Sophrology is a growing buzzword among wellness warriors. Known as the “science of consciousness in harmony”, sophrology blends Eastern philosophies of Japanese Zen, Tibetan Buddhism, and yoga with Western Science practices like psychology, relaxation and neurology.
Similar to meditation, yoga, and breathwork, sophrology works magic on calming and balancing your nervous system in a short amount of time.
Taking a mindful moment to rebalance and encouraging your team to do the same is helpful to achieve team-wide well being all in order to prevent the worst thing to happen to a team: burnout.
Even before the pandemic, 83% of Americans stressed over at least one work-related issue. In other words, for every 10 of your coworkers, 8 of them are stressing about work. Couple that with a pandemic, which is considered “the most psychologically toxic disaster in anyone’s lifetime”, and a whole range of mental health issues can arise.
Let’s face it. There can be many stressors and stimulants in your daily life and at work. It may feel impossible to find the inner balance and calm necessary to stay focused, happy, stress-free, and energized without burning out. Unless you set aside the time and space to do so.
With a few simple exercises—that can be done individually or as a team—you can reset and recharge your mind to move forward in a balanced and sustainable way.
What Is Sophrology?
Sophrology: a set of physical and mental exercises intended to relax the body and mind.
In Greek, the word sophrology comes from the words sos (harmonious and serene), phren (consciousness), and logos (the science of or to study). The science of consciousness in harmony— similar to yoga or guided meditation in that it produces optimal health and well-being with movements and mindfulness. In practice, sophrology consists of a series of easy physical and mental exercises including gentle movements, yogic postures, visualizations, and controlled breathing. These exercises are called dynamic relaxation.
The best part: they can be done in less than 15 minutes and when done regularly, have a huge impact on your overall mental health and wellness, productivity, creativity and outlook on your life and career.
The Who, What, Where, When, And Why’s Of Sophrology
Neuropsychiatrist Professor Alfonso Caycedo founded sophrology in the 1960s in Spain. In Europe, he studied the Western Science version of the human consciousness including neuroscience, hypnosis, and psychology. Cognitive therapies for mental health conditions were invasive and often involved electro-shock therapy or induced comas... eek!
In search of a gentler and more holistic approach, Professor Caycedo’s research took him to India and Japan. There, he studied the ancient traditions of Japanese zen, yoga, Tibetan Buddhism, and meditation.
A new discipline was born that blended his modern science background with the wisdom of the East. He called his technique “learning to live” and aimed to support “consciousness towards its state of balance.”
From the 1970s onward, sophrology swept across Europe for self-development and therapy purposes. Health insurance companies in France and Switzerland now reimburse citizens for sophrology appointments. Schools in Continental Europe teach (and have been for decades) the practice in order to relax, destress, refocus and revitalize students.
The Physical And Mental Health Benefits Of Sophrology
Sophrology has been used to help treat and overcome all kinds of symptoms. The list includes pain, stress, mental health, trauma, illness, sleep issues, pregnancy challenges, and restlessness—and in modern times, burnout, anxiety, and overactive minds.
A 2018 study monitored 60 participants with cancer during their regular radiology treatments. Patients who practiced sophrology and hypnosis showed a significant reduction in anxiety and pain levels compared to those who did not practice. Another study done in Spain found that sophrology helped significantly reduce feelings of anxiety and depression while improving the overall mood of its participants.
How Sophrology Can Help Treat Symptoms Of Burnout
Burnout is quite literally a form of exhaustion. Like a battery out of juice, all of your energy, drive, joy, motivation, and will to work (or continue on the way things have been) are depleted. Most likely, it’s been a long time coming—you’ve probably been under too much stress for too long.
Your mind and body are telling you to stop. Slow down. Breathe. Bring your focus and awareness back to your body. Quiet the mind and then find your balanced way forward.
That’s what sophrology is all about. While you may not be able to immediately address the cause of your burnout (that’s a topic for another day), you can certainly address its symptoms.
The idea is that by bringing greater awareness to your body through breathing, slow movements, visualizations and meditation, you can calm and rebalance your state of mind. Slowing down and focusing inward quiets your thoughts and helps you breathe through the physical and mental symptoms of burnout.
Once you’ve entered a state of calm and begin to heal your burnt-out, stressed and anxious state, you may have the mental space to meditate on what matters most. This is an essential step to discovering how to move forward in a balanced way—and one that will help you to avoid burnout in the future. But only when you’re ready.
The Benefits Of Sophrology On Individual Employees
Sophrology goes one step beyond calming anxious, burnt-out minds and bodies—its simple movements, breathwork, and positive visualizations leave you feeling re-energized and recharged. This is especially true when it comes to cognitive functions that are important in the workplace like focus, creativity, productivity, and memory.
