Creating space for MFH (meditating from home)

I’d like to offer some thoughts on how to help with mental health, in these uncertain times. 

Specifically, some tips on how to fit meditation into this new home-life world we find ourselves in. 

Before I start, I should say that meditation is just one aspect of looking after our overall wellness and mental health. Diet, exercise, a positive mindset and socialising are also vitally important.

But meditation is a powerful tool, scientifically proven to help our immune system plus reduce stress and anxiety. 

If you haven’t tried it yet, perhaps you think you’re not cut out for it. If so, this is worth considering.

Or, perhaps you find it hard to fit it into your day, especially in the workplace

But now maybe you’re facing a new challenge; how you fit it into your new home/work-life set up. 

As the boundaries between work and leisure become less clear with WFH now our new normal, finding the right headspace and the right moment has become challenging.

Of course, we have to be aware that some of us are going through greater challenges than this right now. 

Nonetheless, we all have to stay as mentally strong as possible, not just for our own sake, but in order to support those around us, and those who are suffering more. 

So for anyone finding it hard to make space for positive mental health exercises at the moment, here are 5 tips for how to find some space for meditation while at home.

1. Create a routine

Creating a regular time slot to look after your mental health – let’s call it an emotional space – that you can protect each day will mean you are far more likely to develop a positive habit that lasts. 

Plus your partner or housemates will appreciate knowing your routine and respect it.

So when? 

Well, anytime is better than not at all, but early morning or end of the working day are both good options.

Early mornings will help you start the day in a calm mindset. 

You may just need to make a bit more effort to get up earlier than the rest of the household. 

When they surface though, you’ll be in a positive frame of mind, ready for the day’s challenges and so much more prepared for interacting with and supporting those around you. 

Or you could try at the end of the working day – just switch off your laptop and meditate straight away. 

One of the challenges with WFH is the gradual merging of day (work) into evening (leisure). Without the change of environment, it can feel like the two are much the same which makes it harder to relax post work. 

Meditation helps to punctuate the split between work and leisure and draw a clear divide, helping you to relax into that leisure time. 

2. Pick a space, any space (as long as it’s not your workspace) 

Keeping a space where you work separate from a space where you need to wind down is a good practice. 

Psychologically, keeping the two distinct from each other will help enhance the experience of both work and meditation. 

You require a different type of energy for each, which can be fostered through the environment in which we’re in.

A meditation space can be anywhere though. 

If you’ve got a spare room, great, but maybe it’s the space between your wardrobe and your bed, and that’s fine. 

Wherever you pick though, try and make sure it’s clean and uncluttered, and try and stick to it, so you build up a positive mental association and energy with it.

3. Get comfortable

You really don’t need much to meditate other than you. 

Just sit crossed legged or on a chair, the floor or your bed.

As long as you’re comfortable and feel supported (with good posture and not in pain) that’s all you need.

However, if you still can’t get comfortable, there are some other things that could help – if budget allows – that can improve the experience, which in turn may help you maintain it as a habit. Some these items are:

  • Meditation cushion or chair: to help with posture and comfort
  • Weighted Blanket to help with relaxation and warmth 
  • Ear plugs or over ear headphones: if you live in a particularly noisy location
  • Soft lighting (or an eye mask): to help with relaxation 

4. Use a recorded guided meditation

If you’re new to meditation, there are plenty of recorded meditations that will help guide you. 

There are some free guided meditations on our site to help get you going, but after that you may want to do an online course to help take you further.

5. Get your partner or housemates’ support

It can be easier to find the time and space to meditate if you have your partner or housemates’ support.

Tell them you’re keen to make this a daily habit, not only for your good but for theirs too. 

Meditation will help you be a better version of yourself, which they’ll also benefit from.

Your calmness will rub off on them and you’ll be better at offering support through tough times.

If you have children, ask your partner to look after the kids for 20 mins, and in return you can do the same so they can have space in their day to look after their wellness too. 

If you’re a single parent, perhaps try waiting until the kids have gone to bed, or getting up before them (easier said than done of course, but it is possible to reset your body clock to wake up earlier).

And it doesn’t matter if someone walks in half way through meditation – consider it a bonus to help you focus more and make your meditation stronger as a result.

I hope these tips help.

I would love to hear from you on how you are creating space at the moment for meditation and wellness.

