In January 2014, all staff at Chwarae Teg were invited to gather together for a 2-day work conference to celebrate the final year of the fantastic Agile Nation project.
The focus of this conference was on wellbeing in the workplace; how we as an organisation can best practice what we hope to encourage in our participants, in order to create a more effective and productive work-life balance.
One of the first workshops I attended was delivered by the lovely Karen Dell’Armi and was a session on Mindfulness, an Eastern Philosophy which is currently quite a ‘buzzword’ in the sphere of work-life balance in the Western world.
Public interest has been recently elevated further by Arianna Huffington’s passionate advocacy for what she believes to be an extremely valuable tool in relieving stress and improving productivity in the workplace for both women and men.
Though there may be reservations held by some that it is ‘just another fad’, the growing bank of scientific evidence in support of its use as a highly effective tool to combat a number of mental health conditions, can hardly be ignored.
Moreover, though it has been endorsed and used by the NHS for a number of years ( studies rate it as a highly effective and non-invasive remedy for depression ), it is now also becoming a much respected practice to improve production, motivation, loyalty and output in the workplace.
This moves it from the realm of just the ‘hippy’ to the boardrooms of some of the largest and most successful global corporations including Google, GlaxoSmithKline, KPMG and PricewaterhouseCoopers.
In the relaxed and informal setting of our workshop, Karen introduced the concept of Mindfulness and gave a little background to her own interest and belief in its practice. Formerly in the corporate world of marketing, Karen is now a highly successful jewellery designer and Mindfulness practitioner.
She discovered its merits from training prior to a trek to the top of Everest, but has found it to be an essential tool in managing the peaks and troughs we face in our daily lives and making the whole journey more positive, peaceful and complete.
The benefits of Mindfulness in this context are two-fold: the personal benefits ( improved health, better relationships, higher energy levels, improved creativity, more time, increased gratitude, freedom of choice ) and the benefits to our economy through corporate outcomes ( more innovation, better productivity and performance, increased profitability, improved energy, improved confidence, improved motivation and developed self-management ).
Hopefully, if you began reading this unsure of the practical uses of Mindfulness, you are beginning to see the potential for sustainable positive results.
According to Dr Jon Kabat-Zinn, “mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally” and he sees it as a combination of body, thoughts and emotions. But how easy is it to really adopt Mindfulness in our daily lives?
Karen worked through one exercise which, in order to give some more depth to this post, I have practiced daily since that workshop over a week ago.
In essence it involves allocating time for a ‘body-scan‘ at least once in the day, giving as much time at the beginning as you feel able to manage. For me, this seemed to equate to about 7 minutes each time and at different points in the day.
I can honestly say that it has been a real surprise to me how much impact the practice has had in this short time.
Small adjustments, like an improved ability to focus on a task ( I frequently skip from task to task before finishing the one I started, but have found that the body-scan makes me much more focused ), reduced anxiety levels ( when I can feel stress levels rising, just thinking about the body-scan exercise and my breathing for a moment is enough to bring a sense of calm ) and my general sense of joie-de-vivre! ( my energy levels have improved and I feel I can fit more into the day ).
I can’t endorse it enough already; 7 minutes in my daily routine and I feel noticeably more in control, more productive and, essentially, happier. Whether this is the novelty of a new routine is of course too soon to tell, but I truly hope not and am excited to see where regular practice might lead.
From my role in Chwarae Teg I have also heard about the use of Mindfulness in some Secondary schools and the feedback has always been extremely positive from both staff and pupils; I would be fascinated to learn what impact it could also have on Primary school children as part of Circle Time or Personal, Social and Emotional education. That’s for another blog however!