A Mindful Wimbledon?

A Mindful Wimbledon?

The application of mindfulness in sport is not new. Sports psychologists have been studying the impact of using mindfulness in competitive sport for many years now. Multiple studies have demonstrated that mindfulness enhances athletic performance by improving concentration and accuracy, and by making it easier to play ‘in the zone’.

So might it have a role to play in professional tennis? Novak Djokovic, today’s Wimbledon semi-finalist, would argue that it does.

In his 2013 book “Serve to Win”, Djokovic explains that he practices mindfulness meditation for 15 minutes every day. Mindfulness is a way of paying attention to your experience as it happens, without judgment. Djokovic explains that practicing mindfulness meditation has enabled him to let go of negative emotions such as self-doubt, anger and worry.  He views it as a form of mental training – just as important as his physical training.

Although it is still rare to hear professional players speaking about their use of mindfulness, perhaps given its benefits, we can expect to see much more mindfulness in sport in years to come. With its proven ability to increase focus and attention span, boost personal wellbeing and compassion for others, mindfulness has an obvious application in competitive sport, whether you’re a world class player or an enthusiastic amateur.

 

Gillian Higgins is an international criminal barrister and meditation teacher. She founded Practical Meditation (www.practicalmeditation.co.uk) in 2016 and teaches mindfulness in the workplace.

Photo by Ben Hershey on Unsplash

Wellness for Law Forum 2018

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Wellness for Law Forum 2018

On 6th July, Wellness for Law will host a one-day conference sponsored by The Inner Temple.  The conference will be a chance to share updates in research, clinical knowledge and good practice to inform and support the Legal Profession on issues of wellbeing. 

I am delighted to be hosting the Morning Mindfulness session for Wellness for Law at 10.30am in the Parliament Chamber and sharing the practice of mindfulness with other professionals.

For more information, see www.wellnessforlawuk.org 

 

 

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Mindfulness Morning Session

Mindfulness Morning Session

An Introduction to Mindfulness in the Workplace: London, Thursday 19th July 2018

Next month, international barrister and meditation teacher Gillian Higgins will be hosting a Corporate Mindfulness Morning at her chambers, 9 Bedford Row. 

This session, "An Introduction to Mindfulness in the Workplace" will take place from 10-1pm and is intended for those who are new to the practice of mindfulness. It will provide guidance on how to incorporate it into the workplace and how developing these practices can help you to reduce stress, improve focus, sleep better and enjoy an improved sense of wellbeing. 

The morning session includes pr-reading material, a three-hour practical session with guidance and mindfulness practices for the workplace. It also includes free access to Practical Meditation's online 7-day Introduction to Mindfulness Meditation course (RRP:£12). 

Location: The Chambers of 9 Bedford Row, London

Time: 10am-1pm

Includes tea, coffee and home-made cake. 

 

If you would like to book a place for a member of your staff, or for yourself, please click here or go to www.practicalmeditation.co.uk

Corporate Mindfulness: The Commute

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Corporate Mindfulness: The Commute

In this series, international barrister and meditation teacher Gillian Higgins* examines simple ways in which mindfulness can help us to bring a sense of calm into the workplace. 

An increasing number of business leaders are training their staff in how to practice and reap the benefits of mindfulness in the workplace. Faced with ever increasing deadlines, long working hours and a constantly changing working environment, there is a growing need for us to be able to step out of 'stress mode' and engage with each other and our work, more mindfully in the workplace. 

Mindfulness can be defined as the bringing of moment-to-moment awareness to aspects of our everyday life with curiosity, openness and a sense of non-judgment. It's about being in the present moment - being aware of what we are doing, while we are doing it. With practice, mindfulness can help us to respond to situations with choice rather than react automatically, which can often be unhelpful. It can help to improve our focus, concentration, and general sense of wellbeing. 

So how can we practice mindfulness in the workplace? At a recent Corporate Mindfulness Morning in West Sussex, I explained that there are proven ways in which we can drop into our present moment experience - e.g. by practicing mindfulness meditation or by introducing short mindful pauses into our everyday lives. Introducing mindfulness in these ways can help us to activate our natural capacity to be well - to engage what's known as the 'parasympathetic nervous system', the 'rest and digest' system, which in turn can help us to experience a feeling of relaxation. It is the antidote to the 'fight, flight or freeze' mode in which we operate at various times during the day when we feel stressed or anxious. While stress is key for our survival and can motivate us to complete a task, give a speech or overcome an obstacle, ongoing or chronic negative stress can be highly detrimental to both our bodies and our minds. 

