Mindfulness is commonly associated with spiritual (and particularly Buddhist) traditions, but over the past 40 years these practices have been combined with modern psychological theory and developed into a secular training that has been the subject of extensive scientific research.
Mindfulness is about learning to focus and quiet the mind. This is done through simple guided exercises, attending to the breath, and observing what is happening in the mind and body, moment by moment. A kind of ‘mind gym’ which is about paying attention to what is happening right now with kindness and curiosity[i].
Mindfulness practice helps us to learn how to feel contentment in the present moment and manage our emotions more effectively. This has knock-on effects in lots of ways. Research shows that regular practice can bring about a wide range of benefits in physical and emotional health, and social functioning[ii].
A majority of GPs think that Mindfulness should be made widely available[iii]. The Mental Health Foundation – ‘Be Mindful’ Campaign pointed to extensive research pointing to wide ranging benefits[iv].
In 2015 the Mindfulness All-Party Parliamentary Group (MAPPG) published the ‘Mindful Nation UK’ report[v] . It recognised mindfulness as a major contributor to the nation’s health and wellbeing: “better health and flourishing, improving mental health, and boosting productivity and creativity”. It went on to recommend mindfulness the key area of public policy: criminal justice, healthcare, education and the workplace[vi]. In 2016 the MAPPG launched a new publication: Building Mindfulness in the Workplace[vii] which looked specifically at the impacts of mindfulness at work[viii].
We spend a good proportion of our lives at work, yet for many people these hours are the least happy. Stress related problems at work account for a huge loss of productivity. Organisations are concerned about the increasing cost of employee stress and mental health problems, which account for 70 million sick days, more than half of the total every year
Success in most organisations relies on the very things that unhappiness and stress erode: collaboration, creativity, cognitive flexibility and effective decision-making. Clearly the cognitive and emotional resources of the workforce will determine the health, resilience and future performance of our businesses and institutions. So forward thinking organisations see that enhancing employee health and wellbeing are just as important as skills training.
Mindfulness in a work context
A recent roundup of the scientific evidence for the potential benefits to business from mindfulness concludes that it can have an impact on many aspects of workplace functioning, including the 3 key areas: Wellbeing, Relationships and Performance[ix].
A number of studies of workplace mindfulness courses have found positive effects on wellbeing and a reduction in stress and burnout[x]. There is strong evidence of Mindfulness having a positive impact on Anxiety and Depression[xi]. It has also been shown to reduce stress, anger, rumination, and physiological symptoms, while improving positive outlook, empathy, sense of cohesion, self-compassion and overall quality of life[xii].
Positive relationships at work lead to effective collaboration and increased productivity. Research into workplace mindfulness has pointed to improved relationships, collaboration and employee resilience[xiii].
Mindfulness has been shown to have a wide ranging impacts on cognitive functioning, workplace performance, leadership and decision making[xiv].
Introducing mindfulness into your workplace:
We have been delivering mindfulness training to individuals and groups around the country. Here are some of the ways we can help you to bring the benefits of mindfulness into your organisation:
- A one day course which introduces staff to mindfulness practice
- A longer mindfulness course which takes place over a number weekly sessions and aims to help participants deepen their practice and bring that into their working life
- An ongoing program of mindfulness within the organisation
- Training and developing champions within the organisation that can take mindfulness forward within their organisation