Welcome to our April Newsletter!
Spring is the perfect time to think about changes you might like to make in your personal and professional life, so that you live your life with joy and not in a perpetual state of stress, worry and anxiety. In this newsletter, I want to share a short mindfulness exercise you can do anywhere, some of the latest research on mindfulness, and a review of an excellent book that is an excellent introduction on being mindful in your everyday life. As well as that, I’ve included the links to some very informative mindfulness articles, where you’ll find plenty of hints and tips on being mindful and why it’s not just about meditating. I’m very excited to be introducing some comprehensive e-learning packages this year, which will help you to learn the fundamentals of mindfulness, and how to use it as a tool to change the way you think, react, and feel about life.
Top tips for using mindfulness in the workplace
Here’s an easy mindfulness exercise you can do at your desk, at any time of the day.
Mindful breathing is a meditation technique that you can do while you’re sat at your desk. All you need to do is take a few minutes to focus on your breathing.
- Inhale slowly, through your nose, and breathe out slowly, through your mouth. Breathe in for 3 seconds, and out for 3 seconds. Don’t think about anything else.
- When thoughts come into your mind, acknowledge them, but let them go. Take your focus back to your breath.
- Do 2-3 minutes at a time at the start, then work your way up to 5-10 minutes at a time.
There is an entire body of research that looks at how mindfulness affects the brain, how it can benefit people who suffer from chronic stress and depression, improves physiological health markers, and improves the chances of ageing in a healthy way. Here are some of the world’s leading mindfulness researchers, whose existing work is paving the way for some fascinating future studies.
Judson Brewer, MD, PHD, Psychiatrist and Chief, UMASS Medical School
He discovered how mindfulness can be used to beat addiction, by using brain imaging techniques to look at how mindfulness affects the brain. He used the information to develop mindfulness tools to help people give up smoking and beat food cravings.
His plans for future clinical trials include developing an app that will allow mindfulness to be delivered digitally, and studying how effectively it works.
Elissa Epel, PHD, Professor in the Department of Psychiatry, University of California
She has done ground-breaking work, which looked at the benefits of meditation for people who suffer from chronic stress, particularly those who have never meditated before.
In the future, she plans to look at how meditation affects people who have suffered trauma or adversity in childhood.
Clifford Saron, PHD, Researcher, neuroscientist, Center for Mind and Brain; University of California
He led the Shamatha Project, which was research into the benefits of long-term, intensive meditation. During the project, numerous month-long retreats were held, and the findings showed that meditation improves the attention span, boosts wellbeing and empathy, and improves physiological health markers.
He wants to take this research even further, and plans to assess the wellbeing of the participants 7 years after they attended an initial retreat. In particular, he will examine markers of cellular ageing, stress, and inflammation.
Zindel Segal, PHD, Professor of brain and therapeutics, University of Toronto
He’s a leading researcher on Mindfulness and mood disorders, and was a founder of Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), which integrates meditation into psychotherapy. His work has shown that MBCT can prevent relapses in people who have depression.
He is currently conducting a study which is looking at whether adding a digital form of MBCT to standard depression treatment programmes can reduce symptoms, as well as a study that is examining brain changes in patients who have used MBCT and have recovered from depression.
David Creswell, PHD, Associate professor of psychology, Carnegie Mellon University
His work examined what makes people resilient to stress, and he also co-founded health neuroscience, which combines health psychology and neuroscience.
He has begun a trial, examining how Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction might improve social relationships and lead to healthier ageing in older adults.
His team is also looking at whether adding acceptance skills and training on how to keep calm and composed even in a stressful situation to mindfulness programmes can further reduce stress and improve health.
Something amazing happened in the House of Commons back in October. 40 Politicians sat in silence, practising mindfulness. Now if you have ever seen a Commons debate, or Prime Minister’s Questions, you’ll know that this is unusual!
UK Ministers joined colleagues from Israel, Sri Lanka, Croatia, and Sweden to consider how they could use mindfulness as a way to bring about positive change.
This was the world’s first ever congregation of mindfulness politicians, and they were discussing how mindfulness could become a matter of public policy.
Some ministers shared their experience of finding mindfulness after having suffered from depression, anxiety, serious illness, and injury.
The Sports Minister Tracy Crouch said that mindfulness has helped her to cope when receiving therapy was not appropriate in her case, and it led to her being an advocate of the use of mindfulness in professional environments, and being very keen to see how it could be integrated into policy.