In this month's series of posts, I will be exploring ways in which the practice of mindfulness can be used practically in the workplace. So let's start with the commute.

The Commute

Many of us now commute to the workplace via public transport. On your commute this week, simply notice how many people around you are connected to a device - whether it's to check email, watch a film, read the newspaper or a book. 

Choose to give yourself a short break from 'attachment to distraction' by seeing whether for at least ten minutes you can turn off your phone, iPad, radio and simply be. Close your eyes or lower your gaze if you are able to do so. Let go of any thoughts that arise and return to your breath, using it as your anchor to your present experience. Direct your breath to different parts of your body and notice any sensations that arise. Perhaps start with your feet and slowly move to the top of your head - taking in the whole body breathing. Check in with how you feel. 

Corporate Mindfulness

To find out more about bringing a Corporate Mindfulness Morning to your workplace, please get in touch by clicking the button below.

 

Photo by Eutah Mizushima on

*Gillian Higgins is an international barrister and meditation teacher. She set up Practical Meditation in 2016 and the following year established The Mindful Kitchen Company with Miranda Gore Browne, a finalist on the first series of BBC2's "The Great British Bake Off".

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Reducing Stress

Many of us are challenged by the pace of work or life in general - by the incessant emails, calls, texts, tweets, Whatsapps and Instagrams to name but a few. Our efficiency and ability to concentrate can become affected and we can start to feel stressed by the content of daily life. 

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In my own workplace at the Bar, over recent years, colleagues have slowly started to address more openly the impact of stress and the need to promote a sense of wellbeing within the working environment. This awareness has been supported by recent research conducted by the Bar Council in October 2014, which found alarmingly that: in 3 barristers found it difficult to control or stop worrying; 2 in 3 felt that showing signs of stress equals weakness; 1 in 6 expressed feeling in low spirits most of the time and 59 % demonstrated unhealthy levels of perfectionism; and felt that psychological wellbeing within the legal profession is rarely spoken about.[1]

            Unfortunately, these findings echo the reality of many modern workplaces. Long bouts of stress can start to weaken our immune system and cause high blood pressure, fatigue, depression, anxiety and even heart disease.  All of these responses over time can be extremely wearing on our physical bodies and mental state. As Dr. Brantley explains in his book "Calming Your Anxious Mind", chronic stress means "chronic hyper-arousal of the body through its fear system. The price for this is high, both physically and emotionally." He explains that fortunately, “there is good news" as we have a "balancing response to fight-or-flight wired" into us, and mindfulness mediation is one way of activating it.

            By practicing mindfulness meditation, we engage the parasympathetic nervous system – the “rest and digest” system – which can help us to regulate and reduce the flow of certain chemicals in our bodies, including adrenaline, epinephrine, norepinephrine and cortisol. Engaging this soothing system is a reliable way of helping us to activate our natural capacity to be well. In short, we experience what is known as the “relaxation response”, a phrase coined by Dr Herbert Benson in 1975 to describe the way in which we can experience deep relaxation from practicing meditation and how a daily practice can help us to mitigate the effects of harmful stress.[2]

[1] Wellbeing at the Bar, April 2015: www.barcouncil.org.uk/media-centre/publications/2015/may/wellbeing-at-the-bar-report/

[2] The Relaxation Response by Dr Herbert Benson, 1975.

 

 

 

Meditation Podcast

Meditation Podcast

This meditation helps us to understand that we can let both sounds and thoughts come and go, without attachment. In this way, we can gain space to decide how best to respond to the challenges that arise. Take a few moments to practice this short guided meditation. 

7 minutes 43

Wellness for Law

Wellness for Law

Research suggests that 1 in 6 employees at any one time will experience mental health issues in the UK. These account for 30-40% of absences from work and as much as 50% of all long-term sick leave cases.

Legal professionals fall within a high-risk group of individuals who are likely to experience the symptoms of mental ill-health during their professional lives.

Many professionals struggle to manage work-related stress, suffer from anxiety or depression, have difficulty sleeping, find it hard to switch off, feel overwhelmed or even 'burnt out'. These experiences are becoming more and more common in the workplace as people struggle to keep up with technology, ensure excellent client care and meet the daily demands of litigation.

