Workplace wellbeing

Workplace well-being…is it blah blah?

I am sure you have heard the words “workplace well-being” by now.  It is becoming the new buzz word, companies are talking about it and hopefully implementing programmes to encourage it, individuals are either skeptical or thinking “finally!!!” and others are sitting on the fence.   I mean, is achieving a feeling of workplace well-being really possible?  How can it work when most people have mountains of work to do and not enough time to do it?

Is aiming for workplace well-being going to be taken seriously, or is this yet another box we need to tick?   For some companies, this new trend is going to be a whole load of “blah, blah” until it becomes a legitimate legal requirement for all organisations to ensure they offer their employees have access to sustainable ways of managing their work and maintaining an acceptable level of well-being whilst at work.

This is a huge topic which I will be focusing on a lot more from now on, not only because I am a well-being warrior and mind/body champion for two large organisations in the UK, but because I am receiving more emails from students who are participating in the Chilled Out Child programme to say that as much as they would love to teach mindfulness full-time, they are potentially likely to remain in other employment for the foreseeable future for one reason or another.   The reality is that many people are juggling two or three part-time jobs or building a business in their  spare time after working a full-day for someone else.  Holding down two or three different jobs is also referred to as building a portfolio career.  Portfolio careers are becoming the norm as some people thrive on the diversity this style of working can offer and companies are  offering flexible working and part-time instead of full-time roles.  This does sound exciting, but the danger here is that individuals might still be expected to fit a “full-time role” in to part-time hours and this is where taking workplace well-being seriously is essential.

Over the years I have seen new yoga teachers throw themselves wholeheartedly into their new roles, revelling in the fantastic work they are doing. But, as I have witnessed with some of my former colleagues who teach a number of classes during the week whilst also trying to build their business (marketing is not often a yoga teacher’s first love or strong point) their energy is zapped quickly.  What was once a passion, is now just another job and sometimes a job they are not enjoying because they have not taken care of themselves.   One children’s yoga franchise had their children’s yoga teachers teaching up to twenty children’s yoga classes a week in various locations. It’s not sustainable. These enthusiastic yoga teachers burn out in less than a year. They eventually wrangle with the franchise to set themselves free and with a last burst of energy they try and set up classes on their own, only to find that somewhere in the past year they have lost their passion, their energy has haemorrhaged… they are emotionally, physically and energetically drained.

So with my passion for workplace well-being and my desire to offer more support to past (and present) students of the Chilled Out Child teacher training programme, I have decided to write a workplace well-being module as well as a couple of other modules which relate to yoga and energy healing so as to create a practical toolkit of holistic healing modules which can be shared with children and teenagers and a module dedicated on building and maintain well-being for individuals who are teaching yoga, meditation and mindfulness to others.  You may not like to think of it this way, but you are running a business, big or small, but a business all the same and therefore you need to look after your own well-being as well.

Take a couple of minutes now to focus on your breath.

The breath is our life force and is one of the most important functions of the body.  The act of breathing correctly can create feelings of calm, relaxation, clear “headedness” and helps us manage pain. Breathing incorrectly can result in feelings of tenseness, nervousness and confusion.

To breathe properly, you need to use your diaphragm which is the large sheet-like muscle that lies at the bottom of the chest cavity.

  • To find your diaphragm, sit comfortably or lie on your back on the floor.
  • Place your left hand on your upper chest and your right hand on your abdomen in the ‘gap’ of your rib cage.
  • Take a breath in and slowly breathe out.
  • When you breathe in and out, your left hand should remain still, but your right hand can move up and down.
  • If your left hand is moving, your breathing is too shallow and you are not using your diaphragm as you should.
  • Breathe in and out slowly about five to ten times.

Keep popping back as I write more blogs on how to create and maintain well-being in the workplace.

 

 

Anxiety management, stress management

Parenting an anxious child.

It can be very disconcerting for parents when they are faced with an angry and distressed child, especially if you cannot see what could be causing so much distress.

Most children have occasional tantrums or meltdowns and may sometimes lash out if they’re frustrated, but when children continue to have regular emotional outbursts, it is usually a symptom of distress and children who seem angry and defiant on a regular basis may be suffering from anxiety. The first step to helping your child manage their anger is for you to understand what could be triggering their outbursts.

