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Autumn Newsletter

 

Introduction to character strengths

Positive psychology is a branch of psychology which looks at how humans thrive and flourish. Research on character strengths is an important part of this.

So what are character strengths?

At our very core, there are a set of strengths. These strengths can impact on how we think, feel, and behave, and when we use our strengths, we’re usually being the best version of ourselves.

You may think you know your strengths, but your character strengths are not the same as your skills and talents. Character strengths are who you are underneath.

Research has found that we all share the same 24 character strengths, though we possess some of them to a greater or lesser degree than others.

The classification of character strengths

In the book Character Strengths and Virtues: A Handbook and Classification, written by Martin Seligman and Christopher Peterson, character strengths are classified into six major virtues and their associated strengths. These are:

  • Wisdom and Knowledge: Creativity, Curiosity, Judgment and Open-Mindedness, Love of Learning, Perspective
  • Courage: Bravery, Perseverance, Honesty, Zest
  • Humanity: Capacity to Love and Be Loved, Kindness, Social Intelligence
  • Justice: Teamwork, Fairness, Leadership
  • Temperance: Forgiveness and Mercy, Modesty and Humility, Prudence, Self-Regulation
  • Transcendence: Appreciation of Beauty and Excellence, Gratitude, Hope, Humour, Religiousness and Spirituality

What are the benefits of knowing your character strengths?

Knowing your character strengths and using them in the right way can help you become more resilient, improve your relationships, and improve your health and wellbeing.

How can you find out your own character strengths?

You can complete the VIA survey, which is a research-based survey offered by the VIA Institute on Character. You can take the survey here:

https://www.viacharacter.org/character-strengths


The benefits of focusing on strengths rather than weaknesses

Have you ever worked for a manager who only ever focused on problems and where there was room for improvement? Do you catch yourself focusing on the areas in which you believe you’re lacking something? How does it make you feel? I’m willing to bet that it doesn’t make you particularly happy or motivated.

But if you focus on your strengths, you have the power to positively influence your wellbeing. Research has found that if you are aware of your character strengths, and you focus on them rather than your weaknesses, you are 9 times more likely to flourish.

So how does focusing on strengths have a positive impact on your life?

It helps you focus on the positive

People who focus on their strengths experience more positive emotions, feel more engaged with life and work, their life has more meaning, they have more positive relationships, and they achieve more.

They’re also more likely to be accepting of who they are, autonomous, driven to reach their goals, be in better physical health, be more passionate about life, and more resilient.

So focusing on strengths rather than weaknesses is far more likely to be a pathway to fulfilment than focusing on the negatives.

However, focusing on positive things is not the same as ignoring the negatives. Instead, the thinking in positive psychology is that we should learn from and reframe the negatives.

Research has shown that most of us tend to have a negative bias in the way we think. We remember negative things more than positive things, and we allow ourselves to get much more affected by them. Strengths can make the way we think a little more balanced.

Negative experiences or events help us learn and grow, and we can use our strengths to help us avoid them happening again, and to remind us that we’re resilient enough to get past whatever it is.

Your strengths are like an inner toolbox you have that enable you to better deal with anything that comes your way, good or bad.

Adapted from The Power of Character Strengths: Appreciate and Ignite Your Positive Personality, p. 18.


Books on character strengths

There are many excellent books on the subject of character strengths and how we can use them to flourish, both in life and at work. Here are some of my favourites:

 

The Power of Character Strengths: Appreciate and Ignite Your Positive Personality

The message of this book is that at some, or many points in your life, you will want more, whether it’s a better job, a better relationship, or just to be happier. But it poses the question- where are you looking?

Positive Psychology experts, Dr. Ryan Niemiec and Dr. Robert McGrath say that you should look within. In this book, you can find out why knowing your character strengths is the secret to improved wellbeing.

Most people, the authors say, are going to work, managing a family life, and working through a never-ending to do list without every really using the inner strengths that could help them thrive.

This inspiring book will help you reach your goals by discovering and applying the character strengths you already possess.

Buy the book here.

 

Mindfulness and Character Strengths: A Practical Guide to Flourishing

This book contains the latest research and practices on character strengths and mindfulness. It will help you use your character strengths to improve the quality of your mindfulness practice and show you how mindfulness can help you apply your best attributes.

MBSP (Mindfulness-Based Strengths Practice), the first structured programme to combine mindfulness with character strengths, is at the core of this book, and it’s an excellent resource for anyone who wants to know more about this ground-breaking field.

Buy the book here.

 

Your Strengths Blueprint: How To Be Engaged, Energized, and Happy at Work

The world of work can be tough, but this book says that using your strengths can make it a little easier and much more enjoyable. The authors say that the key to getting the best out of your team and reaching your business goals is to discover, develop, and apply your strengths at work.