A report published by the Bar Council in 2015 stated that 1 in 3 lawyers find it difficult to control or stop worrying, 2 in 3 feel that showing signs of stress equals weakness and 59% demonstrated unhealthy levels of perfectionism.

Clearly, there is a growing need to address mental health issues in the workplace in a way which responds sensitively to the needs of the individuals in order to ensure a healthy working environment, which in turn promotes productivity and commitment.

A recent initiative that has been launched in an attempt to tackle some of these issues is Wellness for Law UK, set up by Rachel Spearing, Co-Founder of the Bar Wellbeing Project.Wellness for Law UK aims to build a community of legal practitioners, academics and clinicians, who are committed to sharing research, information, best practice and collaborating to promote wellness throughout legal education and continuing professional development in practice.

To find out more about the work of Wellness for Law UK, click here.

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

Meditations for Kids

Meditations for Kids

Christine Kerr has produced a great selection of 'Enchanted Meditations for Kids" which contains a state of the art recording comprising eight short meditations to help children feel calm and confident. 

They include a jellyfish relaxation, an underwater dolphin ride and a butterfly relaxation.

Click here for more information.

 

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

Your Daily Practice

Your Daily Practice

Here is this week's list of great publicly available practices and suggestions to help us to start introducing mediation on a daily basis.

Developing a Daily Practice by Jack Kornfield: http://www.mindful.org/developing-a-daily-practice/

A Daily Mindful Check-In Practice by Bob Stahl: http://www.mindful.org/a-daily-mindful-check-in-practice/

Calm by Michael Acton Smith: https://www.calm.com/book

This book contains lots of tools, tricks and habits to introduce mindfulness meditation into your daily life. Highly recommended.

Padraig O'Moiran's Meditation Practice: http://www.padraigomorain.com/audio.html

Fragrant Heart: Click here to access this vast collection of meditations: http://www.fragrantheart.com/cms/free-audio-meditations

 

Photo by Simon Matzinger on Unsplash

Improve Your Sleep

Improve Your Sleep

Scientific research last year in the Netherlands suggested that even a small amount of mindfulness meditation can help to calm our hyperactive minds and improve our sleep.

In the 2015 study in the Netherlands, participants with no formal meditation training were given reading materials that introduced them to the basic tenets of mindfulness – the moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations. They were also given short practices to complete, including a body scan meditation, an awareness of breath practice and a loving-kindness meditation. The participants were asked to meditate for ten minutes before and after work each day. The results indicated that over the course of a two-week period, the meditators experienced steady improvements in both sleep quality and duration.

For a useful article from Mindful detailing the research, click here.

To access the scientific research, click here.

For a podcast from Mindful on mindfulness for sleep, click here.

To access Rick Hanson's "7 Tips for Getting More Sleep", click here.

For meditation practices that improve sleep, try the App Insight Timer Sleep section.

 

Photo by Alexandra Gorn on Unsplash

Sleep Better

Sleep Better

In her book "Breathe", Jean Hall includes a great breathing practice to induce sleep. The practice was pioneered by Andrew Weil, a doctor based in Arizona. Make sure you are tucked up in bed when you begin the practice. 

1. Lying on your back, rest the tip of your tongue on the roof of your mouth, on the ridge just behind your upper teeth.

2. Exhale completely and let your body relax and sink into the bed.

3. Slowly inhale through your nose for 4 counts and then hold the breath for 7 counts.

4. On a count of 8, softly whoosh the breath out through your mouth, resting your tongue on the floor of your mouth. 

5. Continue like this until sleep prevails. 

Photo by Benjamin Lossius on Unsplash

New Courses!

New Courses!

If you're looking to take a short course on "How to Learn to Meditate", click below to take a peek at the courses on offer at Practical Meditation's "Teachable" online school. 

Guided Meditation

Guided Meditation

This week, Practical Meditation offers a short guided meditation called "Uniqueness of Breath". This mindfulness practice allows us to become aware of the uniqueness of each breath and helps us to use the breath as an anchor to the present moment. The pack also contains two short essays on how to build a daily practice and the nature of the wandering mind. 

 

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

The Body Scan

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This month, Gillian Higgins at Practical Meditation has recorded a short body scan meditation in which we pay attention to different parts of the body in sequence, without judgement. The body scan is one of the central practices of mindfulness meditation, a practice which has been described as friendly, non-judging, allowing, present-moment awareness. 

To access this free, downloadable meditation from Practical Meditation's online school, click the button below. The pack also includes useful notes on "What is Mindfulness Meditation?" and "How Do I Get Started?"