It feels like it has never been more necessary to train your mind to react more positively to external events.

And for some of us, when have we had as much extra time now that the commute is a thing of the past?

If these tips don’t help, or you want to talk through them, please do get in touch, on leigh@citycalm.me.

I’m happy to assist if I can. I can also consult on this subject for larger organisations.

Some good can come out of this experience if we think positively.

#staysafestayathome

#staymentallystrong

Making Workplaces Happier Spaces

The recent Deloitte ‘Mental Health and Employers’ report makes for a sobering read, finding that a sixth of workers are experiencing a mental health problem at any one time, with costs to UK employers increasing by 16% since 2017, to a massive £45 billion.

It’s essential reading for anyone in the mental health field, but mostly for those responsible for wellbeing at work; giving deep insight into how employers and employees can work together to improve standards, as well as the ROI from wellbeing programmes (on average for every £1 invested, employers received £5 back).

But one thing was missing: the workspaces themselves.

Put simply, most workplace environments aren’t designed to maximise positive mental health. Yet this barely got a mention in the report. 

Science shows that our environments affect our mental health and yet most workplaces have plenty of space, but no dedicated private areas for people to take five. Least of all a section dedicated to boosting mental wellness. 

And perhaps it’s not something you’ve considered before, after all it doesn’t get discussed much. We all fall into apathetic ways; this is just the way that work is. 

We need change, however – and urgently. 

But how?  

Designing for wellbeing

Recently I was lucky enough to speak at a co-living meet-up on the topic of designing for wellbeing, featuring some of London’s most promising up-and-coming designers and architects. 

Co-living is a growing movement that addresses the problem of loneliness in our society head on.

It’s a growing issue, and one that Natasha Reid, the other speaker on the night, spoke about: “Loneliness can be as damaging to our health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day”. 

The need to design environments – at home and work – that combat issues of mental health, are much needed it seems.

This got me thinking about the balance between private and public spaces in general. We go from one extreme to another in London. On the one hand, loneliness is becoming an epidemic. On the other, overpopulation makes the city feel like it’s at bursting point at times.

So thinking about shared spaces where we can co-exist harmoniously has never been more necessary, but what thought is given to private spaces where we can have a moment of peace on our own?

Simple solutions can be the most impactful

I’ve written before about the benefits of meditation, which is scientifically proven to help a myriad of mental health issues. I’ve also written about the lack of suitable quiet spaces at work, for those needing a bit of time-out amidst growing to-do lists and stakeholder pressures.

If we are to combat mental health issues in the workplace starting with something as simple (yet impactful) as meditation, often the only option is to do it in the toilets – and I don’t need to spell out the obvious disadvantages of this as a location for tranquility. Surely we can do better than this.

A quiet moment to ourselves can help in many ways; to help refocus, reset or recharge. We’ll all work better as a result, says Deloitte. 

The need for some respite at work, I should be clear, is nothing to be ashamed of. It should in fact be celebrated. It’s not about hiding away from people, but taking a positive step to improve your mental health and effectiveness.

History is full of examples of people stepping into nature on their own to find solitude and peace; for some tribes, solitary time in the wilderness is still an important initiation rite. So it’s not a new human need, but something that’s become harder to access in our always-on world and open plan offices.

How do we bring some of the fundamentals of human-centric design into workplaces, in a way that blends the need for a work-hard attitude with the empathy we all need to look after our mental health and each other? 

Are more private spaces a solution? We’ll only know if we try. 

What do you think? 

I’d love to hear how your workplace is tackling some of the issues raised here.  

Photo: energepic.com

Why Workplaces Need to get Better at Mental Health

It was a horrible, drizzly December day when I first walked into the GP’s surgery, knowing that something wasn’t right, but not really sure what it was.

It was Christmas party season and I should’ve been in the swing of it, excited about catching up with friends and family and looking forward to my favourite holiday of the year; the one when you can truly switch off from everything.

But I wasn’t.

I hadn’t felt this low in years.

I’d recently gone through a relationship break-up and I knew that was part of the cause, but I’d been through this before and back then I’d been able to pull myself out of the fog for some of the time I was experiencing it… This time I couldn’t.

The doctor heard me out and offered some possible options.

Firstly the chemical route; tempting, a quick fix (what I needed given the hectic Christmas schedule) and secondly, a potential long term solution; an app called Headspace, which you might have heard of, but at the time was news to me.

