Mindfulness? Pah. You don’t have time to sit around doing nothing. Or maybe you’ve read the research and you’re sold on the idea of mindfulness but you just can’t find the time. You’re not alone, this is something that we hear frequently at Positive Change Guru. So what can you do to make mindfulness part of your day? We’ve put together six painless but powerful practices to kick start your Mindfulness journey. We show you how to start where you are, adding mindfulness into your day with just a few minor tweaks.
We’ve arrived at the last blog of our series live from New York! Here we examine the latest US research and take a deep dive into the work we’ve been doing with our clients in NYC. Here we look at corporate mindfulness.
It’s official. We’re more stressed in the workplace than we were forty years ago. The UK Office for National Statistics Labour Force study states that 442000 employees in Britain reported feeling work-related stress at a level that was making them physically ill (HSE 2007/8). It’s not a surprising statistic considering crowded commutes before you even reach the office, challenging colleagues, increasing workloads and poor leadership contributing to the phenomena. Corporate mindfulness may be the answer but where do you start?
Using words to increase wellbeing? Writing for wellbeing as a method of reducing workplace stress? We bring you the lowdown. The latest estimates from the HSE Labour Force Survey shows the total number of work related stress, depression and anxiety in 2015/16 was 488,000 cases with a staggering 224,000 new cases. The cause cited? Workload, tight deadlines and poor management. An increasingly stressful corporate environment means that employees are feeling stretched across all sectors. But where do words fit in this corporate conundrum and how can you use them in your anti-stress arsenal?
A growing body of research has demonstrated the power of words upon wellbeing. Yes, writing is fun but is also has a meditative effect upon our stressed minds. Let’s take a look at the science:
Writing has been linked to a whole host of health benefits;
“Expressive writing influences attention and habituation to stressful stimuli and to negative emotions and … it may influence restructuring of cognitions related to stressors and stress responses.” (Lepore et al, 2002, p.114)
An analysis of preliminary findings linking expressive writing and reductions in blood pressure (Davidson et al, 2002)
A recent meta-analysis showed that “experimental disclosure is effective, with a positive and significant” effect (Frattaroli 2006, p. 823)
Reduction in resting blood pressure levels (Crow 2000)
Psychological effects, such as lowering of depressive symptoms, rumination
and general anxiety (Lepore 1997)
But what does this mean for workplace wellbeing? Here’s what the evidence
suggests so far. Workplace writing for wellbeing sessions;
▪ Reduce levels of stress
▪ Staff recover more successfully from traumatic events
▪ Result in fewer days lost to sickness, absenteeism and presenteeism
▪ Improve working memory
▪ Increase flow
▪ Strengthen immune system
▪ Improve creativity and innovation
▪ Increase wellbeing
▪ Build stress management capacity
▪ Improve confidence
▪ Increase mindfulness
1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem in any given year so it’s likely that there’s someone in your team, department or organisation who is experiencing a mental health issue right now. That figure is compounded by a recent Shaw Trust survey which found that 72% of workplaces had no formal mental wellbeing policy. In addition to this, 23% of managers were unable to name a single mental health condition.
So what can you do right now to introduce writing for wellbeing into your day?
Keep a journal. Make time each day to journal about whatever is important to you. Commit to 10 minutes and go wherever the muse takes you. There’s increasing research to suggest that journalling provides improved leadership insight resulting in greater clarity of thinking and better decision making.
Connect to your authentic self:
Brene Brown describes authenticity as
“The daily practice of letting go who we think we’re supposed to be and embracing who we are.”
Set time aside to ‘check in’ with how you are feeling. Are you able to sum it up in one word? Good.
Now take five minutes and without censoring yourself, expand upon that word. Don’t worry about style, spelling or grammar. Let go of your inner critic and just go for it. Unleash your creativity.
Take a look at what you’ve written. What does it tell you about how you really feel? Writing for ourselves in this way can tell us a lot about who we are. Perhaps something you’ve written resonates or provides an insight into some aspect of your day, your life, or a project you are working on.
Turn down the volume on the constant chatter, press pause on workplace pressures and tune in to your authentic self. This exercise will help to ground you creating a mindful space for you to reflect before you continue with your day.
For more information or to talk to us about our Workplace Writing For Wellbeing training courses contact us at email@example.com
At Positive Change Guru we’re sometimes asked whether mindfulness is harmful. It’s a sensible question and one which we’ll attempt to shed some light upon here.
