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Mindfulness

The Power of Mindfulness

The Power of Mindfulness

The STEM 1.0 Airline Program Home Page

KEY POINTS:

1. Mindfulness, which involves keeping our awareness in the here and now, is a key to mental health and elite performance. 

2. We live in the age of distraction, with e-mail, social media, text messages, YouTube, and our jobs and personal lives all competing for our attention. The idea of mindfulness is to stay in the moment in the face of massive potential for distraction.

3. By practicing mindfulness, you will strengthen your ability to stay in the present moment, develop your capacity to focus, increase the flow of information between mind and body, and enter into and stay in your Zone with more ease.

By Dr. Greg Wells & Dr. Ellen Choi

There are few moments in sport that can compete with the moment when an elite pitcher and clutch hitter square off during the playoffs with a game on the line. The pitcher’s eyes focus on the target while they try to block out the crowd, the TV and the crushing idea that this is a career-defining moment. The hitter breathes deeply to stay calm and relaxed while trying to remain on edge so they can deliver explosive power and energy at that precise moment. Both athletes are entirely present without thinking about the past or the future. They are living purely in the moment, and that is a powerful learning point for the rest of us.

As you know, mindfulness involves keeping our awareness in the here and now and is a key to mental health and elite performance. The idea is to stay in the moment in the face of massive potential for distraction. To quote Dr. Michael Gervais:
 
“When we are in a high stakes or intense situation, it’s not uncommon for our minds to jump forward, going to the next moment and worrying about what happens when this moment doesn’t go well,” Gervais said. “What happens is we give 50 percent to something that doesn’t exist yet and 50 to this moment.”

Controlling your awareness and mind is a central element for success in any area – be it music, sports, drama, or your workplace. Yet we live in the age of distraction. We have email, social media, text messages, and YouTube all competing for our attention, not to mention our careers. The problem is that distraction and multitasking go against how our brains work. In the movie Limitless, Bradley Cooper uses a drug that allows him to access 100% of his brain. But, no matter how appealing that is, the reality is that our brains can only do one thing at a time.

The nerves that make up the brain have very little stored energy. When we think, problem solve or create memories, the brain needs oxygen, glucose and nutrients to work. This “fuel” is provided by blood flow to whatever part of the brain is working on the specific task. But blood flow to the brain is limited and can only be delivered to a few small areas at once. If we activate different parts of our brain by trying to think about the past or future rather than our current reality, we end up shifting the blood flow between locations and never giving the brain what it needs to get a single job done properly.
 
If you practice mindfulness, you will

·         strengthen your ability to stay in the present moment
·         develop your capacity to focus
·         increase the flow of information between mind and body
·         enter into and stay in your Zone with more ease

So as you improve how you manage your mental space, try the age-old technique of being mindful by increasing your awareness of what is happening in and around you. Merely register the data from your senses or thoughts, rather than interpreting them: that means watching and observing without labelling, judging, or analyzing.

Committing to a consistent and daily practice, however long, is a gift that only you can give yourself. Mindfulness has positively impacted people all over the world for thousands of years. By taking just a few moments out of your day you can enjoy the benefits of being genuinely present for your life. Your performance, wellbeing, and relationships will thank you for it.

Today's POWER-UP: Practice Present-Moment Awareness

1. Take a few minutes to do nothing but collect data through your senses. What are you touching and how does it feel (cold, warm, hot, smooth, rough, soft, hard)? What can you see in terms of shape, colour, texture, distance, closeness? What sounds are close by and further away and can you identify them all? What smells are in the air (your cologne, a cup of coffee, someone’s lunch)? What taste do you have in your mouth (sweet, sour, metallic, bitter)?

2. Practice for a few moments each day and you will develop your ability to stay present, develop focus, connect to your body and stay in your flow state.
 
This technique involves being 100% present in the moment with all our attention directed at one thing only. I can do this when I listen to a great piece of music. I also love art galleries, because when faced with a masterpiece, you really can’t think about anything else. You can also do this in a conversation with a friend or family member and be absolutely focused on what they’re saying without your mind wandering or worrying about what you’re going to say back. Just listen and try to understand. One of the deepest human needs is to be listened to – you’ll be amazed by the power of this technique. Sharpening your focus and living in the moment are great ways to dissipate stress. So much of our stress comes from thinking about the past or the future. When we stay in the present, we often realize that things are pretty good.