Doing things you’re good at that you actually enjoy can make work more meaningful, unleash your potential, and lead to an altogether more exciting and fulfilling future.

Buy the book here.

 


A perfect pairing: character strengths and mindfulness

Whether you’ve mastered introducing mindfulness into your life or you find that you sometimes struggle with your practice, you can harness your character strengths to improve both the quality and your experience of mindfulness meditation.

Once you know your main strengths, you can apply it to your mindfulness practice. Try some of these ideas:

If your top strength is:

  • Creativity: Try different postures, different ways of noticing your breath, and find different ways to deal with it when your mind wanders.
  • Curiosity: Always notice what is going in the moment during your practice, never stop being curious about it.
  • Judgment/critical thinking: Ask yourself why certain things come to mind during your practice.
  • Love of learning: Read around the topic of mindfulness to enhance your knowledge.
  • Perspective: Read about the philosophy of mindfulness.
  • Bravery: Challenge yourself during your practice. If you feel frustrated or uncomfortable, accept it and face it head on. Meditate in different environments-challenge yourself by practicing where it’s not completely silent.
  • Perseverance: Promise yourself that you won’t give up even if challenges arise during your practice, like mind wandering, feeling tense, or being surrounded by noise.
  • Honesty: Try to use each practice to really learn something new about yourself.
  • Zest: Try and be mindfully active. Instead of sitting or lying down, go for an invigorating mindful walk.
  • Love: Each time you practice, really think about someone you want to dedicate it to, whether they’re alive or someone who has passed away.
  • Kindness: Be sure to include self-compassion and compassion for others in your practices.
  • Social intelligence: Each time you meditate, spend a little time reflecting on people who are suffering and feeling empathy for them.
  • Teamwork: Meditate with someone else or as part of a group to enhance the experience.
  • Fairness: Reflect on and include all other beings on the planet as part of your meditations.
  • Leadership: Put a structure in place that you can follow each time you practice.
  • Forgiveness: Before you meditate, calm your body and mind. Spend a few moments letting go of any tension, stress, or negativity by focusing on the breath and releasing these things each time you breathe out.
  • Humility: At the start of your practice, remind yourself of impermanence, your own mortality and the mortality of the people you love.
  • Prudence: Be sure to follow the instructions of your practice precisely each time you meditate. Pay attention to your posture, your breathing, and the placement of your hands.
  • Self-regulation: Be disciplined with your practice. Do it at the same time, on the same day, and make your practices the same length for a week.
  • Appreciation of beauty/excellence: Meditate outside, either sitting or walking. Keep your eyes open and appreciate the beauty of nature.
  • Gratitude: Give thanks at the beginning and end of your meditation practice.
  • Hope: Practice when your energy is high and you’re feeling good. Close your practice with one positive statement.
  • Humour: Before you meditate, think of something funny that happened the day before.
  • Spirituality/religiousness: Add a prayer at the beginning and end of your practice, or say something to centre yourself.

Using your strengths as part of your practice will help you overcome any obstacles that arise and you will have a much more rewarding and fulfilling experience.

Adapted from: Niemiec, R. M. (2014). Mindfulness and character strengths: A practical guide to flourishing. Cambridge, MA: Hogrefe.


Applying character strengths in your life

Knowing your character strengths can really put you in a position of power, but knowing how to apply them to your life so you can thrive is even more important. Let’s look at some key areas of your life and how you can use character strengths to improve your happiness, wellbeing, and overall sense of fulfilment.

Achieving your goals

Do you have a set of goals you’re working towards, or are you just plodding on through each day, dealing with the details and not achieving much else? If you’re the latter, how about harnessing your character strengths so you can really start thriving and regain your zest for life?

The character strengths you can draw upon to help you reach your goals in life are:

Hope: If you have hope, you feel positive about the future. When you feel positive, any problems that come your way are easier to deal with because things look good when you consider the bigger picture. When you are hopeful, you feel more confident about reaching your goals, and you’re less likely to give up when you hit a bump in the road.

Religiosity and spirituality: The more you connect with your spirituality, the more likely it is that your life will have a sense of purpose and meaning. This does not necessarily mean that you need to practice a religion, rather that you feel a sense of connectedness with others, nature, and with life as a whole. Practices like meditation, prayer, taking time to reflect, and spending time in nature can help you connect with your spiritual self and increase your chance of thriving.

Bravery, perseverance, zest, and self-regulation: When you set out to achieve your goals, there has to be some element of wanting to pursue something and challenge yourself, no matter what crops up along the way. Self-regulation is what will help you take on your goals without trying to do too much and becoming burned out and disillusioned.

Curiosity and love of learning: This character strength is an excellent motivator to become more knowledgeable, learn more skills, and grow. The result is usually that you become far more engaged with your work and it has so much more meaning.