How to Practice?

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How to Practice?

When teaching mindfulness meditation, I am frequently asked: "what do I need to be able to practice?"

The answer is simply your body and your breath. For comfort, you may wish to use a high-backed chair or a cushion on the floor. If you want to lie down, choose somewhere comfortable, again where you will not be disturbed. If you decide to meditate on your bed, simply be aware of the temptation to drift off to sleep. This is a common experience and may simply demonstrate that you need more sleep.

Why not try this short body-scan meditation which is a central practice of mindfulness meditation and helps us to connect with our bodies and in doing so, disconnect the mind from its ideas, opinions, beliefs, and judgements.

You can access this guided meditation by clicking here.

Take a moment for yourself and reap the benefits of your practice. 

 

Extract taken from "The Short Guide to Mindfulness Meditation" by Gillian Higgins, due to be published in June 2018

 

Photo by Imani Clovis on Unsplash

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Mindfulness Meditation

Mindfulness Meditation

What is mindfulness meditation? In essence, it is a very simple form of meditation designed to develop the skill of paying attention to our inner and outer experiences with acceptance, patience and kindness to ourselves. It is a practice of being fully and attentively present in the moment.

A typical mindfulness meditation consists of focusing full attention on the breath as it flows in and out of your body. Mark Williams, former Director of the Oxford Mindfulness Centre explains that "focusing on each breath in this way allows you to observe your thoughts as they arise in your mind and, little by little, to let go of struggling with them. You come to realise that thoughts come and go of their own accord; that you are not your thoughts. You can watch as they appear in your mind, seemingly from thin air, and watch again as they disappear, like a soap bubble bursting. You come to the profound understanding that thoughts and feelings (including negative ones) are transient. They come and they go, and ultimately, you have a choice about whether to act on them or not."

Jon Kabat-Zinn, creator of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction programme, explains that mindfulness is "Living your life as if it really mattered, which means you've got to be here for it, with awareness and with a certain degree of kindness to oneself and an understanding of the deep interconnectedness of all life and all being."

Mindfulness meditation helps us to accept the mind's wanderings and to bring our attention back to the present moment without blame or judgement. It is not complicated, exclusive or long-winded. It can be practiced by anyone and its health benefits can readily be seen from a daily practice of 10-20 minutes.

It does not seek to stop the thoughts we all have on a daily basis, although it may slow the pace at which those thoughts arise. It can also empower us to let those thoughts pass like clouds, rather than latch onto them and let them to spiral out of control, as is often our habit.

In essence, mindfulness meditation can be defined as a quietening of the mind and a training of our attention to become aware of the present moment. When our minds wander into thought, we return gently to our anchor without judgement, time and time again, with kindness to ourselves. In this way, we can start to befriend the mind and become familiar with how our thought processes actually work. 

 

Photo by Adrian Curiel on Unsplash

Take a Moment

Take a Moment

The new "Take a Moment" series invites you to listen to a short guided mindfulness meditation to help you drop into the present moment. Recorded by barrister and meditation teacher Gillian Higgins, the Conscious Breathing Meditation practice uses the breath as a point of anchor, a place to return to when your mind starts to wander. An effective practice to restore a sense of calm.

3 mins 22 seconds

 

Let's Meditate!

Let's Meditate!

For those of you who are looking for simple mindfulness meditation practices to use on a daily basis, take a moment to discover the free audio recordings by Gillian Higgins uploaded this month on Practical Meditation's website. You can access them by clicking here.

The guided meditations are short and practical. They can be used at home or at work when you need to pause and take a moment for yourself. 

Gillian is currently writing her first meditation book, "7 Days of Mindfulness" which is intended to be a practical guide to taking the first steps towards building a mindfulness meditation practice. 

We hope you enjoy the meditations and Happy New Year!

 

 

Image kindly supplied by Samuel Zeller

Online School

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Over the past few months, Gillian Higgins, barrister and meditation teacher at Practical Meditation, has been designing some new short mindfulness meditation courses. They are intended to be used in the home and/or the workplace and introduce the concept and practice of mindfulness meditation.

The new 2-day and 7-day Introduction to Mindfulness Meditation courses are now available. There is also a growing selection of short audio-guided meditations, recorded by Gillian.

All materials can be downloaded and many of the resources are now freely available. The 7-day course can be downloaded for only £10 in October and November. Simply click the button below to access the online school.