Mindfulness – the art of turning Depleting activities into Nourishing ones  

Words by Emma Pratt, Executive Career Coach at NABS

I’m sure everyone reading this has heard of mindfulness.  Some of you might even have tried it, but how many of us practise it regularly or are aware of the fact that mindfulness can help to reduce stress and anxiety?  We all tend to rush through life at a rate of knots, but by paying more attention to the present moment, to ourselves, our thoughts, our feelings and our environment, we can have a positive impact on our own wellbeing.

The importance of being in the ‘now’ is written about often, as is the need to be happy where you are, rather than letting your thoughts take you somewhere else.  Our brains, however, are very rarely in the here and now.  We focus on the future or we ruminate on the past and this can cause us stress and anxiety, particularly as we only tend to hold onto the thoughts that are extremely positive or extremely negative.  Add to this the fact that our brains haven’t caught up with modern day technology and well, it’s just exhausting isn’t it?

The NABS team were lucky enough to experience a full day workshop on mindfulness, delivered by Waves Mindfulness, where we learnt four valuable techniques to help us to become more mindful. The point of each exercise was for us to focus fully on the core component of the mindful technique, so that if we felt our minds starting to wander we could bring our focus back to it. This allowed us to take control back from our thoughts, which more often than not are negative and untrue, fuel our behaviour and form our physical and emotional stress indicators.  The four techniques were:

  1. Our breath: As with meditation, breathing from the belly and focusing fully on our breath
  2. Our body: Reconnecting with our bodies and the sensations they are experiencing
  3. Sound: Focusing on the sounds in the different environments around us.  Not naming them but really paying attention to what noises we were hearing and where they were
  4. Movement: What we feel and what changes occurred in the body as we moved

We can practice these valuable mindfulness techniques anywhere, at any time, but above and beyond this, how can we become more mindful about our day-to-day activities and the environment in which we operate?  There are things we have to do in life whether we like it or not.  Many of these are incredibly mundane such as commuting, completing household chores or brushing our teeth.  Similarly, our physical and mental health can be greatly impacted by our environment. So, how can we find ways to nourish and de-stress so that we are not on autopilot and depleting ourselves Monday to Friday whilst waiting for the weekend or our annual holiday to replenish ourselves again?

A great exercise that we were taught in the session was to make a list of everything we do in an average day, from waking up in the morning, hitting the snooze button (yes, we all do it), to walking to the station, switching on our computers and going out to buy a sandwich.  The list goes on…. I ended up with a list of about forty activities, against each of which I had to write either an ’N’, if it were a nourishing activity, or a ‘D’, if a depleting one.  Upon totting up the scores, I could see the percentage of the time I spend every day on things that either sustain me or wear me out.  It’s quite an eye opener to see how much of my day I spend doing things that I either don’t enjoy or that, I feel, have a negative impact on me.  A key depletion area for me was commuting.  Interestingly, not walking to the station from my home, but getting to a platform, squeezing onto a train, fighting to the tube, being squashed on the tube and dodging people along Oxford Street to get to the office.  Not an ’N’ in sight!

The reality of commuting is, unfortunately, never going to change, so I needed to think about what I could do to make my ‘D’ experiences more nourishing.  Suggestions from the room included listening to music, an audiobook or a podcast when commuting or even potentially considering alternative routes or methods of transport.  Perhaps it could be worth considering a slightly longer journey if it enabled me to feel less depleted on arrival at my destination?

Some ‘D’s however, are going to be difficult to change and these activities may always remain depleting.  The answer to this is to think about how to reward yourself afterwards or what can be done at the same time.  Perhaps a trip to the coffee shop after tidying the house or cooking supper while watching a movie on Netflix will aid nourishment during activities that could otherwise seem draining.

So, now it’s your turn to make your list.  What in your life nourishes you and what do you find depleting?  Brainstorm ideas around what could make your ‘D’s more nourishing.  Having an awareness of this can help to reduce stress and anxiety or enable us to see the signs earlier so as to deal with them better.  I’m going to start listening to an audiobook on the train. If you have any recommendations, tweet us @NABS_UK using #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek #MHAW17

NABS is here to help improve and champion the wellbeing of everyone in advertising and media. If you want to practise positive thinking we run Mindfulness Masterclasses as part of our Resilience Programme, specifically designed to help you tackle life’s pressures in a more proactive and solutions-focused way. Our Advice Line team are on hand to talk you through any pressures you may be experiencing, at work or at home, and can offer emotional support or refer you to our cognitive behavioural therapy and stress coaching services. Our coaches can work with you in one-to-one sessions to help you find solutions for tackling stress and approaching life in a more positive, solutions-focused way. Visit our website or call us on 0800 707 6607 to see how we can help.


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