Social intelligence: We achieve our goals more easily when we have the support and cooperation of others, and this is especially true in the case of business owners and managers. Being socially intelligent means we can better manage conflict, empathise with and appreciate others, and connect with them in a meaningful way.



Building your career

You might think that using your strengths to enhance your life sounds great, but you also might think ‘If only I had the time to do it!’

The good news is you do, and according to neuroscience, it only takes 11 minutes!

Using your character strengths intentionally is a good habit, and habits run on a neurological loop. There’s a cue that triggers the desired behaviour, a routine that we practice, and a reward that creates the desire to repeat the habit the next time the cue is received.

Here are some ideas on how you can start intentionally using your strengths at work:

Curiosity:

Cue: Get into the habit of spending 11 minutes learning something new, whether it’s getting to grips with some new software or reading about the latest developments in your industry.

Reward: Share what you’ve learned with a colleague.

Creativity:

Cue: Spend 11 minutes brainstorming some ideas on new ways you can help your ideal clients. Reward: Enjoy a nice cup of coffee.

Kindness:

Cue: Spend some time talking to a colleague and ask how they are.

Reward: Have something nice to eat.

Gratitude:

Cue: After you finish work, spend some time reflecting on how you made a difference to someone today.

Reward: Go home and relax.

Honesty:

Cue: When you are just about to leave work, make a note of any areas where there is room for improvement at work and how you might address these.

Reward: Go home and wind down.

Bravery:

Cue: On your break, think about how you might speak up about an issue that’s important to you, or volunteer an idea.

Reward: Head out for a short rejuvenating walk

Love:

Cue: At the start of your day, think about how you might help someone today.

Reward: Read a thank you note or a nice review from one of your clients.

Appreciation of Beauty & Excellence:

Cue: Just before lunch, spend some time walking outside then post a picture of something that inspires you.

Reward: Treat yourself to a nice lunch.

Leadership:

Cue: On your way to work, think about a leader you admire.

Reward: Think about how you can use some of the ways they approach things in the way you work.

Perspective:

Cue: At the beginning of the day, spend some time looking for a quote that inspires you.

Reward: Spend 30 seconds meditating on it.

 

Using character strengths to navigate life changes

Change is one of those inevitable things in life. You will see some changes as good and others as not so good, and when it comes to the not so good, you might doubt your ability to deal with it and come out on the other side.

But before you allow yourself to go into a downward spiral of thinking you can’t cope, do this; think of a time in your life when you got through something that you thought you wouldn’t get through.  Then do this exercise:

  • Write down the character strengths you used and how you expressed them.
  • Think about how getting through what happened shaped you and how it affected the view you have of yourself.
  • Look at the wider picture. Where you using any virtues at the time that helped you take positive action, like courage?

Hopefully doing this exercise might help you recognise the inner strengths you’ve used in the past and you’ll realise that there’s no reason why you can’t deal with any changes or upheavals that come along.

Adapted from: Niemiec, R. M. (2014). Mindfulness and character strengths: A practical guide to flourishing. Boston, MA: Hogrefe.

 

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, promote workplace wellbeing, 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 also offer a business mentoring service with flexible and personalised mentoring that is tailored to your unique personal needs and business goals. Sessions are designed around you and your needs to ensure accessibility and a measurable return on investment drawing upon tried and tested management and leadership theory and practice, the most up- to-date research in the areas of business, psychology and learning and development and direct personal experience of running a small business.

 

I hope you have found our 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 you do not wish to receive further copies of the newsletter contact me and I will remove your details from our database.

What is MBSP?

You may have heard of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), but the latest approach that’s gaining more attention is Mindfulness-Based Strengths Practice. So what is it, what are the benefits, and how is it different from other mindfulness-based approaches?

Mindfulness and character strengths are complementary

Mindfulness and character strengths can both be considered pathways to the character virtues of wisdom, courage, humanity, justice, temperance, and transcendence as defined by Christopher Peterson and Martin Seligman, the founders of positive psychology. They also share the same goal of enhancing the good in us and enabling us to use that good both in our interactions with others and in the way we view the world around us. Not only that, strengths practice can enhance mindfulness practice, and vice versa.

The struggle many people have with mindfulness

Even though mindfulness teachers tell us to not expect anything from our practice and to approach it with openness, acceptance, and curiosity, we may often practice when we feel the need to feel less stressed or anxious, or to avoid feelings of guilt that we might experience from missing a practice when we promised ourselves we’d do it daily.

Often, meditation and mindfulness is touted as something that people do to ‘fix’ something that’s wrong. Other mindfulness-based therapies use mindfulness to solve a problem. Maybe someone is stressed, anxious, depressed, or angry. But what it we approached our mindfulness practice from a strengths perspective, and focused on the positive, rather than the ‘problem’ that needs to be fixed?