 

The information and advice provided in this program is intended to assist Sky Regional employees with improving their general health. It is not intended and should not be used in place of advice from your own physician or for treatment or diagnosis of any specific health issue. Sky Regional is not responsible for the content of this program which has been specially developed and is being provided to you by the Wells Group Inc., in consultation with Sky Regional. By participating in this program you acknowledge that undertaking any new health, diet and/or exercise regime involves certain inherent risks, that you assume such risks, and that you release Sky Regional and the Wells Group Inc. from any responsibility or claim relating to such participation. 

Mindfulness and Sleep

Mindfulness and Sleep

The STEM 1.0 Airline Program Home Page

KEY POINTS:

1. We learned in the Sleep Soundly module how important sleep is for recovery and regeneration, optimal performance, and overall health. However, in today's world - and particularly in your profession - getting the optimal amount of sleep might not always be possible.

2. Recently, researchers have discovered that meditation shows similar rest, recovery, and regeneration qualities in the brain as sleep - and after a short practice people often report feeling energized. 

3. While it shouldn't be used instead of sleep, a short meditation practice can be used on those days you had to get up early, or had back to back shifts. 

By Dr. Ellen Choi

While sleep is an involuntary process, meaning we can’t force sleep to occur at will (a fact that any insomniac or parent can attest to), meditation is a fascinating alternative since we can choose to meditate anytime, anywhere, and for any length of time.

Meditation is a mental training technique that falls into the same category as sleep because they are both regenerative. While meditation and mindfulness practices have earned themselves a good reputation for stress reduction, a less well-known finding is that these practices can boost energy levels and relieve burnout. In my own research, people often report feeling energized after a short practice of paying attention to one’s breath, mentally scanning the body, or simply allowing their minds to wander from something other than work. 

Recently, researchers have discovered that meditation shows similar rest, recovery and regeneration qualities in the brain as sleep. It also appears that meditation supports deeper sleep and can even alleviate insomnia. Along these lines, one study found that advanced meditators require less sleep at night to feel refreshed and that the benefits of meditation are similar to the cognitive and physical benefits of stage-IV deep sleep.

When my baby was just born, I was barely sleeping, and what sleep I got was fragmented. In my waking hours, I could barely hold eye contact with people, let alone carry a conversation. While many advised me to “nap when the baby napped” it proved unrealistic for me so instead, I started micro-meditating. 

Any time I was sitting still, I would sit up straight, close my eyes, and connect to my breath or body’s sensations - even if it was just for ten seconds. Instead of playing on my phone when I was nursing, I would stay present with my baby, focusing entirely on her or, if it was dark, focusing on my breath. These brief but frequent moments were incredibly regenerative, allowing me to feel more present with the people around me, more productive, and overall, much happier.

Today's Power Up: Meditate to Sleep Better

For those people that are looking to sleep better, investing in a meditation practice has much to offer. Micro-meditations can help.

Particularly, if you feel daunted by the idea of meditating for an hour a day (or even 10 minutes a day), micro-meditations may be one way to begin integrating mindfulness into a busy or erratic schedule.

Here are three things to keep in mind for a very brief mindfulness check-in:

1. Set an intention. Be intentional about your practice such that you are consciously attuning yourself to the present for the next few seconds. This may seem obvious but setting the intention to be present is an important part of the process and is the difference between the practice being a micro-nap or a mental zone out.

2. Choose an anchor. An anchor is anything that you choose to be your point of focus that connects you to the present. Your anchor may be your breath, or body sensations like the feeling of your feet on the floor or the temperature of your hands.  It could also be a mantra you’re repeating in your mind, or even something in front of you that you lock your gaze on. Set your anchor and return to it anytime your mind wanders.

3. Close your practice. At the end of your micro-meditation, create a ritual that brings some closure to your practice. You might pause for one more second just to notice how you feel. Another option is to take a moment to think about something you’re grateful for, or to send a kind thought to someone in your life who needs it.  

You may discover that just a few short intentional moments can shift your entire state of mind.

The evidence suggests that sleep is a cornerstone of a healthy mind but if you can’t fit in more sleep cycles, try meditating instead!