If your child is suffering from anxiety,  they may have a hard time coping with situations that cause them distress which may result in them lashing out when demands at school or at home put pressure on them that they feel they can’t handle.  In an anxiety-inducing situation, your child’s “fight or flight” instinct may take hold and they may have a tantrum or refuse to do something to avoid the source of acute fear.

Activity:   It might be helpful to keep a journal of the times when your child has an outburst or expresses that they are feeling angry or anxious.  Also note down what they were doing before the outburst or what they were planning to do prior to their unhappiness.   By jotting all this down, it should help you put together an emotional map of what might be triggering their outbursts, which will eventually help you to help your child recognise when a problem might be about to occur and they can be better prepared to manage their emotions before they are triggered.

Here are a couple of useful links relating to parenting an anxious child:

What to do and not do when children are anxious.
https://childmind.org/article/what-to-do-and-not-do-when-children-are-anxious/

Nine things every parent with an anxious child should try.
https://www.huffingtonpost.com/renee-jain/9-things-every-parent-with-an-anxious-child-should-try_b_5651006.html

If you would like to learn how to develop your own meditation practice and teach these skills to children and teenagers, find our more information here. 

mindfulness

Clearing mental clutter.

Writing in a journal helps our conscious mind build stronger connections with our sub-conscious mind and emotions.  This helps us to sort through any mental clutter which may be upsetting our emotions and get in the way of our understanding and clarity.

Journaling is a great way for adults and children to “download” their thoughts and daily life experiences on to paper and then refer back to these thoughts later if they wish to for self reflection.  During the Chilled Out Child meditation and mindfulness facilitator training one of our modules covers the benefits of encouraging journaling as part of a children’s and teens mindfulness class.   We spend some time exploring creative ways of incorporating this theme into the structure of the overall class.

Like adults, when journaling, children need to be careful that they do not use their journals as a ‘negative dumping ground’ and ideally they should be encouraged to think about their feelings as either better or worse and not positive and negative.  Creating and decorating a journal with beautiful words and imagery can be very uplifting.  Writing in a gratitude journal can be a wonderful opportunity to reflect on what you are grateful for in that moment.

Journaling should not be confused with keeping a diary.  Writing in a journal could be viewed and approached as an opportunity for children to be creative.  If you are teaching meditation to children,  a journal can be a great space for participants to express their thoughts on how they felt about the guided imagery meditation or overall experience of the class they have participated in.   The versatility of keeping a journal means this activity can also be incorporated into many different areas of learning which includes subjects like math, science, social studies and english.

Here are a few journaling ideas for you to do at home, school or incorporate in to a children’s and teens meditation class:

  • Make, or decorate your own individual journals.
  • Use a “journal jar” and each week pick a “topic” to reflect on and journal about.
  • Use positive affirmations – it is a good idea as a group to come up with positive affirmations which turn daily challenges into an opportunity to look for a positive and empowering solutions.
  • Start a “feelings journal” – enabling children to identify their current emotions, draw a picture, write about it and then link it to the idea of “my personal weather report”. For example, stormy (angry), rainy (sad), sunny (happy).
  • Choose a feeling from a feeling poster or wheel and write about or draw about it and if it is a negative emotion look for the positive affirmation to “balance it out” and bring a positive aspect to it.

Encouraging children and teenagers to take a moment to move out of their “minds” and reconnect with their hearts through the process of journaling about what makes them happy, or grateful can be very therapeutic.   Writing or drawing in a journal can help them to channel their energy into something creative and enable them for that moment to focus on the positive, removing the tendency to focus on thoughts that create or encourage anxiety.

If you would like to know about how you can help children and teenagers manage their “mental clutter”, follow this link to find out about the Chilled Out Child programme and how this programme will support you in your journey to becoming a meditation and mindfulness facilitator.

Anxiety management, mindfulness, stress management

Meditation and ADHD.

The brain is the most complex organ in the body and has approximately 100 billion neurons, which are nerve cells.  These neurons gather and transmit electrochemical signals.  Between the neurons are chemical messengers called neurotransmitters that trigger responses in the transmitting and receiving neurons.  It is the neurotransmitters which are at the root of ADHD, as these messengers do not go where they are supposed to go and they often react erratically.  When acting erratically, they either cannot bridge the gap between the neurons, take too long to convey the signal or they connect the wrong two neurons. This is what leads to ADHD behaviour.

