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Mental Health and Mindfulness

14th October 2020

Canadian Mental Illness week began Sunday October 4th, and ended on Saturday October 10th with world mental health day, so let’s take a quick look at mental health and mindfulness in the workplace.

Wellness Data

Mental health is a topic I believe is gaining recognition for its role in wellness within the workplace, as well as everyday life. Rightly so.

We have all heard the statistics, here are a few as reminders:

  • In any given year, 1 in 5 Canadians experiences a mental illness or addiction problem.
  • By the time Canadians reach 40 years of age, 1 in 2 have—or have had—a mental illness.
  • Young people aged 15 to 24 are more likely to experience mental illness and/or substance use disorders than any other age group.
  • The economic burden of mental illness in Canada is estimated at $51 billion per year. This includes health care costs, lost productivity, and reductions in health-related quality of life

As mentioned in a Carbon Safety blogpost around this time last year “Our young may be most at risk.  Statistically suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death for children and youth (10-19), and young adults (20-29).”

1st  for children and youth is accidents, and preventable injuries.  There are some serious workplace considerations here for mental health and perhaps also mindfulness.

Being Mindful of Mindfulness

Have you considered the benefits of mindfulness?  It is a term that can mean many things to many people.

Is it something that can be encouraged in your workplace? 

Is it something we can encourage new and young workers to embrace?

There certainly appears to be benefits to mindfulness, but it’s not a new concept.

Last year Yvonne Rigsby-Jones, a Snuneymuxw First Nation Elder in training, took time to speak at our Wellness in the Workplace Event.  Yvonne spoke with passion about the importance of being aware, and mindful of others.

Yvonne stressed the importance of being in the moment, and wondered if we really understand the term “mindful” as we use it in the day to day.

These are important values and considerations for the Snuneymuxw people, and they are interwoven with traditional Snuneymuxw beliefs, and culture.

Yvonne provides some sage advice given some of the challenges we face in todays world.

Mindfulness (some examples of mindfulness here) is an aspect of mental health that many advocates believe can help bring balance, and improve psychological health.

It can be described as the ability to be aware of our surroundings, and our interactions in them.  It also includes becoming less overly responsive and reactive. 

These practices can help bring a more balanced approach to understanding a situation, condition, experience, or environment.

Mental Health and Mindfulness: Empirical Data

An article on the American Psychological Association website provides an overview of the connections between mental health and mindfulness, and evidence of both mental and physical benefits.

The article defines mindfulness as “a moment-to-moment awareness of one’s experience without judgment.”  Below is a summary of the articles observations on benefits:

  • Reduced rumination, which is the repeated consideration of a problem without resolution, and is often linked to anxiety and depression
  • Stress reduction, a reduction in anxiety, depression, and somatic distress
  • Improved working memory, which is the ability to temporarily hold information (remembering an address while listening to instructions to get there)
  • Increased focus, the ability to keep attention on specific tasks or details
  • Less emotional reactivity, the ability to disengage more effectively from emotional stimulus
  • Increased cognitive flexibility, or the ability to disengage from prior learning and incorporate present moment input
  • Improved relationship satisfaction

Applying Mindfulness

Mental health in the workplace is critical.  Particularly as we adapt and manage life during a pandemic. 

Here’s some work place considerations in relation to mindfulness, and mental health:

  • There is a standard to support workplaces in managing psychological health and safety in the workplace this can include the incorporation of mindfulness practices
  • Take a break, take a few moments to step away from work, and step outside, or somewhere you can be in the moment
  • Practice deep breathing, it can do an amazing job of calming your mind and body
  • Spend some time focusing on a single thought, or task rather than worrying about multiple thoughts or tasks even just 15 minutes can help encourage better focus and attention of your mind

Mental Health and Mindfulness: In Short

Be mindful of mindfulness. We have an opportunity to explore a simple, traditional approach to bringing some balance to our lives, and protect our mental health.

In particular, as an employer, what can you do to encourage mental health, and mindfulness within the workplace?  There would appear to be clear work related benefits.

Consider as an employer how you can encourage and support a healthy and positive state of mind for your workers. Particularly at risk young workers, between the ages of 15 and 24.

With young members of our workforce there is a higher risk of mental health issues. Practicing mindfulness may have the greatest benefit for these younger at risk members of our communities.

Consider encouraging mindfulness, it just might make a difference in someone’s life, and change their mind.

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