I must admit, I picked both options.

But under some firm encouragement from my GP (and I’ll be forever in debt for this) I resolved to make a go of this mindfulness and meditation thing.

And when I did, my life started to change for the better.

I wasn’t taking the medication for very long, as the positive effects of the daily mindfulness practice were so remarkable I just didn’t need to.

In so many different areas of my life I was seeing improvements and benefits.

I felt content.

I had improved concentration.

I was more alert.

I slept better.

I was a (slightly) better person to be around.

I still had my moments, but I almost forgot what anxiety felt like.

All this for just 20 mins of my time each day! I couldn’t believe my luck.

Yet there was still one problem…

I felt the effects most powerfully if I did it EVERY day.

Without a regular routine with daily meditation, the potency of the effects was about 50% lower.

So why not just make more of an effort to do it every day?

Life gets in the way.

Early morning meetings.

A hangover after a work social.

Just feeling a bit too tired some mornings.

And unless I practiced in the morning, there was no other chance to do it for the rest of the day.

Because the majority of workplaces just aren’t set up to make mindfulness or meditation accessible.

The options for most people who miss out on their morning meditation boil down to;

-group classes (which are great, but are often at inconvenient times, and can be expensive)

-the tube (possible, but not if you don’t get a seat or have someone’s elbow digging your ribs)

-a park bench (not ideal with the erratic English climate, and hard to truly switch off when strangers are around you)

-the office toilet, which is where I finally cracked – with the person in the cubicle next to me doing their utmost to pull me out of my zen state via their multi-sensorial bombardment – and decided something needs to be done about this: why is there nowhere else I can do this in peace?

And there still doesn’t seem to be.

In fact only 9% of the 3 billion-plus global workers have access to some type of workplace wellness program at their jobs*.

A pretty shocking state of affairs.

So here I am, sharing my own experiences in the hope that HR teams, managing partners, CEOs and the Chief Happiness Officers of this world might take note and make change.

The benefits would be vast if mindfulness and meditation were made more accessible by providing access to better spaces in which to practice them.

Even if this is hard to achieve (as may be the case with small companies) then simply encouraging your workforce to take time out of the office will have a big impact and could be especially beneficial to those who haven’t tried meditation or mindfulness yet, if they know it’s permissible to do so.

That’s not to say that everyone’s going to get into a lotus pose, switch off and be zombies for the rest of the day…

Quite the opposite.

I’ve heard about the free market and this dog eat dog world: competition in the globalised economy is fierce and we all have to be on our game to survive.

Studies have actually shown that meditation and mindfulness can improve productivity and creativity as well as foster less emotionally based decision making.

And yet although this is increasingly accepted, how many workplaces make it accessible – culturally or via providing dedicated spaces – to take 20 mins out without feeling guilty or self conscious?

The evidence is there to show that not only will you be creating a calmer, happier workplace, you’ll be creating a team of efficient, productive dynamos who without breaking into a sweat can organise their days to get more done, and actually enjoy their job at the same time.

We all have to put in a shift every now and again, that won’t change, but it doesn’t always have to be about grinding everyone into the ground to get ahead, and when we do have to go up the gears, we’ll be better prepared to do so if we’re in a good head-space.

Attitudes towards working culture need to change.

Not just for our own health but for our economy to be equipped for the coming decades of massive technological change. Times where we will need super productive, emotionally intelligent, problem solvers and leaders to be the best versions of themselves they can be.

Some forward thinking companies are putting this into practice already**.

How are you going to create smarter, more human working cultures for all?

(Mindful) thoughts welcome.

#vivalaquietrevolution

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I’m sure I’m not the first to write an article about this (and I’m only skimming the surface of the very broad topic of mental health and stress) so hopefully you are already thinking about how you can help yourself/your workforce, but if not and anyone would like to talk about this more I would love to hear their views and perhaps in some way help to make access to better mental health, better.

*Global Wellness Institute Report

**Innovative examples of this would be http://www.metronaps.com/ pods which are famously used in Google offices, or the custom built https://www.headspace.com/blog/2016/02/18/introducing-headspace-meditation-pods-making-the-invisible-visible/, but ultimately a small room with a level of privacy is all that’s required.

Even just permitting employees to leave the office for 20 mins to find their own head space will pay dividends for all concerned.