MBSR | for a Mindful Workplace
Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Introductory paragraph goes here.
Research shows that people who practice mindfulness are more aware of their thoughts and feelings and better able to manage them. Mindfulness training is shown to boost well-being, performance of attention and concentration, increase levels of emotional intelligence and resilience and improve relationships.
The case for mindfulness in the workplace is simple – people who are better at managing their mind and mental states are more productive/effective/engaged at what they do.
A wide range of leading organisations around the world are giving their people the life-changing opportunity of mindfulness training; from media and tech companies like Google and Apple, to law firms and banks like Goldman Sachs, to police and nurses, governments, universities, schools, the military and top sports clubs. They recognise the relevance of the skills of mindfulness to the individual in the workplace and to the culture of the organisation as a whole.
WHY ARE LARGE ORGANISATIONS ADOPTING MINDFULNESS?
Mindfulness is secular so it is available to people of any religious background and to those of none. Many see it as a technique that is as important for the health of their mind as exercise is for their body.
A large, growing body of science provides clinical evidence for mindfulness as a successful way to:
Reduce stress, anxiety and depression
Raise levels of well-being and overall life and work satisfaction
Increase emotional intelligence and resilience
Increase attention span and concentration
Increase self-awareness and awareness of others
Reduce physical and mental health related absenteeism
In fact, the UK National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) which recommends evidence-based interventions to the NHS supports the use of mindfulness as an effective treatment for depression and has been shown to be at least as effective as anti-depressants, without the side effects.
Fascinating findings from neuroscience demonstrate the physical structural changes that take place in the brain as a result of mindfulness training courses such as MBSR. After just 8-weeks of training we can actually see meaningful changes to the brain using neuro-imaging. There are significant increases in brain tissue in brain regions involved in emotion regulation, learning and memory, decision making, perspective taking and self-referential processing. In a short amount of time we can learn to re-wire our brain for the better and begin to experience life-changing benefits.
So we can take advantage of neuroplasticity and intentionally shape our brains for the better, promoting well-being and healthy habits of mind.
WORKING MINDFULLY: HOW CAN IT BENEFIT THE WORKPLACE?
Mindfulness training develops Emotional Intelligence - the capacity to recognise our thoughts, feelings and emotions - and those of others - and to guide our behaviour accordingly. This capacity has a profound impact at cognitive, emotional, social and physical levels and can therefore empower people in a wide range of ways.
It is about developing skills in relating to ourselves and to other people and it has the potential to transform our experience of everyday life.
Over time, mindfulness establishes changes in levels of happiness and well-being. It cultivates an underlying sense of peace, fulfilment and unshakeable contentment, and teaches us to maintain this whether the ‘weather’ is good or bad.
It was once assumed that we all have a set-point of happiness that is fixed - but research has shown that this is movable with mindfulness training. In the same way that training the body’s muscles makes them stronger and thicker, training the mind with meditation can cause the area of the brain associated with happiness stronger and thicker.
Improved mental health (reduced stress, anxiety and depression)
We can learn how to handle difficult emotions and become more effective at managing stress, anxiety and depression. Becoming aware of the patterns of our mind enables us to pause and take a step back rather than getting sucked into negative reactions and behaviours. This skill is critical in managing our mental health.
Understanding how the mind works and practicing healthy habits of mind is the basis for developing resilience. It determines how we deal with life’s challenges. Some thrive on pressure whilst others crumble/suffer from exhaustion, depression and burnout. - but this ability is trainable with mindfulness. Studies repeatedly show that upon completion of an 8-week MBSR course, participants felt they had more control over their lives, that their lives had more meaning and that challenges should be seen as opportunities rather than threats.
Meditation reduces the physical impacts of stress and is linked to a reduction in many major health conditions such as high blood pressure, hypertension and cardio-vascular disease. It is associated with improved immune system functioning and many people report having fewer colds. It can even reduce the rate of ageing by reducing the damaging effects of chronic stress at a cellular level in our body. How we perceive stress influences how quickly our ‘telomeres’ degrade and this can make years of difference to the body.
PERFORMANCE & SUCCESS
Peak performance depends on the ability to focus. Training our attention with mindfulness builds the mental muscles of focusing so that we bring full presence of mind to what it is we are doing.
In this multi-tasking, deadline-driven working world, sustaining our attention is an everyday challenge and one that mindfulness is proven to help.
Being able to resist the distractions of the chaotic world around us (and often inside us) is key to performance - but improved focus has broader benefits too. The ability to control our impulses and emotions is critical to achieving our long-term goals. In fact these skills are a better predictor of academic success than IQ. Simply, successful people are more focused.
Neuroscientists found that after only 11 hours of meditation, structural changes occurred in the anterior cingulate cortex, the brain region involved in monitoring focus and self-control.
Creativity is the product of a calm and clear mind that is able to make connections between things and generate novel ideas and solutions. It is stifled by stress and anxiety which only restrict our thinking. Mindfulness helps us to shift into another mode of mind - more open, free and connected to the innate creativity we all have. It’s relevant to all of us, not just those in ‘creative industries’. ‘Insight problem solving', which is to do with ‘seeing’ problems in a new way, is improved by mindfulness practice, as is 'divergent thinking' whereby the mind flows more easily, generating new ideas.
Meditation improves relationships by helping you to see yourself, others and the world in a new light. By becoming more aware of our own mind and emotions we can become more understanding of others; developing empathy and acceptance toward people.
The quality of relationships improves when we learn how to give our full attention to people, listen and communicate with more awareness and an attitude of compassion.
Mindfulness develops our ability to pause and respond rather than react. In all relationships - whether with family, colleagues, our children or the bus driver - our ability to regulate our emotions and express them without reactivity is an important ingredient.
Star performers tend to have high Emotional Intelligence. Strong leaders also..
Mindfulness training develops Emotional Intelligence (E.I.) - the capacity to recognise one’s own and others’ emotions and to use this information to guide our thinking and behaviour. Training our attention with mindfulness helps us perceive our emotional experience with greater clarity
which is shown to be critical for both outstanding performance and leadership at work. It also helps us create the conditions for sustainable happiness.
The author and monk Matthieu Ricard defines happiness as “a deep sense of flourishing that arises from an exceptionally healthy mind…not a mere pleasurable feeling, fleeting emotion or mood but an optimal state of being” which he describes as “a profound emotional balance struck by a subtle understanding of how the mind works”.
Every workplace, organisation or team is uniquely different. Predicting exactly how mindfulness training would impact the individual or benefit the wider working environment may not be possible. But case studies show how such programmes to sow seeds of meaningful change
decision making, multi tasking,
Measurable – absenteeism, sick days for stress
USE MODEL OF
Mindfulness helps people to move away from negative
Costs of Stress to the Workplace
Workplace stress is running at epidemic levels. Nearly 14% of UK workers report that they find their job very or extremely stressful. Anecdotally we increasingly hear people expressing feelings of overwhelm and exhaustion with the demands of their jobs – long working weeks, never-ending inboxes and the duty to always be available to your work via your smart phone. Arguably, stressed is becoming the norm and this is having profound costs to our working and personal lives.
In 2007/8, stress, anxiety and depression accounted for an estimated 13.5 million lost working days and it is estimated that the direct and indirect cost of employee absence to UK businesses is around £1800 per employee per year.
There is a powerful economic case for helping people deal with stress.
The cost of stress to our personal lives spills into our relationships with friends and family, our physical health, our sleep – it erodes the quality of everyday life and our overall happiness.
Transport for London – A Healthier Workplace
The success of a mindfulness programme for 600 workers at Transport for London shows the kind of impact that’s possible. Days taken off due to stress, depression and anxiety fell 70% during the following 3 years and health-related absenteeism was halved. Those completing the course reported significant improvements to their quality of life, with 80% saying their relationships had improved, 79% saying they were more able to relax and 59% saying they were happy in their jobs. It appears that mindfulness has the power to provide a win-win outcome to both organisation and individual and make a real difference.
More than a glorified executive stress-ball
Mindfulness has become a buzzword and there is good reason for the enthusiasm surrounding it and its popularity. But to reduce it to a stress reduction or attention improving tool is to under value it. Being mindful shifts how we understand ourselves, understand life, how we value it, how we value other people and treat them – our entire relationship to ourselves and to the world. With it we can develop a greater perspective and a more mature way of being and living.