Thanks to Lloyd Wells, a freelance writer and Mindful technique practitioner – working with Planday, a staff management software solution aiming to relieve stress from the workplace wherever possible.
Largely a concept of Eastern origin, here in the Western world, we are waking up to the benefits of mindfulness. It’s a hot topic. Not just on a personal level, but in the working environment too. While many still scoff at the idea, success stories akin to those of the Canadian Police Force (starting their day with a meditation session) are hard to ignore.
Over in the UK, Police in Manchester have followed suit. In the face of scepticism, the Greater Manchester Police Force is offering mindfulness classes to staff. It’s a bid to stem the growing level of anxiety and depression amongst their officers.
Police officers are being asked to cope with increasingly violent and stressful situations. It’s no surprise with the recent spate of Manchester’s gangland-style shootings, to hear that stress and sickness rates across the Greater Manchester Police Force have soared. While the world may be a far cry from offering mindfulness techniques to the gangs on the street (though not a bad idea if it could somehow be socially engineered), mindfulness it seems at the moment may be the constabulary’s best answer.
What is mindfulness?
Essentially mindfulness is practising the capacity to be fully conscious and aware. Mindfulness is often practised by paying full attention to your breath (mindfulness of breathing meditation). The concept is to try and observe and be aware without criticism. Mindfulness (or meditation) is not a religion and you don’t have to sit cross-legged on the floor to practise. It doesn’t take a lot of time and it’s not complicated.
How do you practise mindfulness?
You simply sit (on the floor or in a chair) and pay attention to your breathing. When thoughts arise and you find yourself drifting into a mental dialogue, bring your attention back to the breath. That’s it. Easy. Mindfulness practise can be used doing any task. When washing-up, for example, bring your focus to the feel of the water, the crockery, the smell and the sounds. It’s all about bringing awareness to the task in hand.
What’s the difference between mediation and mindfulness?
Not a lot essentially. Meditation is a practice, which uses the art of mindfulness of breathing. So meditation is actually a form of mindfulness.
Can we believe the hype?
Mindfulness is not just a Zumba-style craze. It’s an ancient tradition. It’s been part of Buddhist psychology and practice for 2,500 years. Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it, but to really feel the benefits it does take committed practice.
Who’s doing it?
More and more big corporates are bringing mindfulness to the business table. Innovative companies need focused innovative staff. In the last decade business has woken up to the importance of staff well-being. There’s been a sea change in the workplace, with employee satisfaction moving up the boardroom agenda. When answering the question, ‘what makes a business successful?’ employee well-being is gaining ground, with a much more sizeable chunk on the pie chart.
Many high-stress companies are catching on. They’re making mindfulness a part of their corporate mission. Well-being is definitely the new HR buzz word, and mindfulness it seems can take your business to the next level. Apple, Google and Nike get it. Some corporates are ahead of the crowd. In some innovative companies, mindfulness at work is in full sway and its proving successful.
Where’s the evidence?
Neuroscientists have found that meditators shift their brain activity to different areas of the brain (from the stress-prone right frontal cortex to the calmer left frontal cortex). Research shows that mindfulness works. It increases happiness and reduces stress.
Dr. Sara Lazar, who works at the Harvard Medical School, is a leading expert in the field of neuroscience and meditation. In her research, MRI neuroimaging techniques show an increase in gray matter of the brain in four different areas after periods of meditation. Her research concluded that these changes were in places associated with increased focus, empathy and compassion.
How does it help?
Over time mindfulness has shown to bring about long term changes in mood and happiness. It increases our childlike sense of curiosity, seeing things and people as they are without judging them. Mindfulness improves our ability to focus without the mind wandering. It enables greater clarity at work and in our personal lives. Mindfulness isn’t a trick to deaden your mind or turn you into a work zombie, it’s a means of waking you up and growing your potential.
Employee focused culture isn’t a new phenomenon in the business world. There’s a greater understanding of the importance of quality in employee productivity. How to get employees more focused is the new buzz about town, and mindfulness it seems for now is providing the answer.