We’re delighted to be working with the V&A to deliver an introduction to mindful meditation. The evening course is delivered in the new Globe at the V&A, a truly unique and special environment in which to practice mindfulness. [Read more…]
Innovation. How best to develop, sustain and refine it? Let the battle commence between divergent and convergent thinking. Or perhaps not? Here we make the case for both types of thinking, side by side and suggest techniques for how best to unlock them.
Unleashing the creativity genie
The elusive muse. Creativity. How to unlock it, nurture it and keep it generating innovative ideas time after time. It’s the holy grail of the creative process. Mindfulness may be the answer to developing and sustaining your inner creative genius. Let’s take a look at how to apply it. [Read more…]
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.
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…]
If you’ve ever had a really bad day, you’ll already know that the power of negative thinking is heady stuff indeed. A bad commute, a spat with a challenging co-worker or just waking up on the wrong side of the bed can all be downward spiral catalysts New research from Stanford University may just provide the antidote. Meditation.
It seems that the mere act of thinking really does change your brain. The latest research in neuroscience suggests that it’s not just the act of thinking that has an impact on the neurology of your brain, what you are thinking about is just as important. How and what we think about affects the neuroplasticity of our brain, its ability to rearrange its own structure in response to negative or positive stimulus.
Morgan and Banerjee’s Stanford University study into the effects of rumination (that’s negative thinking to you and me) examined the effects on research subjects asked to reflect upon the negative aspects of their lives. Not surprisingly, in addition to making the subjects feel like reaching for the biggest tub of Hagen Daz they could find, something else was happening within their neurology. Extended periods of such negative thinking resulted in an increase in the activity of the amygdala (the area of the brain responsible for the fight, flight or freeze response to fear). This increased activity precipitated a rush of damaging neurochemicals into the brain. So, if negative thinking makes us feel worse and changes our neurology, what kind of results will positive thinking produce? Let’s take a look….
Tibetan Monks & Meditation
Since 2008 Zoran Josipovic, adjunct professor at New York University has been studying Tibetan Buddhist monks in an attempt to identify the effects of meditation on brain neurology. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). His ongoing research has found that meditation alters the neural networks in research subjects, strengthening the anterior cingulate, regulating anger, reducing anxiety and increasing levels of happiness (and not a tub of Hagen Daz in sight).
So the next time you start to ruminate on negative events or things that you’re not happy with, stop, take a moment or two and shift focus, try the opposite to rumination and meditate. Take a look at our ‘Are you Mindful? self assessment or our mindfulness blogs for more on this topic.
To find out more about meditation or our mindfulness and wellbeing courses check out our Events page at www.positivechangeguru.com/events
What’s fuelling your burnout? Feeling exhausted? Perhaps even a little cynical where work is concerned? You could be suffering from burnout syndrome. A common response to stress, burnout is characterised by a variety of dimensions from fatigue, demotivation, frustration, cynicism and ultimately, reduced efficacy. So what, exactly, is fuelling your burnout?
The Beginnings Of Burnout
It isn’t a new phenomenon, Graham Greene wrote about it during the 60s in ‘A Burnout Case’ as a result the term was later coined in the context of employee burnout by psychologist Herbert Freudenberger. It’s firmly part and parcel of corporate landscape now with employees increasingly being asked to do more with less.
Montero Marin at the University of Zaragoza identified three types of burnout. In a study of 429 university workers in a variety of occupations ranging from administration to research, the study identified 3 separate subtypes;
What’s Your Type?
- Boredom. This type of stress stems from lack of challenge. When employees aren’t stretched they’re unable to get into a state of flow, or optimum performance, stifling their development and their motivation. If you find yourself using avoidance as a coping strategy and complaining about your organisation on a regular basis, the research suggests this could be your burnout type. Leaving you feeling like giving up. boredom is fuelling your burnout fire.
- Overload. This subtype is characterised by frenetic behaviour. You find yourself doing, doing, doing with a constant mental ‘To do’ list. Your coping strategy is to keep working until you’re exhausted in the belief that you’ll somehow make headway. You’re overloaded by stress and feel cynical due to the lack of support you receive. You may feel that your organisation is limiting you. Excessive workload is fuelling your burnout.