 

The information and advice provided in this program is intended to assist Sky Regional employees with improving their general health. It is not intended and should not be used in place of advice from your own physician or for treatment or diagnosis of any specific health issue. Sky Regional is not responsible for the content of this program which has been specially developed and is being provided to you by the Wells Group Inc., in consultation with Sky Regional. By participating in this program you acknowledge that undertaking any new health, diet and/or exercise regime involves certain inherent risks, that you assume such risks, and that you release Sky Regional and the Wells Group Inc. from any responsibility or claim relating to such participation. 

Mindfulness, Stress, and Peak Performance

Mindfulness, Stress, and Peak Performance

The STEM 1.0 Airline Program Home Page

KEY POINTS:

1. In a high-pressure situation, mindfulness can be used to help deal with stress and find confidence in the most intense situations. 

2. Possessing the ability to stay calm under pressure is the bedrock of outstanding performance, especially in your line of work, because in a calm state we can more reliably regulate our attention and behaviour.

3. When we feel stressed out, just taking deeper breaths for about 60 seconds is a very effective way of regulating stress because it activates the parasympathetic response in the body, which signals to the emotional centres of the brain that it’s time to calm down.

By Dr. Greg Wells

Imagine you are about to give a presentation to a large audience. Are your palms sweaty? Is your heart beginning to flutter? Is your stomach turning? Are you thinking “oh my, there are so many people out there” or worrying about what the crowd will be thinking of you?

Whether it’s a presentation, a playoff game, a life-threatening situation, or even a first date, performance under pressure is something we can all relate to. And here’s a little secret: paying attention to what you’re thinking about is the first step to mastering your performance.

George Mumford is a sports psychologist who has been working with mindfulness for years to help athletes perform at their best in the moments that matter most. He’s worked with elite athletes, like Michael Jordan, Shaquille O’Neal, and Kobe Bryant to name a few, training them to become more aware of their thoughts and to connect with their body so that they can find a place of ease and confidence in the most intense situations. You may not be an elite athlete, but you’ve got your own intense moments in your line of work.

Research has recently produced evidence that supports the idea that mindfulness practices are aligned with optimal performance. For example, one meta-analysis reviewed 270 independent studies and found that mindfulness had a positive effect on performance and was negatively related to how much stress people perceived in their lives.

When we react to stress, sometimes the brain and body respond in a way that is not always best for the situation. One example is how stress impacts our attention. If you are in a room with a rattlesnake, you’re likely not paying attention to the colour of the curtains! Biological programming locks your attention toward the snake. This is what psychologists refer to as the threat-rigidity response

The downside is that sometimes we don’t want our attention to become narrow and rigid. Think of how important it would be to an advertising executive to be able to think broadly and openly even when a deadline is approaching. Sometimes we want our attention to be flexible instead of focusing only on what we perceive to be our largest threat. Possessing the ability to stay calm under pressure is the bedrock of outstanding performance, in the airline industry and elsewhere, because in a calm state, we can more reliably regulate our attention and behaviour.

When we feel stressed out, just taking deeper breaths for about 60 seconds is a very effective way of regulating stress. It activates the parasympathetic response in the body, which floods the brain with oxygen and signals to the emotional centres of the brain that it’s time to calm down.

If you look over past highly-stressful situations, you may be able to see when deep breathing could have helped to calm your mind and open it to several possible solutions. That’s where mindfulness can take you – to a today and tomorrow where you can achieve a state of calm and effectiveness at a higher level than ever before. 

Today's Power Up: The STOP Practice

The next time you feel suffocated by the pressure of a situation, try the STOP practice. STOP stands for Stop, Take a breath, Observe, and Proceed. Here are the four steps in detail.

1. Stop whatever you’re doing and become aware of the present moment.

2. Take a breath. Or two. Or ten.

3. Observe your body and scan it for any sensations, tension, emotions that are present.

4. Proceed. Carry on with life and set an intention guided by “what’s most important as I move forward?”. It may even be that you need to cycle through the STOP practice again!

 

The information and advice provided in this program is intended to assist Sky Regional employees with improving their general health. It is not intended and should not be used in place of advice from your own physician or for treatment or diagnosis of any specific health issue. Sky Regional is not responsible for the content of this program which has been specially developed and is being provided to you by the Wells Group Inc., in consultation with Sky Regional. By participating in this program you acknowledge that undertaking any new health, diet and/or exercise regime involves certain inherent risks, that you assume such risks, and that you release Sky Regional and the Wells Group Inc. from any responsibility or claim relating to such participation. 