We’re incredibly excited to be attending the Mindfulness in Society Conference in Scotland 15 – 18 June, 2017. Our mindfulness expert Gill will be presenting her MSc research into the impact of mindfulness training on leadership, ‘Bullet Proof 9 to 5 ers’ at the conference. There are some great speakers over the three days including Sharon Salzburg, Rick Hanson and Prof Paul Gilbert. See the full line up here http://www.samyeling.org/courses/mindfulness/display/916
If you’re there come and say hello, we’d love to meet you! To find out more about introducing mindfulness into the workplace check out our Introducing Mindfulness Into Your Wellbeing Strategy article here http://positivechangeguru.com/introducing-mindllbeing-strategy/
Whether you have an established wellbeing programme or are designing a strategy from scratch, mindfulness should be firmly on the agenda. With converts ranging from Google, Transport for London, Honda, the National Health Service, Microsoft and Aetna the results speak for themselves. We’ve worked with many companies who are now mindfulness evangelists. But where do you start when introducing mindfulness to your workplace? We’ve often been asked this question by clients so here are our
7 Insider Tips [Read more…]
Party hats on
Congratulations to Gill Thackray on receiving a first in her MSc in Mindfulness from Aberdeen University! Gill is PCG’s resident mindfulness expert and we’re all excited to celebrate her success.
You can contact Gill to discuss PCG’s range of mindfulness at work courses here.
Compassion and work, strange bedfellows or not?
At first glance they might seem strange bedfellows; compassion and work? Surely not? Whereas compassion may not appear to be a priority in the work place there is increasing evidence that when it’s present, employees flourish and organisations thrive.
So what is compassion at work?
Sogyal Rinpoche describes Compassion as “not simply a sense of sympathy or caring for the person suffering, not simply a warmth of heart toward the person before you, or a sharp recognition of their needs and pain, it is also a sustained and practical determination to do whatever is possible and necessary to help alleviate their suffering”. Wharton Management Professor, Sigal Barsade describes compassion as “when colleagues who are together day in and day out, ask and care about each other’s work and even non-work issues.” Barsade talks about the importance of an emotional culture, stating that this is equally as important as cognitive organisational culture, stating compassionate employees “are careful of each other’s feelings. They show compassion when things don’t go well. And they also show affection and caring — and that can be about bringing somebody a cup of coffee when you go get your own, or just listening when a co-worker needs to talk.”
Put simply, compassion at work is empathy with action. The ability to notice the suffering of colleagues, whether it be a stressful day, a difficult conversation with peers or a problem at home – and then the ability to act upon that noticing.
Why is compassion at work important?
There is a growing body of research that suggests that the happier we are at work the more productive we are. Sonja Lyubomirsky’s research suggests that happier staff are more engaged, creative, productive and motivated. Successful leaders recognise that happy employees mean increased productivity and ultimately increased profit. It’s not just about the bottom line, nobody wants to be miserable in the place where they spend the majority of their waking hours.
It’s not just about the feel good factor and being civil to each other in workplace. In a 16 month longitudinal study “What’s Love Got to Do with It?” set in a health care facility, Barside and Olivia O’Neil researched the impact of compassion upon the emotional behavioural outcomes of employees. They found that compassion reduced levels of exhaustion and burnout. The researchers also saw a decrease in absenteeism with a corresponding increased levels of employee engagement. Increasingly research in the field of compassion at work is beginning t show that there are tangible results when we develop compassionate individuals, leaders and cultures;
• When we’re on the receiving end of compassionate leadership at work we’re more likely to be committed to our organisation and to talk about it in positive terms (Lilius et al. 2008)
When we experience compassion at work connects co-workers psychologically and results in a stronger bond between them (Frost et al. 2000).
Managers who believe that their organisation is concerned about their well-being are more likely to show supportive behaviour towards their team members (Eisenberger, 2006).
• Those who receive compassion are subsequently better able to direct their support and care giving to others (Goetz et al. 2010). As Bayside found, this is important in healthcare organisations. Working in a compassionate organisation reduces the chance of compassion fatigue and burnout in caregivers (Figley 1995). This also provides them with essential emotional resources that they need to care for their clients (Lilius et al. 2011).
• Compassionate leadership also influences employees’ perception of their colleagues and organisations. Studies show that employees who believe that their leaders care about their well-being are happier with their jobs and more commitment (Lilius et al. 2011). When we experience compassion ate work we are also less likely to leave the organisation, reducing employee turnover.
• Fredrickson et al. 2000 found that when we experience positive emotions our heart rate and blood pressure is lowered. Our psychological distress also decreases. Compassionate leadership has the potential to improve employee wellbeing.
How can you develop compassion at work?
Consider the way that you interact with others in the workplace. Think about;
- Say ‘Good Morning’ to colleagues, acknowledge their presence and let them know you care.
- Actively look for ways to help colleagues, direct reports and clients.