- Worn Out. In this subtype when you’re faced with stress, you give up. It’s all just too overwhelming. The will to achieve is there but you lack motivation to get started in the onslaught of stress. If this is your subtype you may feel badly let down by your organisation. You’ve simply had enough and that is fuelling your stress.
What’s Fuelling Your Organisation’s Risk of Burnout?
Now you know what’s fuelling your individual burnout, lets take a look at your organisation. Maslach, Schaufel and Leiter identified 6 organisational risk factors that increase the likelihood of burnout.
- Mismatch in workload
- Mismatch in control
- Lack of appropriate rewards
- Loss of sense of positive connection with others
- Perceived lack of fairness
- Conflict with values
If the causes of burnout are multi factorial, how can you begin to combat it?
If you’re a leader, the starting point is your organisational culture. Here’s our checklist to guide your stress audit;
- Do you have a wellbeing strategy?
- Do staff have a healthy approach to work life balance and is this modelled by your leadership team?
- Are your people micromanaged or given the autonomy to carry out their role?
- Do you model your values or is there a disconnect? Do you need to revisit your strategy, policies, procedures and actions?
If you’ve identified that you’re on the way to being stressed, find a way to reduce your stress levels by;
- Practising mindfulness (see our mindfulness resources on this site)
- Consider Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) sessions. Talk to your GP who will be able to recommend a therapist.
- Reflect upon whether your values are in alignment with your role. Is your current role what you feel drawn to as a profession or is something else calling you?
- Check your work – life balance is where you want it to be. If it isn’t take the necessary steps to address the areas that need work. Cut back on your hours, take lunch breaks and make sure you create time for friends, family and a life outside of work.
A big thank you to Gill Thackray for her guest blog on becoming more mindful in five easy steps.
Mindfulness in minutes
Everybody is talking about it, but it isn’t new. Mindfulness and mindfulness based cognitive therapy have been effectively used to treat anxiety, stress and depression for a number of years.
Google famously use it in their ‘Search Inside Yourself’ programme, Deloitte, Barclays, Harvard Business School and UK Sport have been practicing it of late, even Transport for London are jumping on the mindfulness train. So what is it?
More than positive thinking or simple breathing exercises, mindfulness is an effective way to train your brain – it’s all about being in the present moment, consciously aware, paying attention without judging, and it’s a great way to promote happiness and mentally de-clutter.
5 easy steps to being more mindful
With regular practice, mindfulness is a powerful tool that can help you improve your overall wellbeing. Here are just 5 simple ways you can become more mindful in under 5 minutes a day.
1. The Traffic Light
This one is simple and takes just one minute. Think of what you do at a traffic light; STOP! You can do this sitting in your car every time you really are stopped by a red light, sitting at your desk or just sitting in your chair.
Stop: Stop what you are doing. Pause for a moment.
Take a breath: Breathe, it’s easy, we do it all of the time, we just don’t think about it. Really notice how the breath feels entering your body and how it feels as you exhale. Concentrate only on your breath.
Observe: Now you’ve had that pause and breathed a little, how do you feel? What’s going on for you? Just notice, observe it without judging.
Proceed: Time to continue on your journey.
2. One minute Breath
Another technique that only takes a minute.
Set your stop watch or sit in front of a clock and just breathe for one minute. Your aim is to focus on your breath for one whole minute. Notice how the breath feels as it enters the nostrils, how it feels cool as you inhale, how it’s a little warmer as you exhale. That’s all you’re doing concentrating on your breath for an entire minute.
3. Mindful eating
This is a mindfulness favourite and you can do it with chocolate, raisins, dinner, breakfast, anything you like as long as it’s edible. Get rid of distractions like the TV, newspaper, mobile phone, radio or talking and sit down to eat.
Give your full attention to your food; how does it smell, what colour is it? What are the textures like? How do you cut it? Chew slowly and really savour your meal. Notice how it tastes different? This is also a great technique if you are watching your weight, helping you to feel fuller for longer rather than wondering where that bar of chocolate went….