Meditate to Sharpen Your Mind

Meditate to Sharpen Your Mind

The STEM 1.0 Airline Program Home Page

KEY POINTS:

1. Meditation has direct benefits on both the structure and function of the brain.

2. Meditating for as little as eight weeks can actually increase the grey matter in the parts of the brain responsible for emotional regulation and learning.

3. Regular meditation helps to change the responses of a region of the brain called the amygdala, leading to better emotional control both during the meditation and in the hours that followed. 

4. Other research has shown that mediation improves mood, stress, your hormone levels, and can reduce anxiety, pain, and depression.

By Dr. Greg Wells

Most of the elite performers that I have had the privilege to work with over the last few years have a meditation practice. I have just started and am about six months into my journey of consistent meditation. The practice has helped me to decrease stress, increase calmness, speed recovery and think more clearly. I really notice the difference between days when I meditate in the morning compared to those days when I miss my practice.

Consistent meditation can change your brain for the better. Recent research at Harvard has shown that meditating for as little as eight weeks can actually increase the grey matter in the parts of the brain responsible for emotional regulation and learning. My own experience has shown that meditation is essential for learning how to manage and to sharpen my mind. It is an essential practice for anyone looking to live a world-class life – at work, home and in personal hobbies and activities. 

New research has demonstrated that regular meditation helps to change the responses of a region of the brain called the amygdala to environmental events. Overall, these changes result in better emotional control, both during the meditation and in the hours that follow. This was the first study that showed that meditation has residual effects on mood and emotion that last after the meditation session ends.

Other research has shown that mediation improves mood, stress, and hormone levels and can reduce anxiety, pain, and depression. It is an incredible tool that will make a huge difference in your life.

Take a moment to think about your work environment – its challenges and satisfactions – and your life off shift. When and where do you find your mood darkening? What are your greatest sources of stress? Remember that this whole program is about improving your health and wellbeing overall. You may think, my work is fine, I really want to improve things at home. And that’s fine – it’s a good area of focus. But what we’ve learned about the brain is that stress from one area enters into and creates more stress in others. Our experiences are whole and connected.

So I would urge you to consider your life in all of its aspects. Yes, meditation will improve work performance and satisfaction – not just to be a “good employee” but so that your wellbeing grows in all aspects of your life!

Today's POWER-UP: The One Minute Body Scan

Eventually, if you practice, the relaxation response and mind clarity becomes almost automatic. Here’s how it works. 

1. Start with one minute a day. Try “body scanning,” which involves focusing your mind and energy on each section of the body from head to toe.

2. As you direct your focus to each body part, notice any tension and use your breathing to relax that area and let the tension go.

3. Focus on your breathing and let your thoughts come and go without judgement.

4. Make this a habit and you might even be able to change the way your brain controls emotions and learning by relaxing your body and setting the stage for brilliance!

 

The information and advice provided in this program is intended to assist Sky Regional employees with improving their general health. It is not intended and should not be used in place of advice from your own physician or for treatment or diagnosis of any specific health issue. Sky Regional is not responsible for the content of this program which has been specially developed and is being provided to you by the Wells Group Inc., in consultation with Sky Regional. By participating in this program you acknowledge that undertaking any new health, diet and/or exercise regime involves certain inherent risks, that you assume such risks, and that you release Sky Regional and the Wells Group Inc. from any responsibility or claim relating to such participation. 

The Default Mind

The Default Mind

The STEM 1.0 Airline Program Home Page

KEY POINTS:

1. In the brain, the self can be perceived in one of two ways: the experiential mode, or the default mode. The default mode is kind of like being on auto-pilot, and is where most of us operate on a day-to-day basis.

2. The experiential mode is a foundational component of mindfulness practice. It is when an individual is “in the zone” and is so enraptured in the present moment that they have lost awareness of themselves.

3. When we spend too much time in the default mode, we miss out on the joy and the lessons that exist in the little things right before us. 

