Mindfulness and mental health

Lucy Westbrook

Employee Engagement Manager

May 12, 2021

It’s Mental Health Awareness Week. At Virgin Media, we believe in talking openly about our wellbeing and we are proud to provide a variety of benefits to support our people with their mental health and wellbeing.

One of those key benefits we have is our Unmind app which is our pocket portal of tips and tools to encourage our people to take the time to track, manage and nurture their own wellbeing.

One great tool within Unmind is a session on mindfulness with Buddhist Monk, Choden. We have caught up with Choden to learn more about practicing Mindfulness and the benefits it can have on your mental health.

Who is Choden?

He’s a monk originally from South Africa, after training as a lawyer he learned meditation under the guidance of an internationally renowned Buddhist teacher. He’s now involved in developing mindfulness programmes drawing upon the wisdom and methods of the Buddhist tradition, as well as contemporary insights from psychology and neuroscience.

Here’s what Choden has to say about his experience with mindfulness and it’s benefits…

How did you get involved in practicing mindfulness?

I’ve been a practicing Buddhist for many years. About 12 years ago I started teaching and developing mindfulness programmes for people who didn’t want to become Buddhists but wanted to gain access to the wisdom and skills of Buddhism, such as: learning to calm their mind, not feed negative thoughts, cultivate more self-acceptance, and bring kindness to themselves and others.

What do you believe makes a good mindfulness teacher?

The ability to teach and guide practices from your own direct experience of mindfulness practice, rather than theory, and the willingness to listen deeply to people who ask questions.

Is there a difference between mindfulness and meditation?

Meditation is a generic term. There are many types of meditation, Mindfulness is a specific form of meditation. It can best be defined as learning the skill of staying present to life as it unfolds instead of getting lost in worrying about the future or dwelling on the past.

How often should someone practice mindfulness for it to be most effective?

The most important thing isn’t how often you practices but understanding how it makes a difference to your life and then taking it to heart. It is deeply experiential and personal journey of maintaining present moment awareness and self-acceptance as we go about our lives. If you have time, it is helpful to regularly practice each day for 20 – 30 minutes. If you don’t time to do this, the best thing is to practice ‘little and often’ in gaps that naturally appear in your day.

Finally, If someone is struggling with their mental health, how could mindfulness help?

There is strong research evidence to show that mindfulness helps reduce anxiety levels and prevent relapse into depression. It raises energy levels and improves emotional resilience. The main way that it helps is that we learn not to feed repetitive, negative thoughts that lead to downward spirals of worry that cause our mood to drop and make us more susceptible to poor mental health.

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