart’s programme introducing teenagers to mindfulness and awareness. As well as experimenting with tools for cultivating emotional health, students are invited to ask where they turn for well-being, and how they can come to know themselves in order to ‘get the best’ out of who they are. Mind with Heart is an international education charity based in London. Their mission is to equip young people and their teachers with the skills needed to develop well-being, emotional intelligence and a more sustainable society. For more information visit: http://mindwithheart.org

MindUP™ is a unique ‘whole school programme’ grounded in neuroscience and positive psychology, activated by mindful awareness and a catalyst for social emotional learning. The model of training and support for schools is evidence based and supports effective implementation that is sustainable and has long term impact. MindUP™’s pioneering programme aimed at 4 to 13 year olds, is one of the first to champion Brain Education with the aim of empowering children to know and understand themselves, to be able to self regulate their emotional state and focus their attention. The 15 lessons help students develop an understanding of others, to build positive relationships based on tolerance, compassion and empathy. MindUP™ nurtures a growth mindset, fosters happiness and optimism, all grounded in the science of neuroplasticity. www.uk.mindup.org

Resilience Training – Mindfulness

The definition of resilience is the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness. These features are essential to do well at work which is why mindfulness is being used in the work place more than it ever has as mindfulness can build resilience.

Recent research has shown that “Mindful people … can better cope with difficult thoughts and emotions without becoming overwhelmed or shutting down (emotionally).”

Put another way, mindfulness “weakens the chain of associations that keep people obsessing about” their problems or failures, which increases the likelihood they will try again.

This isn’t the only reason mindfulness promotes well-being as mindfulness promotes self-compassion, which leads to higher levels of happiness. But increased resilience clearly plays a major role in this beneficial equation.

Mindfulness training, when employed at work, has provided a practical means of enhancing resilience, and personality characteristics like optimism, zest, and patience. All these factors mean that workers are better able to cope with stress, perform better at their jobs and achieve greater success personally and professionally.

Mindfulness for Farmers

Farming can be a stressful and isolating profession that demands long hours of work. Because of this, those working in agriculture are susceptible to poor mental wellbeing as highlighted in the recent Mind Your Head campaign. Recent reports have highlighted how big this issue is as figures revealed as many as one agricultural worker a week dies by suicide. Farmers take pride in their hard work and do not want to ask for help as they see this as an admission of failure. This is where mindfulness can help because this is a cure for depression and anxiety that works best when practiced alone. This is great for farmers as practicing mindfulness means they don’t need to go to anyone to ask for help. Mindfulness teaches farmer how to help themselves. Also, with all those long hours on the farm the farmer has all the time necessary to practice mindfulness which means farmers have the best possible chance of learning this skill.

So, what exactly is mindfulness? Western mindfulness is often seen as just being a meditation practice that aims to make a person more alert, more aware of thoughts and more able to stay focussed on the present moment. Indeed, those features are certainly an element of the practice, but these are really only the first few steps used to develop better control over thoughts. The reason this is used at the first step is that a person in modern society is so overwhelmed by information (emails, telephones, television etc) that their mind is constantly racing. This serves to distract the person from what is happening in their mind and body. So the breathwork is used to develop attention so that the person learns to separate unwanted thoughts/information from what is happening moment to moment. A byproduct of this process is that the person feels less anxious and less stressed. But the Mindfulness practice is the most in depth form of psychological treatment a person can undertake and looks to go to the root causes of a persons psychological issues. The most similar comparison to a western therapy would be psychotherapy which is person centred – as is mindfulness.

So, if a farmer has some deep seated issues that are not farming related mindfulness can help resolve these problems. However, the deeper treatments can only start after a person has developed a better awareness of the nature of thoughts which is achieved through breathing with attention.

For farmers, who are feeling stressed and lonely the most effective treatment would be to start working with the breath. In this context mindfulness would be used to pay attention to the present moment using focussing on breathing as the method. Modern neuroscience discoveries have shown that this ability of mentally ‘checking in’ and paying attention with full focus to the present situation (rather than getting embroiled in internal thoughts) has dramatic effects on the electrical impulses in the brain which directly relate to levels of anxiety. Scientific research has recently been showing that the practice of mindfulness supported through daily meditation, increases the grey matter in the pre-frontal cortex and improves concentration, focus, increases memory and organisational abilities. In addition to this, the ‘fight or flight’ area of the brain (amygdala) is decreased; resulting in behaviour where more considered reactions can be achieved within daily lives, especially in relation to situations we are faced with when under pressure. This means that farmers would be better able to face stressful situations or make hard decisions that could change their lives. With increased cognitive functioning it is very likely that farmers would make better business choices that could help grow profits and provide better security for them and their families.