By Dr. Ellen Choi

When your mind wanders, what are you thinking about? Have you ever noticed that our mental chatter is often concerned with reliving something in the past or worrying about something that has yet to come? When it is focused on the present, it often has a critical voice - like, “I can’t believe that someone would park their car like that” or “what on earth is Terry wearing?”

Researchers have discovered that the brain has a default mode, a sort of auto-pilot function that most of us operate in on a day-to-day basis. There is, however, an alternative. In the brain, the self can be perceived in one of two ways: the experiential mode or the default mode.

The experiential mode is the more elusive of the two. It is a foundational component of mindfulness practices because in this mode, we are not watching ourselves as if we are the star of a movie; instead, we’re just in the moment itself. The experiential mode can be understood as a flow state where an individual is “in the zone” and is so enraptured in the present moment that they have lost awareness of themselves. Think of a hockey player skating on the ice thinking only of the stick and puck. Or what it’s like to sit on the dock at the cottage and enjoy the sound of the lake and the smell of the air instead of worrying about the email you forgot to send. In this mode or processing, the physical senses are primarily engaged. When we place our attention on our senses, like the feeling of breathing in and out, we are engaging an experiential mode of self-processing.

The default mode - also referred to as the narrative mode - has three characteristics. First, the self is experienced in the past or in the future; anywhere but in the present moment. Second, the narrative mode is self-obsessed: what am I going to eat for lunch or when am I going to get my promotion? Finally, in the default mode we see the world through a critical lens, constantly evaluating and judging our experiences. 

Imagine eating a piece of chocolate. In the default/narrative mode, instead of enjoying the chocolate, we might be thinking, “I shouldn’t be eating this since it has so many calories” or “this isn’t as good as the last chocolate I ate.” In the experiential mode, you would simply savour its taste as it melts on the tongue. 

The default/narrative mode is beneficial because it lets us learn from the past and plan for the future. But when we spend too much time in that mode, we miss out on the joy and the lessons that exist in the little things right before us. Along these lines, a recent study conducted out of Harvard found that being present was a better predictor of happiness than the specific activity one was actually engaging in. This is an empowering finding because we cannot always control what we do in a day – think of the unpredictability some of your days have! –  but we can choose to be fully present while doing it.

In the age of neuroplasticity, there are actions we can take to rewire how our brain functions. Meditation appears to be one way to literally reprogram the brain and break the default mode.

Today's Power Up: Tame The Default Mind

Here are three other ways to push back against the default mode so that you can be here for the big and little moments of your life.

1. Start developing your awareness by simply noticing when you are and are not present. There is some evidence to suggest that approximately 50% of the time we are not focusing on the task before us. In the words of Jon Kabat-Zinn, a thought leader in the mindfulness world, when you’re walking, just walk; when you’re eating, just eat!

2. Start thinking more about others. Instead of worrying about what you’re going to say in your next meeting or what your peers think about your report, spend a moment or two focusing on others. Sit down and write a thank you note to someone in your life. Or try sending every person you walk by a kind thought like “have a nice day” or “may you be happy” and see how you feel after a short period of time.

3. Tame your critical voice. Practice observing and suspending judgment. It may surprise you how often and how quickly your mind is judging everything around you. Begin by observing what and when you’re judging, and then wherever possible, see if you can allow an experience to simply be without labelling it as positive or negative. The best part about decreasing the amount of time we judge others is that we tend to start judging ourselves less as well.

 

The information and advice provided in this program is intended to assist Sky Regional employees with improving their general health. It is not intended and should not be used in place of advice from your own physician or for treatment or diagnosis of any specific health issue. Sky Regional is not responsible for the content of this program which has been specially developed and is being provided to you by the Wells Group Inc., in consultation with Sky Regional. By participating in this program you acknowledge that undertaking any new health, diet and/or exercise regime involves certain inherent risks, that you assume such risks, and that you release Sky Regional and the Wells Group Inc. from any responsibility or claim relating to such participation. 

Meditate to Create

Meditate to Create

The STEM 1.0 Airline Program Home Page

KEY POINTS:

1. Practising mindfulness and meditation has been shown to improve attentional control, problem solving, concentration, and creativity.

2. Imaging techniques that show brain activation and neural networks have demonstrated that mindfulness and meditation can improve brain function - like strength training for the brain! 