Ministers were given information on the latest mindfulness news from the UK healthcare and criminal justice sectors, which included a testimony from a former prison inmate, who discovered the power of mindfulness after being in and out of prison over a 30-year period.
The event originated 18 months ago in a US Congressman’s office. Tim Ryan of Ohio, advocates mindfulness as a tool to stay sane when you’re surrounded by chaos. He promotes mindfulness as much as he can, and sees its value for everyone, not least war veterans.
After completing a mindfulness retreat, he discovered a new way of relating with the world around him, and he immediately wanted to tell people about it.
In October 2015, A Mindful Nation UK report was published, which suggested that access to mindfulness was high on the agenda in government policy, especially in the health service and the criminal justice system. How great it would be then, to establish an international commission of delegates who are both interested in, and advocates of, mindfulness. The hope was that this would help to not only promote the wider implementation and understanding of mindfulness, but that it would promote cooperation and a tolerance of different views that transcended politics.
In the UK, parties on all sides have demonstrated a willingness to accept that there is a need for mindfulness, and The Mindfulness All Party Parliamentary Group was developed from a mindfulness programme that was run for MPs and peers. Those who participated noted how it encouraged them to be more accepting of opposition colleagues and encouraged kinder and more mindful communication with each other. Their experience encouraged them to consider how mindfulness could be integrated into policy, which promises some exciting developments in the future. It seems that everyone can benefit from a little mindful contemplation.
Book recommendation and review
Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Finding Peace in a Frantic World
Mark Williams, Danny Penman
This book is based on Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), which is an easy form of mindfulness meditation to grasp, and you can get the benefits from practising it for just a few minutes every day.
This form of mindfulness meditation has been shown to be as effective as medication for depression and it has been recommended by NICE, the National Institute of Clinical Excellence as a treatment.
What’s important about MBCT is that everyone can benefit, it’s not just for people who struggle with depression. It’s about staying balanced and mentally healthy in an increasingly demanding world. It’s not about getting rid of unhappiness, it’s about increasing feelings of joy and confidence while reducing stress, anxiety, and feelings of irritability.
This book aims to teach people how to live in the moment, and how to deal with negative events or emotions without becoming overwhelmed by them or reacting emotionally. It also encourages people to accept their thoughts and feelings without judgement, all while explaining the foundations of mindfulness and how it plays a role in psychology.
Many self-help books often have a tone that makes you cringe, but this doesn’t. It takes a practical approach and provides you with simple tasks and meditations to complete. The book uses encouraging language and motivates you to work your way through the course with inspirational quotes.
For the mindfulness sceptics, there’s a considerable scientific element to the book. As well as information on how mindfulness works and how it can work for you, there’s some information on clinical studies of its effectiveness.
You can skip the introduction to mindfulness and go straight to the practical exercises, but it’s helpful to know why mindfulness can work for you, as you’ll be more likely to carry on with it.
The book includes guided meditations and practical exercises, which is a good mix, since meditation may take some time to grasp so you’re likely to notice more obvious changes with the practical exercises.
But if you’re looking for a quick solution to fixing feelings of overwhelm in your life, then this book is not for you. The entire course in the book needs to be worked through for the best results.
You can find the book here:
Some reading material for you:
In each newsletter, I’ll be including a few articles about mindfulness that really capture the essence of what it is and why it can work for you, whether it’s at work or in your personal life.
Why We Need Mindfulness at Work
Here’s a great article about the benefits of mindfulness at work. When people think about practising mindfulness at work, their first reaction is ‘how am I supposed to find the time?’ But setting aside that time can really help to ease the stress of a demanding working life.
Five Steps to Mindfulness
This is a simple, but very informative article that is a nice introduction to being mindful, whenever, and wherever you are.
Blue Light Support
We now host an initiative to provide mental health care for emergency services. Please visit http://mocallaghan.co.uk/bluelightsupport/ for more information.
How can I help you?
I can help you master mindfulness to enhance the wellbeing of individuals at work, and to help organisations build productive, successful teams of individuals who listen to, and support each other. Through face to face mentoring and mindfulness sessions, or via e-learning, we can work together to manage stress, deal with anxieties about job insecurity and organisational change, and develop effective leaders who’ll remain calm and make considered decisions even during volatile times. Find out more about what mindfulness can do for you here.
I hope you have found our first newsletter both interesting and useful. If there are any topics that you would like us to include in our next newsletter please let me know. If, for any reason, you do not want to receive further copies of the newsletter please let me know and I will remove your details from our database.