It’s no wonder that sophrology has recently gained popularity among North American wellness seekers including top CEOs, big brands, and Olympic athletes. They are looking for balance and mindfulness, but they also want to improve their performance and outlook.
Unlike mindfulness or meditation, sophrology “is the ability to take control of how we handle situations and feel about outcomes—one of the principles in sophrology states that we can decide how we are going to experience certain events even when we can’t change them,” writes Dominique Antiglio in The Life-Changing Power of Sophrology. “We are therefore responsible for our experience and how we respond to situations.”
What does this mean for yourself and the individuals that make up your team? By effectively reducing burnout symptoms while actually boosting focus and creativity, you can stop burnout symptoms in their tracks—and even turn the train around. Next stop: Calm, centered, productive.
As each individual member of your team works to correct burnout symptoms and reroute their outlook on challenges, the collective strength of your team will grow—leading to more tasks completed and higher morale overall. Phil Jackson famously said, “The strength of the team is each individual member. The strength of each member is the team.”
How Teams Can Harness The Power Of Sophrology
If your coworker tries to give you advice, but you react to them by getting defensive, you may have missed out on two lessons. The first is the advice they gave you, which might have been valuable. The second is the lesson that sophrology teaches in controlling your reactions. It’s possible to control whether or not your reaction will affect you long term. Will it trigger a bad mood or grow into a personality trait that your coworkers come to know you for? Or, will you see the lessons and thank them for helping you?
This may seem like an exaggerated example, but the point is that negative feelings and symptoms of collective team burnout come all too easily. No one person or team is ever exempt or done with working on improving themselves. This is a lifelong journey—and one that can be done individually and together as a team.
Imagine if your entire team practiced a “consciousness towards its state of balance” regularly. A few simple daily movements could shed negativity and let in more creativity, focus, and productivity. The practice could become a daily habit that brings your team together for a few minutes. If nothing else, it’s good to shake out your body!
How To Practice Sophrology With Your Team
So how do you practice sophrology? Whether you’re practicing by yourself or with your team, there are dozens of simple movements that target different outcomes. All of them have three things in common:
- Being aware of specific parts of your body
- Being aware of feelings and sensations
- Tensing and releasing specific muscles
Below are a few examples of sophrology in practice. To do these with your team, designate one person to lead the session by reading the instructions of one of the following exercises during the first 5-10 minutes of your next team meeting.
Tension Release Exercise: 1 Minute
- Using your mind, do a full-body scan and notice where there is tension.
- Focus on letting that tension spot go.
- Inhale and tense all of the muscles in your body.
- Hold the tension for 5 seconds.
- Exhale and release your muscles, visualizing letting go of all of the tension with your breath.
Visualizing Happiness Exercise: 2-5 Minutes
- Close your eyes and think of your favorite place.
- Visualize the sounds, smells, look and feel of this place.
- Inhale and imagine breathing in calm waves of serenity.
- Exhale and allow the good feelings to wash over your body.
The Clearing Breath With Tension Release Exercise: 5-10 Minutes
- Standing, bring your fingertips to the middle of your forehead.
- Inhale, hold your breath and gently tense your forehead.
- Exhale and relax your forehead muscles. Repeat.
- Place your fingertips on your throat.
- Inhale, hold your breath and lift your shoulders.
- Exhale and relax your shoulders. Repeat.
- Place your fingertips on the top of your chest.
- Inhale, hold, and gently squeeze your shoulder blades behind you together.
- Exhale and release. Repeat.
- Place your fingertips on your stomach.
- Inhale, hold and tense your stomach.
- Exhale and release tension. Repeat.
- Place your fingertips on your lower stomach.
- Inhale, hold and tense all of the muscles in your lower body.
- Exhale and release all tension.
- Place your fingertips on your belly button, inhale and tense your entire body.
- Let go and relax.
Breath Control Exercise: 2-5 Minutes
- Put your hands on your stomach and breath in.
- Watch how your hands move up and down with each breath.
- Notice the air moving in and out of your nose.
- Begin to count your breath.
- Start with equal breaths in and out.
- When you’re ready, add one count to your exhale and continue to add a count until it is double the length of your inhale.
- Stop and let your breath go back to normal.
As you can see, all of these exercises are fairly simple and can be done in a few minutes on your own or with a group. There are many more exercises for you to discover, each with a different desired outcome, but all meant to relax, rejuvenate, and empower you.
Revitalize Yourself And Your Team With Sophrology
The beauty—and power—of sophrology is in its simplicity. With a few simple exercises practiced regularly, you and your team can transform your daily lives and work mentality for good. As an individual, you will tap into inner strength, courage, and happiness that you never knew you had. Together, you may discover positive ways to move forward as a team.
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