By Dr. Greg Wells

I recently participated in a thought leadership exercise at a school in Toronto. The school was interested in developing a strategic plan for how the leaders and faculty could better help students prepare for the future, which is more uncertain than ever.

I was asked to provide my thoughts on what skills and characteristics the graduate of the future would need to be successful. Others participating in this exercise had repeatedly highlighted the need for graduates to be agile in their thinking and to be creative. Mental agility and creativity would enable future grads to overcome the challenges they inevitably would face in their careers.

Practising mindfulness and meditation has been shown both in applied practice and in the research to improve attentional control, problem solving, concentration, and creativity. New imaging techniques—including functional magnetic resonance imaging, which shows brain activation, and diffusion tensor imaging, which shows the neural networks in the brain—are demonstrating that mindfulness and meditation can improve brain function, with meditation acting as strength training for the brain.

Just as you would lift weights to build and strengthen your muscles, you can use meditation to build and strengthen your brain, and then to control and sharpen your mind, ultimately making you more creative. 

Why should you care about creativity? Because it’s about much more than being artistic. It’s about being the go-to person at work when problems come up. It’s about showing leadership when original solutions are required. It’s about being the best possible team member who helps the whole group perform at its best. These aptitudes are essential in today's competitive world in all disciplines – and perhaps especially in yours, where thinking and finding solutions on your feet is a real strength. 

Creative thinking supports your career now and will help take you where you may like to go in the future. 

Today's Power Up: The 3 meditations for creativity

While a short meditation is unlikely to transform a person into a brilliant creative genius that can see the world anew, studies have found that people who participate in a short 3-minute mindfulness exercise produce more creative responses compared to those that do not undergo the exercise.

The next time you need to get yourself into an innovative state of mind, try the following three things:

1. Get in the now. Connect with the present moment by taking three deep breaths. Become aware of any pressure you feel to produce a “great” idea, simple acknowledge that it’s there, and come back fully to your breath. If you need to, take another 3 breaths.

2. Get curious. Pick up an object you are familiar with like a paper clip or a single staple. Spend a moment holding this object as if you are from another planet and have never seen it before. Feel it, bend it, smell it, stare at it up close and from afar. Bring it up to your ear and bend it to see if you can hear any sounds.

3. Get practical. Creativity requires both novelty and utility. Write down 10 things that you could do with this object that are different from its originally intended use. For example, a staple could be a toothpick or a thumbtack.

 

The information and advice provided in this program is intended to assist Sky Regional employees with improving their general health. It is not intended and should not be used in place of advice from your own physician or for treatment or diagnosis of any specific health issue. Sky Regional is not responsible for the content of this program which has been specially developed and is being provided to you by the Wells Group Inc., in consultation with Sky Regional. By participating in this program you acknowledge that undertaking any new health, diet and/or exercise regime involves certain inherent risks, that you assume such risks, and that you release Sky Regional and the Wells Group Inc. from any responsibility or claim relating to such participation. 

How to Begin a Mindfulness Practice

How to Begin a Mindfulness Practice

The STEM 1.0 Airline Program Home Page

KEY POINTS:

1. Mindfulness can be formal - like sitting still and meditating for a period of time, or informal - like practicing being present and non-judgmental of whatever you are doing moment to moment.

2. You don't need a lot to reap the benefits. Even 10-minutes a day for five days in a row produces measurable changes in attentional performance.

3. Creating the intention and building the habit is the most important aspect of starting a mindfulness practice.

By Dr. Ellen Choi

It’s one thing to know one should be mindful, and another thing to actually be mindful. To yield the many touted benefits of mindfulness, like improving your performance, focus, wellbeing, and relationships, the experience of mindfulness can’t remain conceptual. Like exercise and nutrition, mindfulness is most impactful if we actually do it.

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There is an old Indian parable about two men on a ship. One is a learned and highly educated sailor and the other is a deck hand with only life’s experience as his knowledge base. As the men sail on, the educated man flaunts his intellect by calling out the names of the islands and commenting on the winds, showcasing the many years he spent learning about meteorology, geography, geology and the likes. Suddenly, the ship is hit by misfortune and a punctured hull indicates that the ship will surely sink. It is only then that the educated man becomes quiet, realizing that he has never taken the time to learn how to swim. The deck hand, having spent his life swimming in the sea despite having never studied it, smiles with the assurance of his survival. The moral of the story? No amount of talk or theorizing beats action itself. It’s not enough to know what swimming is: you have to be able to swim to save yourself from drowning.