4. A mindful cup of tea
It’s a simple procedure, but there’s a reason it’s a ritual in the Far East. Making (and of course drinking) tea can be a profoundly relaxing experience. Notice the weight of the kettle as you fill it with water, listen to the sound of the water as it runs from the tap, how the light bounces off the endless stream. Notice the sounds of the water in the kettle as it comes to the boil. Stay in the present as you prepare your cup and the tea bag. Watch as you pour the boiling water onto the bag, how it floats as the steam swirls upwards. Then sit down and reward yourself as you notice the heat, the taste of the tea and all of the different flavours as you swallow.
5. Mindful walking
The next time you’re walking, really notice what’s going on around you, the light, the sky, the trees. Feel the ground under your feet, how you breathe as you walk, notice the buildings, your fellow pedestrians. Remain in the present as you head towards your destination. Feel the wind on your face and notice what’s different when you arrive at your destination.
The great thing about mindfulness is that you can use it any place, anytime, anywhere. Practised on a regular basis, mindfulness can improve both your mental and your physical health and offers a great return on investment for a few just a few minutes of your time each day.
Thank you to Gill for her new blog on finding ways to introduce mindfulness into a busy day.
Five sure fire ways to find time for mindfulness
You’ve read the research and you’re sold on the idea of mindfulness but however much you want to practice, it’s hard to 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 five sure fire ways to start where you are and add mindfulness into your day with just a few minor tweaks.
Start your day with mindful breathing
It’s a way of setting the tone for the rest of your day and can be a great way to embed mindfulness as a habit. Think about your morning routine, how do you typically start your day? Waking, getting out of bed, cleaning your teeth, having your first shot of Java? Is there space for one minute of mindfulness practice? A mindful minute perhaps? Or a quick body scan? If you’ve ever decided to run a marathon and followed a running plan you may be familiar with the strategy of run a minute walk a minute on day 1, run two minutes, walk two minutes on day 2 as a starting point. Surprisingly, training your brain is no different to training your body.
Start with a minute of practice first thing in the morning on week one and build up to two minutes on week two. Start where you are and see how far you can build your morning practice. As you begin to see the benefits, you’ll be surprised at how easy it becomes to incorporate mindfulness into your morning routine.
One of the things that we like about the STOP exercise is its simplicity. Sometimes mindfulness sounds more complicated than it really is. STOP is deceptively simple and it’s something that we can all do, at any time during the day for 60 seconds.
- Take a breath. Notice the flow of your breath in and out of your body.
- Observe your thoughts as you breath in and out, what is popping into your head, right here? Right now? How are you feeling you, your body? What sensations are here? Do you notice tension, aches, or are you relxed? How is it for you, right now in this moment?
- Once you’ve practice STOP keep calm and carry on with your day.
The waiting practice.
You know what it’s like, you’re stuck in traffic, the lights are at red and you are wishing them to change with every fibre of your body. Perhaps you’re in a queue and the conversation between the cashier and the person in front infuriates you as you glance at your watch. Or perhaps your train is waiting at the station, delayed for some unknown reason. Don’t they know you have somewhere to go. Annoying isn’t it? The irritation as you wait is an opportunity in disguise and a prime moment to practice mindfulness. Try this three step waiting practice instead;
- Bring your focus to your breath. Notice the cool stream of air above your upper lip as you inhale and a warmer sensation in the same area as you exhale.
- Move your attention to your body. How are you feeling? What sensations are you able to detect?
- Notice your thoughts; annoyance? Impatience? Irritation? Recognize them and then allow them to be, just as they are.
Multitasking is a myth. As much as we want to believe that it’s possible we know from a plethora of research in the field of neuroscience that the ability to focus on several tasks at the same time just isn’t possible. Studies 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.
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 multitaskers are easily distracted.
Still not convinced? Try this quick test from the Potential Project:
- Draw 2 horizontal lines on a piece of paper, now, ask someone to time you as you carry out the next two tasks:
- On the first line write “I am a great multitasker”
- On the second line: write out the numbers 1 – 20 sequentially, like these below 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20
How long did it take to do the two tasks?
Let’s try a spot of multitasking.
