More than one-third of the UK’s unemployed people have been looking for work for more than a year .
Unemployment affects individuals in more ways than the impact on their wallet. It brings also more stress and worries resulting in a harmful impact in the body. These negative impacts can be exacerbated by prolonged periods of job loss. Individuals experiencing long-lasting unemployment might become anxious, depressed and irritable. Prolonged unemployment can also have a negative overall effect on a person’s sense of self-worth, causing damage that can remain even after successfully re-entering employment . Mindfulness for the unemployed can help you to remain focused and positive through this experience.
For those who are job searching, something we have all done at some point in our life, it can be difficult to cope with rejection, reflect on their experience, application forms or interview performance.
Individuals can benefit from an effective approach to reduce the negative psychological effects of unemployment. This is where mindfulness can help.
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is an adaptation of Buddhist meditation. Supported by over 40 years of medical and psychological research across a number of sectors and applications; Mindfulness is the practice of purposely focusing your attention on the present moment and accepting it without judgement .
Mindfulness helps us to develop our ability of experiencing all aspect of our life fully by switching off our autopilot mode. By doing so, we learn to recognise our thoughts, emotions, and body sensations. This enables us to view situations in a way that is still engaged but more objective. We can therefore change our relationship to our emotions and thoughts and thereby make a conscious choice about how we respond, rather than react in difficult situations.
Why Mindfulness for Unemployed People?
There is strong evidence that unemployment is generally harmful to physical and mental health. Particularly, long term unemployment results in depression, emotional instability, and stress. Additionally, unemployment may affect physical health via a stress pathway involving physiological changes such as hypertension and lowered immunity. These negative impacts are worse when people have spent a long time looking for a job without succeeding .
A recent study examined the effects of a mindfulness-based programme on unemployed individuals. The results were very positive. Mindfulness helped them to reduce their stress symptoms and to increase their focus on everyday activities. Participants were also more confident in being able to find a job .
How Can Mindfulness Help?
Whether you are concerned about losing your current job, or you are currently unemployed, mindfulness can help you to better manage this situation. Although it is clear that a job loss results in concrete consequences such as reduction of financial capacity, it is also important to notice that people vary in how they interpret their circumstances.
Learning how to pay more attention to the present moment, to your own thoughts and feelings and to the world around you, can have a big impact on the ability to bounce back in the face of adversity . When people practice mindfulness, they report higher levels of mental well-being (less stress, depression, and anxiety), better physical well-being (less pain and better immune system function), and richer interpersonal relations (better capacity to express themselves and listen to others) . These are the reasons we offer mindfulness for the unemployed.
How to Begin Your Journey
You can practice mindfulness by formal and informal exercises . The informal approach consists of practicing mindfulness in daily or routine activities such as eating, walking, etc. Any pause becomes an opportunity to practice mindfulness. The purpose is to notice how the mind and body feel throughout the day in various circumstances. As well as practising mindfulness in daily activities, it can be helpful to set aside time for a more formal mindfulness practice. The formal practice is what is normally called meditation. This involves setting aside a specific time to sit silently or to walk mindfully.
You can start your mindfulness journey by practicing the following exercise :
1. Sit quietly in a comfortable position.
2. Pay attention to the breath as it goes in and out. Observe the feeling of the incoming and outgoing breath. Breathe calmly from the diaphragm, letting the stomach rise and fall.
3. Whenever attention has wandered away from the rise and fall of the breath, perhaps toward other thoughts and feelings, internally note that change of attention, and gently bring the attention back to the breath.
4. No matter how many times attention strays, bring it back to the breath. This act of continuity prepares the mind to cope with reactivity in a calming way, resulting in a more stable awareness.
1 ONS. (2015). UK Labour Market, April 2015. Retrieved from http://ons.gov.uk/ons/dcp171778_399544.pdf
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