Recent research has shown that mindfulness training can be adapted for people who are diagnosed with ADHD and in trials mindfulness training has been shown to improve the concentration levels in individuals with ADHD, as well as children without ADD/ADHD.

If you have already worked with children or have your own children/grandchildren then you will know that anything that encourages children to self-regulate their sometimes unsettled emotions is a very helpful skill,  especially so in a formal  classroom environment where one child’s unsettled emotions can set a few of the other children off as well.

If you follow this  link , you can read a study in the Journal of Child and Family Studies which discusses the effectiveness of mindfulness training for children with ADHD and simultaneous training in mindful parenting for the children’s parents.

With a few small modifications to some of the mindfulness exercises, like starting a meditation practice by meditating for shorter periods of time and practicing mindfulness exercises which use visual aids (many individuals with ADD/ADHD are visual learners), mindfulness can be enjoyed by children with ADHD and be of great benefit to them.

Here are some simple mindfulness exercises you might like to try:

To introduce mindfulness to your family or children at school ask them to sit quietly and try to observe the following:

  • Sounds in the environment.
  • Details of their breath.
  • Body sensations, for example a sore foot, uncomfortable shoulder, or aching stomach.
  • Looking closely at their immediate environment. What do they see now, that they may not have seen before.

Introducing mindfulness to your home environment has to be approached in a unique way as unlike adults, not many children will just sit down on a mat, close their eyes and start focusing on their breathing bringing their awareness to the present moment.

Activities which require movement such as yoga or tasks which focus on the five senses are all appropriate means of teaching a child to be more mindful.  Guided meditations such as the body scan are all helpful in teaching individuals to live in the present moment and be more aware of how they feel and how their feelings and reactions to stimuli will impact the word around them.  Remember to keep this shorter for more energetic children.  They will not want to sit or lie down for long.

Other ways of cultivating mindfulness in children are, practicing a musical instrument, reading a book and doing artwork.

Colouring mandalas or pictures from a colouring book are great ways to be mindful.   These activities are considered mindful as they require the individual to be “focusing in the moment”.  If your child prefers building things then building with lego, or building something outside in nature, like a hide, or mandala made out of items found in nature can also add an element of adventure as they run around looking for the correct materials to build with.

Do you remember this game from your childhood?  I do!

Memory game  – noticing the finer details.

Select a number of objects which you can lay out on a tray.  Ask the children to memorise the objects for a minute and then close their eyes, whilst you pack the objects away.   How many objects can they remember? Can they describe the objects in detail – colour, size?

This memory game will encourage children to focus and pay attention to things in detail as opposed to just casually noticing something and not really noticing the finer details around them.

It is worth remembering that mindfulness is an enjoyable and natural skill and we need to provide the right environment and encouragement to the children in our lives to enable this skill to develop. 

Children are very distracted by how busy our lives are with televisions and radios blaring, traffic noise, constant talking, phones ringing, text messages, Facebook and various other app notifications going off and noise in general.  If you live in a city and you sit quietly for a moment, notice just how many different noises you can hear.  Our lives are filled with noise.   All this noise makes it more difficult to stay focused and comes between our natural ability to be focused on real life.

Mandalas

Learning to focus.

For the past few years, colouring pre-designed mandalas either using templates from colouring-in books or downloaded from the internet, has been hugely popular and has inspired many people to colour-in as a way of enjoying some mindful quiet time. Colouring-in is another way of promoting focus and concentration, encouraging the “here and now” and colouring mandalas is a great meditative experience for people of any age. Colouring mandalas helps you to slow down and reconnect to the cyclical nature of time, the rhythms of nature and the reality of change.

The world “mandala” is Sanskrit for circle, completion or sacred centre and for centuries Hindus and Buddhists have used mandalas as an aid for meditation.   Even in Western cultures, colouring mandalas has been used as a stress management and meditation tool. Carl Jung (1875 – 1961) a Swiss psychoanalyst was fascinated by mandalas as he found out that by colouring and drawing mandalas he could access the images and energy of his own unconscious mind.  He then decided to use this art form in his practice with his patients, to facilitate their process of inner reflection.

