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How to Benefit by Introducing Mindfulness into your Life

Maggie Sacket

How to Benefit by Introducing Mindfulness into your Life

By Lea Steuri

She is now working with “fat footballers” and helping them improve their mental and physical health. Maggie Sacket is an expert in the art of mindfulness. She first started teaching Mindfulness five years ago. Ever since, she has been successfully working as a coach and has been running multiple mindfulness holiday retreats all over the world. Her sessions on Mindfulness have shown to help foster a healthy mental state and have also shown to be an asset in personal development.

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In many societies, mental health issues are still not openly discussed. Why do you think that is the case and what can we do to change this?

Mental Health has always been the poor cousin of physical health. It is not obvious and there is no obvious way to help. When people don’t understand something they become suspicious. Many people are either frightened of those with mental health issues or pretend they just don’t exist, which can lead to thinking that people with depression should just get over it. Therefore, money for research and treatment has been in short supply and people have been left to suffer in silence.

We can all make a difference by being more open towards mental health issues and by helping anyone with mental health issues through listening and general supportiveness. We can also support charities, such as “Mind and the Samaritans”, by volunteering or contributing a monthly amount. I am teaching mindfulness to a group of amateur footballers and just by sharing their issues, they have all been incredible honest and supportive towards each other – this sense of sharing and supportiveness has really helped them!

What exactly is mindfulness and how did you develop your interest in mindfulness?

Mindfulness is about paying attention to the present moment whilst being non judgmental with a sense of openness and curiosity and above all compassion, especially to ourselves. Mindfulness is practiced daily by using guided meditations and by being present in our everyday activities.

Just 10 to 20 minutes a day of meditation have been shown to make a difference to ones physical and emotional well-being. Through brain imaging scans, many scientific studies have shown that mindfulness actually works. As well as becoming calmer and enjoying life more, mindfulness also boosts the immune system, lowers high blood pressure and even reduces ageing. In a recent study, people who regularly practice mindfulness and meditation were shown to be up to 7 years younger physically than their actual age.

I came to mindfulness via yoga and meditation. I did an eight-week mindfulness course which provided a comprehensive introduction to incorporating mindfulness into my everyday life. Instead of rushing from one thing to another I started to enjoy the things I was actually doing when I was doing them, living in the present moment instead of obsessing about the past and worrying about the future. In fact, I stopped worrying at all and started enjoying my life – THE LIFE I already had – not the one I thought I wanted!

Do you have any easy applicable tips on how to integrate mindfulness into one’s own daily life?

We do so many things without noticing. We do them on automatic pilot. At the moment everyone is being encouraged to wash their hands as often as possible for 20 seconds. This provides a wonderful opportunity to incorporate mindfulness into our everyday life. When washing your hands use all 5 senses to concentrate on the actual act itself, noticing the feel of the water and soap on your hands, the appearance of your hands as you wash them, the sounds and smell of the soap and maybe you can even taste that smell. And if your mind wanders, which it will, gently and without judging bring your attention back to the hand washing itself. You can also use this technique when you are brushing your teeth, having a shower, walking to your car, switching on your computer or when you are doing any number of everyday activities.

Another technique you can use if you are feeling worried is to concentrate on your breath. Breathe in with your whole body, watch your abdomen as it rises as the breath comes in and falls away as your body relaxes as you breathe out. By slowing down your breath, you are telling your body that all is well so instead of releasing stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol, your body will relax and send out happy hormones, such as oxytocin and serotonin.

Can everyone use techniques of mindfulness?

Yes, everyone can learn these techniques. They just need to start doing them without judging and approach them with curiosity and openness. Many people say “oh I can’t meditate my mind is all over the place, I’m no good at it”. Mindfulness is not about having an empty quiet mind, though this may happen, but rather noticing what is actually on your mind. Instead of getting carried away by worst case scenarios, just gently acknowledge where your mind has been and bring it back to your breath without judging. Mindfulness only works if you practice it daily and build it into your everyday life. Everybody benefits from mindfulness, you, your family and friends and the work that you do!

In what way can mindfulness be applied to a work environment and how can my business benefit?

From a work point of view, there have been many studies showing how mindfulness can help people become more productive and creative in the workplace. Mindfulness promotes focus and concentration and the ability to think clearly under pressure. It does this by teaching skills of focus and concentration during meditation. Coming back to the breath, time and time again, every time the mind wanders and also other types of meditations, which change the focus from from one thing to another, i.e. sounds and thoughts, improve the agility of the mind. This is then a useful tool in coping with switching between different situations and in dealing with fast moving decision-making without feeling overwhelmed.

Another useful quality you can employ at work is to utilise the approach pathway of the brain, rather than the aversion pathway. Using the approach pathway leads to more creativity and the ability to identify and implement solutions to problems. Mindfulness also shows how management styles and cultures can benefit the company most by ensuring their employees maintain this approach rather than aversion pathway, which in turn impacts efficiency, ideas, solutions and profitability as well as employee retention. Working in a bullying stressful environment does not help improve productivity or help to retain staff. Mindfulness is being taught at big companies like Google and Apple, as well as in parliament.

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