- If you’re making a coffee, offer to make one for a colleague.
- Notice how others are feeling, bring mindfulness to your interactions and if someone appears to need help, reach out to them.
- Practice mindfulness. Professor Paul Gilbert one of the world’s leading experts in compassion says that mindfulness can be used to develop an attitude of compassion at work.
- Here’s a Mindful practice from Compassion Life by HH The Dalai Lama to help you o your way:
Sit in a comfortable position. Take a few moments to pause and relax bringing your focus to your breath. Gently settle into a relaxing breathing rhythm.
Bring to mind a person or situation where you got angry, impatient, frustrated or seriously annoyed. Get a clear picture of the people in this situation and what they were doing that really bothered you…..
Now think of each person when they aren’t at work. Connect with them as another human being.
Picture them as a fellow human being with a family, pets, children, brothers and sisters… just like you
Think of them working to support their family and wanting to live happily…. just like you
Imagine them working as best they know how to work ….. just like you
Think of them having life challenges, fears, worries, insecurities….. just like you
Picture them trying to do their best with what they know to do…. just like you
Know they desire happiness and want to be free from suffering… just like you
Breathe deeply as you picture them with their family or neighbors enjoying life and being happy. Feel the wave of compassion in your body as you connect with your desire for their happiness.
We love to talk about all things compassion at work related at Positive Change Guru. Check out our forthcoming events or get in touch to find out more about our suite of courses and discuss bespoke compassion at work training for your organisation.
We uncover the uncomfortable truth about multitasking and why creating ‘Flow’ moments is the answer
The Myth of multitasking
Ever wondered why other people seem to master multitasking whilst you struggle to manage multiple tasks at the same time? If you’re envious of the seven-second attention span of a goldfish, flow moments are for you. Worry no more. Multitasking is and has always been, urban myth.
The truth is out. After decades of articles opining the benefits of multitasking, the ‘how to’s’ ‘Made simples’ and ‘Guides’ – we now know that the ability to focus on several tasks at the same time just isn’t neurologically possible. So when you’re checking your phone whilst talking, reading the paper whilst watching TV or driving and making a call using hands free, you’re not completely focused.
Working faster but producing less
Research by Gloria Mark, Professor of Informatics at the University of California found that when we’re continually distracted we may work faster but we produce less. That would explain the plethora of mistakes we typically tend to make when we’re not completely focused on the task at hand.
Leaving mistakes in your wake?
Dr JoAnn Deak author of ‘Your Fantastic Elastic Brain” states that “When you try to multitask, in the short term it doubles the amount of time it takes to do a task and it usually at least double the number of mistakes.” Worse still, researchers at Stanford University found that regular multitaskers are particularly bad at it, suggesting that serial multitaskers are easily distracted. Known as ‘switchtasking’ quickly jumping from one task to another, leaving a slew of mistakes in its’ wake. Rather than making us more efficient, switchtasking makes us less accurate and slows us down. The problem is, we’re so convinced that it’s possible, we just don’t notice our performance has suffered due to our lack of focus.
Feeling focus fatigued?
Switchtasking can also elevate our stress levels, ramping up the pressure, feeding into the feeling that there’s too much to do and not enough time to do it in. Research by René Marois at Vanderbilt University, using fMRI found that the brain responds to multiple tasks with a “response selection bottleneck” slowing us down as it attempts to prioritise tasks. Little wonder then, that multitasking impacts our learning and leaves us feeling even more fatigued, contributing to the release of stress hormone nasties like cortisol and adrenaline. Left unchecked, the long-term effects upon our health can be catastrophic.
The negative impact of distractions
It’s all thanks to the default mode network (DMN) a cluster of brain areas that become active when we’re not actively focusing on a specific task. It’s just the way that we’re wired.
David Rock, author of Your Brain at Work says, “A distraction is an alert. It says, orient your attention here now; this could be dangerous.” The digital world that we now live in offers a multitude of distractions “It reduces our intelligence, literally dropping our IQ. We make mistakes, miss subtle cues, fly off the handle when we shouldn’t, or spell things wrong.” To add insult to injury, multitasking makes us less intelligent than we might otherwise be.
During a Harvard study examining mind wandering by Matthew Killingsworth and Daniel Gilbert 2,000 adults were tested throughout the day. Killingsworth and Gilbert found they were distracted for a whopping 47 percent of the time. What’s more they were less happy as a result, typically experiencing stressful thoughts or negative rumination. All excellent reasons to ditch switchtasking.
How to focus
So if multitasking is dead, how do we focus? The good news is your brain is a muscle, just like any other muscle in your body. The trick is to train it. Flow is a state of optimum performance and you can develop it. Here’s how.