In its simplest form a mandala is a geometric pattern that is said to represent the universe.   The mandala represents a circle, the primal form of the universe and if you look carefully you can see mandala patterns everywhere.  Take a look in your garden, notice the patterns in the plants growing there.  Glance at the night sky, notice the moon (and the sun) are circular.  Our earth is round and looking microscopically at atoms and cells you will notice they also take on a rounded form.  Have you ever seen the cross section of tree trunks, really looked at flowers and even snowflakes if you are lucky enough to see enjoy an annual snow fall (we love the snow in this house).   All these things I have mentioned, have geometric patterns.  Next time you are out walking and there is water around, drop a pebble in the water and see how the circular water patterns naturally move from the centre outwards. When looking around us in nature, everything starts from a “growth point” and grows or moves outwards. Modern physics and mathematicians believe that everything has a “centre” or point from which everything emanates.  The Hindus call this point a “bindu”, which is a sacred point.

Today, find some time to be outside and see how many mandala patterns you can see in nature.

Contact me here to find out about developing your own meditation practice and learning how to facilitate mindfulness in children and teenagers.

Mindful eating

Eating mindfully.

The thought of sitting at the dinner table can conjure up all sort of emotions.  Some families use this time to re-connect and spend quality time together, whereas for some families, it can be a time of anxiety.  One anxiety inducing element to a family dinner is encouraging children to try new foods.   I heard of a child once who refused to eat anything but marmite sandwiches…apparently for a number of years.  You could try something new and turn the introduction of new foods into a “mindful game”.    If you research mindful eating you are bound to come across the “raisin exercise” which is used widely to teach people about mindful eating. But, you could use the mindful eating game to encourage your children to try new fruits (maybe even veggies, although that might be less successful).    Research has suggested that eating mindfully will help improve digestion,  regulating our appetite, allowing us to make better food choices and prevent us from over eating.

How do we go about eating mindfully?  In essence, to eat mindfully, we need to slow down and really taste, smell and feel the texture of our food avoiding the temptation to wolf our food down.  Fruit snacks are a good way to introduce mindful eating to children. It might be harder to ask younger children to sit quietly whilst you explain to them that they are going to try a mindfulness exercise or mindful eating game, so turn this exercise into a family event.   The best time to introduce mindful eating could be at the dinner table.   You could call this new game,  “guess what I am eating” or maybe you can think of a more interesting title.

Start by selecting some fruits (or other foods) which you place on a selection of covered small plates.   The first person selects a plate and when everyone else has their eyes closed, unveils what they need to eat and describe to the group.  The person doing the describing,  really needs to pay attention to the food and explain it in all its glorious detail to the rest of the family who need to guess what the food is.   The person who guesses correctly first, could be the next person to eat an item of food and explain it to the rest of the group who will again have their eyes closed.

Below are some tips for eating mindfully and really paying attention to every aspect of the food you are eating.

  • Is the food heavy or light?
  • Does the food  feel warm or cool?
  • Is the food smooth or rough?
  • What do you see?  In, other words describe what the food looks like in as much detail as possible.
  • Is the food one colour?
  • What can you tell the group about the shape and texture of the food?
  • You can delve deeper into where the food came from, how it grew (fruit,veggies etc), how it was processed before you were able to buy it, where you bought it from and so on.  By this stage your group might have guessed what the food is.
  • Bring your families attention to the smell of the food.  Some smells will be very subtle and much harder to describe.
  • How does the smell of the food make you feel?
  • Slowly bite and take one chew at a time noticing how the taste changes. Focus all your attention on your mouth, how do your teeth feel, how does your tongue feel?  What do you smell? How does the fruit feel in your hand/mouth etc.

Have the rest of the group guessed what food you are describing yet?

Once the group have guessed the food and before the next person has a turn describing the food for the group, everyone should taste the food that was being described and eat the piece of fruit or food of choice very slowly taking in all the smells, tastes and sensations. At first this will seem very odd as it may take quite a while to eat the food, which can make some people feel the exercise is a bit silly and raise a few laughs!   Compare notes.  Did the rest of the group taste and smell and feel the texture of the food the same way you described it?

Eating mindfully can seem very strange at first, as we have become accustomed to eating fast and for some eating on the run without even sitting at a table, has  become the norm.   Our modern lives seem to be eroding this precious family time, so with a bit of coaxing and taking a relaxed approach to this fun exercise, mealtimes could become fun again and an opportunity for families to slow down and reconnect.  You may even find that your children start eating different foods when they realise that after a bit of mindful eating, they do actually like them.

Contact me here to find out about developing your own meditation practice and learning how to facilitate mindfulness in children and teenagers.

Connecting to nature

Mindful walking.

How often do you enjoy a country amble or a saunter along the beach?   Have you ever tried walking mindfully and really noticing how you feel when you walk, or noticed the environment around you?   When I think of mindful walking, I think of walking very slowly and paying attention to my breath and how my muscles feel in my body as I move through the movement of putting one step in front of the other, completely immersed in the art of “how I feel when I walk”.  You can extend this awareness to feeling the ground beneath your feet, you might also notice the breeze on your skin and some sounds in the local vicinity.

If you wish to practice a more formal form of mindful walking which involves walking slowly with awareness.  Then follow these steps below. After these steps, we shall look at simple ways to introduce mindful walking to younger family members.

  1. Start by becoming aware of how you are standing and aim to stand up straight with your back upright but not stiff.
  2. Ideally take your shoes off and feel your feet touching the ground and let your body weight distribute through your feet evenly.
  3. Before you start walking and to prevent your swinging arms from becoming a distraction, you can curl the thumb of your left hand into your palm and wrap your other fingers around it. Then place this “fist” on your abdomen just above your tummy button.   Place your right hand over and around the left hand.  You can place your right hand thumb in the space created by your left hand thumb and your index finger.  You should feel well balanced.   Try it and see if it works for you.
  4. To help you focus, drop your eyes slightly towards the ground just in front of you.
  5. Start  walking.  Feel your foot swing forward and feel your heel touch the ground, followed quickly the by the ball of your foot and finally your toes.  Keep moving forward in this way, one foot at a time.
  6. Walk at a steady pace and ensure it is slightly slower than your normal walking pace.  If you become distracted bring your awareness to each foot individually touching the ground and how that feels for you.

However, if you are going to introduce your children to mindful walking, you need to view your walk as an opportunity to walk a bit slower than normal and the chance to take note of everything going on around them – including how they feel.  Children, especially young ones will not embrace a slow more formal form of mindful walking.

As parents I am sure you can identify with the overwhelm of spending quite a bit of your time dashing from one place to another dragging your kids along with you.  Think about how often you collect the kids from school, race home quickly to fetch something, dash off to one of your children’s activities, dash home to quickly make dinner, race back to the venue to collect your child and possibly a second venue to collect your other child.   Most of this might be done with a  car, but you could also be walking or running!

This weekend, slow down and encourage your children to notice life around them.  Take a child friendly mindful walk, ideally somewhere in or near nature like a park, forest, field or if you are lucky enough to live near the sea, walk on the beach.

If you can, take off your shoes and feel the ground beneath your feet. If you can walk along the beach notice the grains of sand.  If you are walking on the grass, feel the grass between your toes. Notice the temperatures and textures of the ground beneath you. Extend your awareness and look at the texture of the ground, hear the sound of your footsteps as you walk and notice any smells in the air.  Feel the temperature of the air around you on your skin.  What do you see?  Cats, dogs, leaves, trees, flowers…litter? In colder countries if you are walking with your shoes on, notice how your feet are feeling inside you shoes. Reflect on how your body feels as you walk.  Do your muscles feel stiff, or is your body feeling fluid? Is your breathing deep or shallow?

To inspire children, you could introduce the game “I spy”.  For example, I spy something orange and crispy to the touch….. autumn leaves. Doing this makes a mindful walk a bit more fun and interactive for younger children and teaches them to pay attention to the world around them… without them even realising that you are cultivating within them an interest in slowing down to become more mindful.

The benefits of mindful walking are many.   By bringing more calm, clarity and connection into daily life, you will enjoy heightened awareness of yourself and life around you, better concentration (good for school and work) and enjoy an overall feeling of calm and peace, which is often missing in our lives.    If you are keen to develop your own meditation practice, mindful walking can enhance your practice, increase your mindfulness reducing your anxiety and stress levels and  lead to increased feelings of contentment and joy.

Contact me here to find out about developing your own meditation practice and learning how to facilitate mindfulness in children and teenagers.