Draw two more horizontal lines. This time, with someone timing you, write a letter on one line, then write a number on the line below, then the next letter in the sequence on the first line and then the next number in the sequence, changing from line to line. For example, write the letter “I” and then the number “1” and then the letter “b” and then the number “2” and so on until you’ve completed both lines.
I a ……
1 2 …
See how long the second task takes you and notice how you feel as you complete it. A bit frustrated? And were there errors? This is known as ‘switch tasking’ and is what happens when we think we’re multitasking (here’s the clue. We’re not).
So the next time you’re tempted to multitask, slow down and take it one step at a time focusing fully on the task at hand until you’ve finished. Now you can start on the next task.
A mindful minute of breathing
It only takes a minute but it will have an impact on the entire physiology of your body as well as your mood. Use it during times of stress, or at regular periods during the day by setting an alarm on your phone or using a free app that rings a bell to alert you to the practice like ‘Zazen lite.” We think that nobody describes this better than Thich Nhat Hanh in Shambhala Sun;
“So the object of your mindfulness is your breath, and you just focus your attention on it. Breathing in, this is my in-breath. Breathing out, this is my out-breath. When you do that the mental discourse will stop. You don’t have to make an effort to stop your thinking; you bring your attention to your in-breath and the mental discourse just stops. That is the miracle of practice.”
We couldn’t agree more.
Find out more by taking a look at this video of Mirabai Bush speaking about mindfulness at Google:
A big thank you to Gill Crossland – Thackray for her guest blog on the, just published, All-Party Parliamentary Group’s report on their vision for mindfulness in the UK.
The future of mindfulness in the UK
It’s official, Britain is set to become a ‘Mindful Nation’. The much awaited Mindfulness All-Party Parliamentary Group (MAPPG) has now been launched and sets out how it sees the future of mindfulness within the UK. Jon Kabat-Zinn’s forward even goes as far to suggest that the report could be “an inspiration and model for other nations and governments” in considering the role of mindfulness within society. It’s testimony to how far things have come on the mindfulness front that mindfulness has now entered the realm of UK politics and policy makers.
Why is the government looking at mindfulness?
So, why is the government looking at mindfulness? A growing number of recent reports, including the report of the Wellbeing Economics APPG published last year, prompted the government to initiate the What Works Centre for Wellbeing, hosted by Public Health England. It is increasingly recognised that wellbeing and prosperity are fundamentally linked. the government’s Foresight Report talked about ‘mental capital’ the cognitive and emotional resources that ensure flexibility and resilience. But how to build it? Enter Mindfulness and a plethora of research alongside anecdotal evidence.
The first of its kind, the report is a culmination of over a year of research and inquiry and examines mental health in the areas of education, health, the workplace and the criminal justice system through the application of mindfulness interventions. Basing it’s recommendations on sound evidence from experienced mindfulness practitioners, the report urges policymakers to invest resources in further research and increase public access to qualified teachers aiming to position the uK as a forerunner in the mindfulness stakes.
The report recommends the following;
- In health, the the number of people who have access to mindfulness programmes should be increased, making it available to 580,000 adults each year who will be at risk of recurrent depression. That funding for the training of teachers to provide these courses. There was also a recommendation that NICE review the evidence for Mindfulness Based Interventions (MBIs) in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome, cancer and chronic pain when revising their treatment guidelines.
- For education, the report recommends that schools be identified as pioneers to develop mindfulness training for teachers and for students. A ‘Challenge Fund’ was suggested of £1 million a year to which schools could bid for the costs of training teachers in mindfulness.
- At work, the Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) was singled out as the body to demonstrate leadership in working with employers to champion mindfulness and develop models of good practice. The government was also encouraged to set a precedence and train local and national government employees, encouraging best practice and research in this currently underfunded sector.
- In the criminal justice system, the report suggests that mindfulness programmes be offered to offenders with depression. More research into Mindfulness based Interventions (MBIs) is also suggested within offender populations.
The report aims to widen interest in mindfulness innovation and ‘deepen understanding of it’s relevance and potential’ across a range of sectors. It seems then, that mindfulness is here to stay. Building on a groundswell of public interest in the understanding and building of human flourishing mindfulness is now very firmly on the agenda. To read the full report click here.