- Minimise distractions. That means turn the TV off, put your phone down and concentrate on one task at a time. Don’t start a new task until you have finished the last one.
- Identify and work with your circadian rhythms. Keep a log of your energy levels and engagement in tasks throughout the day. Work out when you energy levels best support your focus and plan your day accordingly. Tough tasks that require focus and mental energy should be scheduled at peak energy times, less demanding tasks for when you have a dip in energy. Even better, try and schedule a walk when you know there will be a slump.
- Build that critical brain mass with mindfulness. Start with one breath at a time, focusing on the breath, not breathing deeply or changing your breathing, simply noticing what’s here, right now. Notice your breath as you inhale, feeling the breath moving over your top lip as you inhale, the coolness around the tip of the nostrils. Exhaling, feel the warmth of the breath around the nostrils. If you find that your mind wanders, just notice the distraction and bring your focus back to the breath. The more you practice this mindfulness of breath meditation the more you’ll see results in terms of your ability to focus. We know from research that experienced meditators are better able to quieten down an area in the DMN called the posterior cingulate cortex (PCC) than non-meditators. That’s it, now you’re training!
- Get moving. A study from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign found that aerobic exercise improved the areas of the brain related to attention, both long term and short term. Whether it’s walking, jogging, playing tennis or hitting the gym, investing in physical exercise will reap multiple benefits.
- Drink more (and no, we don’t mean alcohol). A 2012 study in The Journal of Nutrition found that mild dehydration increased levels of inattention in test subjects. It took as little as a 2% drop in hydration to negatively affect the subjects ability to concentrate on cognitive tests. Make sure that you keep hydrated, drinking between 7 to 8 glasses of water a day.
Positive Change Guru are experts in performance at work. We offer bespoke training, mindfulness, resilience and positive psychology courses as 1 day, bitesize espresso or organisational consultancy. Check out our events page http://positivechangeguru.com/events-2/ Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org we’d love to here from you.
Image courtesy of Patrick Tomasso and those lovely people at Unsplash.
Work. We spend most of our lives there but rarely give thought to how or why. Whether you view work is a necessary evil or you jump out of bed in the morning with a smile on your face, work can sometimes be stressful.But is there a way to bring the stress level down a notch or two? Enter mindfulness.
It’s easy to get caught in an endless cycle of ‘doing, doing, doing’ at work. We jump from one task to the next, firmly focused on the ‘To do’ list with not enough time to squeeze it all in. we forget to ‘be’. When we do that our creativity shuts down, innovation heads for the door and we move onto auto-pilot. Mindfulness provides us with a choice, it gives us a way back into the present moment and a way of slowing down the onslaught of working life.
So how can you build mindfulness into your working life?
We’ve all been there, sometimes after a morning commute you feel as though you’ve already done a full day’s work, just adding to the exhaustion.
See if it’s possible to park the car further away from the office or get off the bus or the train a stop early using the rest of the journey for a mindful walk. Notice how your body feels as you walk, the shift of weight from left to right, the sensation of the ground under your feet, supporting you. Take time to be in the moment by noticing what’s around you, the sensations of the wind on your face, the architecture of the buildings, the sunlight falling upon the leaves in the trees. And if it’s possible, maximize your walk by using any parks or green space along the way. We know from research that walking in a green space gives an even greater return on your stress busting investment for your walk.
Set yourself a reminder to pause and be throughout the day. These mini check ins are a great way of reminding yourself to take time out, bringing your mind and body back into the moment. Try setting a gentle alarm on your phone every 40 minutes or using one of the many apps available that sound a bell (Zazen is a great free example of this). When you hear the reminder, just stop whatever you’re doing, pause and breath, checking in with what’s going on in your mind and body. Ask yourself; ‘What’s here, right now?”
It’s so easy to turn on your computer and get drawn into everything you read, to feel the beginnings of a stress cycle as you scan row upon row of emails. The next time you walk into the office, try this before you make a start. Sit down and close your eyes, feel the chair supporting you, your feet on the ground, the contact with the earth. Notice what’s happening in your mind; are you calm, hurried or tense? Just notice, don’t judge or try to change whatever is going on. How does your body feel? What’s here? In this moment? As you breath, say to yourself “In” as you inhale and “Out” as you exhale. Do this for 3 minutes. If your mind waders, or you become distracted by thoughts, notice without getting caught up, saying to yourself “This is thinking”. Give yourself a pat on the back for notIcing and then come back to the breath. This is a great way to ground yourself before starting your day and also an excellent practice if you find yourself in the thick of things and feeling overwhelmed as the day goes on.
For more, watch Chade Meng Tan reveal how Google have brought mindfulness into the workplace: