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Mindfulness in the workplace - Guest Article by Leigh McKay

When hearing the word Mindfulness what does this mean to you? For some it is a buzz word that will surely reach its pinnacle and be surpassed with something new. Far be it a fad in fact Mindfulness has been around for thousands of years. There are many misconceptions namely: Mindfulness is learning to empty the mind, it’s a relaxation exercise or its part of a spiritual and religious cult. Perhaps images of a group huddled around a fire singing “Kum Ba Yah” conjure up.

For those of you practicing Mindfulness you may be cringing right now as you recognise this is far from the truth.

What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is the awareness that arises from paying attention, on purpose in the present moment, without judgment.

*John Kabat-Zinn, Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, UMass

Seated in Buddhism philosophy, Mindfulness was bought to mainstream clinical practice by Jon Kabat-Zinn. In 1979 this professor founded the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusells Medical School, where he adapted Buddhist teachings on Mindfulness and developed the Mindfulness based stress reduction programme. (MBSR) To this day Kabat-Zinn downplays the Buddhism connection – possibly as a means of bringing it into the mainstream.

Why Mindfulness?

Did you know that the human mind has “stimulus-independent thought” approximately 47% of the time?  Put differently the mind wanders, contemplates and ruminates on thoughts about the past or future – instead of what is happening in the moment. That is almost half of our waking life. Harvard published a fascinating study in 2010 called ‘A wandering mind is an unhappy mind’.

This statistic is easily reached given our lifestyles and society expectations. An “always on” culture means boundaries between home and work are blurred, there is an expectation of immediate response and working to the grindstone is worn like a badge of honour. In other words, we are constantly on “autopilot”.

“We are influenced by what we see our peers doing. I’ve had people say to me: “I look around and all my colleagues are working themselves to death. What makes me think I’m so special that I don’t have to?” We have come to normalize the unacceptable. It’s hideous.” Jeffrey Pfeffer “The Workplace Is Killing People and Nobody Cares”

Managing and actually thriving in our modern culture is where Mindfulness makes a difference.

How does Mindfulness practice help? (at home and in the workplace)

Coming off “autopilot” momentarily and slowly introducing Mindfulness practice can offer wonderful returns. Effectively you are choosing where to place your attention which offers improved focus. This means you are less reactive – learning to pause constructively offers a sense of calm and clarity.

Evidence shows that regular daily Mindfulness practice affects the brain areas associated with:

  • Attention
  • Creativity
  • Thinking capacity
  • Memory
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Problem solving

In promoting healthy choices and a wellbeing culture for our staff the benefits include:

  • Decreased anxiety and depression
  • Fulfilling relationships
  • Reduction of stress and irritability
  • Boosted immune system
  • Used for pain reduction

The UK have gone as far as setting up a Mindfulness All-Party Parliamentary group to support the ongoing research. This initiative grew out of a Mindfulness programme attended by politicians in the UK Parliament. They now work with legislators around the world who practice Mindfulness and help them to make capacities of heart and mind serious considerations of public policy. As of January 2018, 165 British MPs and peers, and 250 staff, have completed an adapted 8-week Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy course in Westminster.

We are seeing more and more businesses introducing Mindfulness within the workplace. I guess the question is why wouldn’t you?

 

Leigh McKay holds a BSc (Hons) degree specializing in Psychology and a diploma in personal development coaching through the Coaching Academy. Her keen interest in the psychology of behaviour and the impact of health on performance saw Leigh focusing solely on Wellbeing. Workwise Wellness was formed 4 years ago which is a successful Wellbeing Consultancy today.

Leigh promotes that a workplace and community that promotes wellbeing can have a positive impact on everyone’s mental, physical and emotional health. She strives to encourage a culture which prioritises healthy choices.

Whilst the overall approach is a holistic one, Leigh’s key area of focus and training is emotional resilience. She has been involved in this area sharing insights with executives; businesses both large and small; charities, schools and within the community.

For more information on Work Wise Wellness see www.workwisewellness.co.uk

 

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