Mindfulness is a practice that can help relieve stress, anxiety and depression as well as improving a persons brain power. However, mindfulness is a practice that must be done regularly, usually in isolation, and is best around nature. It seems that given the nature of a farmers work they are best placed to take advantage of this increasingly popular practice.

Compassion Focussed Therapy

Compassion Focussed Therapy (CFT) is a third wave therapy developed by Paul Gilbert. This therapy derives from the Buddhist principles of mindfulness and compassion but severes compassion from mindfulness training. Gilbert sees there are different cognitive results from mindfulness and compasion and as such they should be used individually so different psychological states can be measured.

Paul Gilbert defines compassion in a mindfulness context as tuning in to the nature of suffering. He  expands this by confirming compassion involves investigating what causes unhealthy thoughts/feelings for oneself and others so they can be resolved.  Paul Gilbert does, however, believe that mindfulness is not possible without compassion because a big part of mindfulness training is centred around acceptance. Without a compassionate holding acceptance becomes hard. Shame is one of the biggest impediments to acceptance because there is a critical voice blocking the progress we try to make.

However, Buddhists believe that mindfulness is not possible without compassion because a big part of mindfulness training is centred around acceptance. Without a compassionate holding acceptance becomes hard.  Gilbert says that the reason CFT is so succeful is that CFT addresses shame. Shame is one of the biggest impediments to acceptance because there is a critical voice blocking the progress we try to make. Mindfulness can be transformative if it encompasses compassion because compassion goes to the root causes of psychological trauma. In CFT, compassion is used to help a person let go of the critical voice that undermines their efforts to work through their problems. Despite the risks involved, a person should be guided towards these high-­intensity areas of threat because they lie at the root of what disconnects them from themselves. If these areas remain unaddressed then a person will remain disconnected to the real issues within themselves. There is now strong evidence that a lot of mental health difficulties are linked to what is called emotional avoidance. This means avoiding or suppressing feelings, fantasies or memories because they can be overwhelming. For some people they may not be ready to address these deeper issues. For them, mindfulness courses are a useful way to control this turmoil, but the risk is that they do this by learning to avoid the underlying causes. Interestingly, recent studies have been undertaken to support the use of CFT alongside mindfulness therapies to address the issue of emotional avoidance. These studies showed the participants found CFT to be helpful in overcoming chronic trauma and, importantly, did not feel harmed by turning towards their pain as previously had been thought.

Finally, there is more mindfulness research needed into using compassion. Interestingly, there is little research into combining mindfulness, movement and compassion which is seen in practices like yoga. There is a touch of irony to the holistic route the research is going down as mindfulness approaches founded upon compassion is where mindfulness originally started with yoga and Buddhism. Sometimes we must go full circle to see the truth that was always staring us in the face.

What happens in a one to one Mindfulness Session?

What is the role of a Mindfulness Practitioner?

Currently, people are teaching mindfulness from lots of different backgrounds and for lots of different purposes.

Some clinicians teach mindfulness as a treatment for psychopathology, there are school teachers that teach mindfulness to foster healthy learning environments and there are spiritual teachers that teach mindfulness to facilitate transpersonal growth. However, something that we occasionally observe is that mindfulness teachers are not always clear about their role and participants can become confused about whether they are receiving a psychotherapeutic intervention or Dharma teachings.

Mindfulness is an introspective process and even when it is taught in clinical contexts, it often brings people into contact with their more ‘subtle self’. Therefore, participants or patients referred to receive mindfulness training in order to overcome a specific issue such as stress, depression or addiction may end up asking questions of the mindfulness teacher that are explicitly spiritual in nature. This scenario can put mindfulness teachers in a difficult situation—especially if their mindfulness training was explicitly clinically focussed. However, it is our view that mindfulness teachers should avoid feeling that they need to have an answer for everything and from the very start, they should be absolutely clear (with themselves and with their students/patients) about their role.

The same applies for spiritual teachers that are asked questions relating to issues of a clinical or medical nature—being honest with participants by avoiding trying to have an answer for everything helps to build trust and makes for a healthy learning and practice environment. In fact, consistent with the traditional Buddhist approach to teaching mindfulness, the teacher-student relationship should be one where both parties are open to learning from each other and where the teacher always strives to have a ‘beginners mind’ (i.e. a mind that remains completely open so that it can experience everything as fresh and as an opportunity for acquiring wisdom).

Is Mindfulness Right for your business?

This is a question that is often not taken as seriously as it should be. It seems that everybody now is convinced that mindfulness is a such a good thing that everybody should be doing it. Even business has taken on the mindfulness message and is offering mindfulness to staff in a bid to improve the working experience. However, it seems that the the question is not being asked enough is whether mindfulness is right to be employed at all.

Firstly, when considering employing a person to run mindfulness at your workplace it is important to be clear about what you want the outcomes to be. The Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) has case studies on the various benefits and draw backs of using mindfulness in the workplace. The IOSH might be a good place to start. For example, you might want to tackle the rising cases of staff sickness due to stress. In which case you would look for a case study that centres its findings around mindfulness interventions at work that have shown a positive impact upon work related stress. Once you have foud a few papers that support your targeted outcome it would be worth assessing the credibility of the study (how reliabel was the study and were the results replicable etc).  For example, Hafenbrack et al 2013 found that decision making at work has been improved due to using mindfulness and was tested rigorously. If the studies are showing poor outcomes or the results are based on a small study that is a one off it is probably better not to invest thousands of pounds in something that may or may not work.

Another important feature that is often neglected is who you should get to run the mindfulness cousres at your business. For example, there is no universal accredited method of becoming a mindfulness teacher. Some are monks, some are yoga teachers, some are people who have done a mindfulness specific course and some have a post graduate diploma from university. The Good Practice Guindlines (CPG) have been drawn up to regulate the teaching of secular based mindfulness teaching which relates to mindfulness at the workplace. Before asking a mindfulness teacher to affect your staff take the time to do your due dilligence. You want to be sure any person who could influence your staff has the highest form of training and that their training is specific for your business. Specificity is probably the most valuable consideration as the person who runs mindfulness at work might come from a religious philosophy who’s world view is that striving for success is not positive. If this person were to teach employees mindfulness the teaching would be influenced by theise views which could end up having a detrimental effect on the way the staff approach their jobs. Dane, E & Brummel, BJ 2014 claim better effects on performance that lead to higher turnovers came from mindfulness that was led by a business minded teacher and not by those who have a compassionate outlook toward targets.

Mindfulness has been proven to be beneficial for reducing stress and helping with depression but the evidence base for work based mindfulness interventions is still in its infancy. Treat mindfulness as you would with any other product you are going to use and make sure you are getting the one that is the best and most suitable for your business.

If you want to know more bout mindfulness contact john@satis.org.uk

 

Do they practice yoga?

Many people claim to practice yoga but dont.

The Yoga tradition is aimed developing the mind through a path to enlightment. It is not merely to produce flexible bodies.

Most of the Yoga System of Patanjali is concerned with the science of meditation as concentration (mindfulness), meditation (freedom of the mind) and Samadhi (enlightment. These three stages are (Dharana, Dhyana, Samadhi).

The Yoga Sutras define Yoga as Samadhi or spiritual absorption.

So next time a person says they practice yoga ask them if they practice the below. If they dont, they are merely exercising the body.

8 LIMBS OF YOGA

Yama (moral conduct): noninjury to others, truthfulness, nonstealing, continence, and noncovetousness

Niyama (religious observances): purity of body and mind, contentment in all circumstances, self-discipline, self-study (contemplation), and devotion to God and guru

Asana: right posture
Pranayama: control of prana, the subtle life currents in the body

Pratyahara: interiorization through withdrawal of the senses from external objects

Dharana: focused concentration; holding the mind to one thought or object

Dhyana: meditation, absorption in the vast perception of God in one of His infinite aspects — Bliss, Peace, Cosmic Light,

Cosmic Sound, Love, Wisdom, etc. — all-pervading throughout the whole universe

Samadhi: superconscious experience of the oneness of the individualized soul with Cosmic Spirit