So, what exactly does it mean to practice mindfulness? Very broadly, there are formal practices like sitting still and meditating for a period of time, and there are informal practices like being present and non-judgmental of whatever you are doing moment to moment. This could mean that as you’re walking somewhere, you are simply feeling the sensations of walking instead of thinking about your upcoming work shift.

Another common question that gets asked is how much practice is enough. This is a great question because much of the early research evidence is based on expert practitioners, like Tibetan monks, who have spent thousands of hours meditating.

To receive some of the deeper benefits like emotional regulation and increased willpower, more practice over longer periods of time is ideal. This may mean setting aside 60 minutes to meditate every day or 30 minutes twice a day.

What we know today, however, is that even a little bit of practice can generate benefits. Even ten minutes a day for five days in a row produces measurable changes in attentional performance. If you don’t have ten minutes, do two minutes. Creating the intention and building the habit is the most important aspect of starting a mindfulness practice. Furthermore, while formal practice is likely to be most impactful, informal practice can also yield benefits. Just being present and non-judgmental of your experience while showering can introduce mindfulness in your everyday life.

Today's Power Up: Download an app

1. When you feel committed to practicing for several minutes at a time, there are lots of meditation apps that can guide you through a formal practice (Calm; Headspace; Take a Break; Simple Habit; Buddhify; Insight Timer; Omvana; Smiling Mind; Wildflowers to name a few).

2. Find one you like and let the app guide you through some formal meditations. We highly recommend getting Headspace.com and Calm.com to get you started. For an app with more free guided meditation options, you can try Insight Timer or Aura

Dive Deeper

Check out this TED talk by Andy Puddicombe that explains the power of short bouts of mindfulness.

 

The information and advice provided in this program is intended to assist Sky Regional employees with improving their general health. It is not intended and should not be used in place of advice from your own physician or for treatment or diagnosis of any specific health issue. Sky Regional is not responsible for the content of this program which has been specially developed and is being provided to you by the Wells Group Inc., in consultation with Sky Regional. By participating in this program you acknowledge that undertaking any new health, diet and/or exercise regime involves certain inherent risks, that you assume such risks, and that you release Sky Regional and the Wells Group Inc. from any responsibility or claim relating to such participation. 

Welcome to Mindfulness!

Welcome to Mindfulness!

The STEM 1.0 Airline Program Home Page

KEY POINTS:

1. The benefits of mindfulness training can be put into three main categories: 1) performance, 2) wellbeing, and 3) relationships.

2. Mindfulness impacts performance at work largely through improving focus and concentration. Mindfulness also improves how fast we can think, what we can hold in our memory, and enables us to be more creative when we’re making decisions and strategizing.

3. When it comes to improving wellbeing, mindfulness is incredibly effective at reducing stress and burnout, and boosting how happy we feel. Mindfulness is also related to higher levels of work-life balance, greater job satisfaction, lower turnover intentions, and less absenteeism.

4. Mindfulness trains our ability to control our behaviour and cultivates our ability to empathize with another person’s humanity. Research has found that mindfulness is related to greater marital satisfaction, and the quality of relationships between leaders and their employees.

By Dr. Ellen Choi

Following the likes of empowerment and innovation, mindfulness has become the latest management buzzword. Mindfulness – or present-moment awareness with a non-judgmental and open quality – has been turning the heads of executives, politicians, Olympians, students and even the US military. So, what is all the fuss about? And how does it relate to the work you do in the airline industry?

A recent article published in the Journal of Management offered the benefits of mindfulness training I three main categories: 1) performance, 2) wellbeing and 3) relationships. On the job excellence plus wellness in life are highly relevant to all of us!

1) Performance

Mindfulness impacts performance at work because it improves attention by training two main skills: focus and concentration. Focus allows us to choose where we place our attention, and concentration allows us to decide how long we can hold our attention on the desired task.

In a world of interruptions, competing priorities and distractions, this has powerful implications on work excellence. Mindfulness training improves how fast we can think and what we can hold in our memory. It also enables us to be more creative when we’re making decisions and strategizing.

Research has even found that mindfulness leads to fewer errors – an especially important benefit in the work you do. Think about what you’re capable of when you’re fully paying attention. You especially excel under pressure because mindfulness helps manage stress and places focus on what’s most important. 

With this boost to attention and elevation of performance, it’s not surprising that everyone from professional athletes to elementary school students have been paying attention to mindfulness.
 
2) Wellbeing

You’ve likely seen some stressed out, tired and overwhelmed colleagues – and been there yourself. Mindfulness practices address stress and improve wellbeing because they are highly effective at reducing stress and burnout and boosting happiness.  

Over three decades of research have produced findings supporting these effects. Many of these studies are based on an eight-week course called Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction. This program was created by Jon Kabat-Zinn, who trained with zen masters in the east and who also holds a PhD from MIT, one of the world’s most prestigious universities. Today, studies have been conducted on some of the most stressful professions like police, military personnel, professional athletes, healthcare workers, MBA students, and even elementary school teachers. Your work fits into that category.

Mindfulness training helps people become more aware of themselves so that they can manage their thoughts and feelings in a way that reduces stress. Some researchers have suggested that since mindfulness training reduces the tendency to obsess and increases our ability to regulate emotions, we may feel happier and more satisfied with life as a result. Just think how much happier we would feel if we didn’t snap at our kids or if we could stop thinking about what that guy at work said to us. Mindfulness is also related to higher levels of work-life balance, greater job satisfaction, lower turnover intentions, and less absenteeism.

3) Relationships

How many times have you felt frustrated when you’re talking to someone and you can tell they’re not listening, or worse, they keep looking at their phone? If we’re honest with ourselves, think of how many times we have been talking on the phone while multi-tasking because we know the person we’re speaking with can’t see us. And these situations only refer to interactions when we’re not present. 

Remember, mindfulness refers to present-moment, non-judgmental awareness. How much would our relationships be enriched if we were able to apply non-judgmental awareness to our colleagues when they show up late to work or to our spouse when they insist they need help with the children? 

Mindfulness has the potential to deeply influence how we interact with others because it trains our ability to control our behaviour - like choosing to pay full attention to your spouse/partner when they call even if we are busy at work. It also cultivates our ability to empathize with another person’s humanity by suspending judgement and stepping into their world to feel what they feel. This can substantially reduce conflict in your work relationships, especially when our duties happen in very close quarters!

Research has found that mindfulness is related to greater marital satisfaction and better quality of relationships between leaders and their employees. Our brains are wired for social connections - so much so that the quality of our relationships can actually predict how long we live. The fact that mindfulness improves relationships is perhaps the most important benefit of all.

Today's Power Up: Begin or renew your mindfulness practice

1. Pick a time of day where you can consistently commit to practicing.

2. Then, start with just one breath.

If it’s in the morning when you wake up, before you grab your phone or run to the washroom, just pause and pay attention to one inhale and one exhale.

If your mindfulness practice is after lunch, then set aside time for just one intentional breath before you race on with your day.

3. Just take one breath, stay in the moment, and then add another breath. See if you can get to 10 breaths where you are 100% present.

4. As you feel more comfortable, start extending your practice longer and longer. 20-minutes is a great amount of time because sometimes it can take 10-minutes for the mind to settle down in the first place.

Dive Deeper: All about mindfulness and meditation with Dr. Ellen Choi on the Be Better Podcast.

Ellen is an expert in the effects of mindfulness in the workplace. She is delighted to be in her final year of her doctorate at the Ivey School of Business after completing a masters degree in social psychology at the London School of Economics. Presently she is studying how mindfulness training impacts such outcomes as performance, creativity, will power, and envy. Overall, Ellen is fascinated by the ability of mindfulness training to help individuals fulfill their potential in a more efficient and more self-compassionate manner.

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The information and advice provided in this program is intended to assist Sky Regional employees with improving their general health. It is not intended and should not be used in place of advice from your own physician or for treatment or diagnosis of any specific health issue. Sky Regional is not responsible for the content of this program which has been specially developed and is being provided to you by the Wells Group Inc., in consultation with Sky Regional. By participating in this program you acknowledge that undertaking any new health, diet and/or exercise regime involves certain inherent risks, that you assume such risks, and that you release Sky Regional and the Wells Group Inc. from any responsibility or claim relating to such participation.