The benefits of approaching mindfulness practice from a place of strength

  • Mindfulness helps us to realise and use strengths like openness and curiosity, and to focus on the good attributes we already have, rather than the difficult thoughts and feelings that pervade our minds.
  • Strengths practice can help us to continue to practice mindfulness even when it seems difficult or when troubling thoughts or emotions arise during our practice.
  • Mindfulness helps us keep our attention on difficult thoughts and feelings and teaches us to hold them in non-judgemental awareness, and using a strengths approach can help us look at thoughts, feelings, and problems in a different and more positive way that we might not have thought of.

Mindfulness and strengths practice complement each other and help us grow as people. Together they help us discover the good inside of us that can be nurtured so that we can live a full, happy life and thrive.

 

Maureen O’Callaghan is a Member of the Chartered Management Institute and has an MSc in Mindfulness-Based Approaches. She works with organisations, teams, and individuals to create less stressful working environments, improve team working, enhance performance and productivity and develop leadership and management skills.  For more information visit www.mocallaghan.co.uk or e mail maureen@mocallaghan.co.uk

How to Apply Character Strengths at Work

The key to being happier and more productive at work is already in your pocket, or more specifically, it’s already inside of you. It’s your character strengths. Your character strengths, when used to their full potential, can improve your wellbeing and help you thrive at work.

Character strengths have been extensively researched in the positive psychology field, and as well as increasing happiness and wellbeing for individuals, applying them in the workplace can also make organisations more successful.

How do you recognise a strength?

A strength is not just something you’re ‘good at,’ it goes far deeper than that. A strength in the context of positive psychology is a positive character attribute you possess, like bravery or kindness.

Discovering what your character strengths are

Research shows that humans share the same 24 character strengths, though whether we possess more or less of a particular strength does vary.

The VIA Character Strengths test helps us identify our strongest and weakest attributes. Character strengths are divided into six ‘Core Virtues’ and each virtue is divided into its related character strengths. You can find out what your top character strengths are at the VIA website.

 How do you know when you’re using your strengths?

When you’re using one of your key character strengths, you’ll feel happy and energised, and you’ll perform well. You probably aren’t using your strengths if a task or activity bores you or drains your energy.

The benefits of using character strengths at work

As you imagine, when you’re making the best use of your character strengths at work, it leads to better outcomes. Research has found that there are many benefits of applying character strengths in the workplace, including:

  • Better work performance
  • Better stress management
  • Greater workplace harmony
  • Increased likelihood of being able to do meaningful work/pursue a calling
  • A more positive experience of work in general
  • Feeling more engaged at work
  • Increased likelihood of continuing to use your strengths

How to apply your character strengths at work

  • Once you’ve identified your key character strengths:
  • Work out which ones will benefit your team
  • Ask your manager to help you align your key strengths with your work tasks where possible
  • Make a habit out of using your main strengths every day
  • Look for character strengths in your colleagues
  • Tell your colleagues which of their character strengths you appreciate or admire and why.
  • Find new ways to use your top character strengths

 

Maureen O’Callaghan is a Member of the Chartered Management Institute and has an MSc in Mindfulness-Based Approaches. She works with organisations, teams, and individuals to create less stressful working environments, improve team working, enhance performance and productivity and develop leadership and management skills.  For more information visit www.mocallaghan.co.uk or e mail maureen@mocallaghan.co.uk

How Character Strengths are Developed

When it comes to character strengths, everyone has a different profile of strengths like bravery, kindness, and integrity. Research has shown that getting to know our strengths and knowing how we can best use them every day can help us flourish.

Many of us think that focusing on our weaknesses is the way to go, and that working at the things we’re not so good at will help us become better versions of ourselves. This may be true, but focusing on our weaknesses and forgetting about our strengths can fast become exhausting and demoralising.

Which strengths should we focus on?

All of our strengths are important, but it’s best to focus on what you consider to be your main strengths. These are the strengths that come naturally to you. For example, are you a very kind person who likes to spread a little kindness wherever you go? Start here, and soon you’ll find that it’s easier to start working on your other strengths too.

How to develop your character strengths

  • First, find out your strengths by completing a survey, such as the one at viacharacter.org/survey. You’ll then get to know what your top five ‘signature’ strengths are. Start by focusing on these top strengths.
  • Make a list of your top five strengths and have it somewhere where you can see it or look at it regularly like on your computer or in your diary.
  • Each day find ways to use your top five strengths. So if one of your top strengths is kindness, look for new ways to be kind daily.
  • Be a role model for your colleagues and other people around you. Once you know your strengths, and you’re putting them into practice every day, you’re more likely to notice other people’s character strengths. You can even help colleagues identify their own strengths; be the manager who focuses on strengths, not weaknesses and problems.
  • At the end of each day, reflect on how you used your character strengths and what went particularly well for you. For example:

If you wanted to use your bravery, you had that difficult conversation with a colleague and it went well.

If you wanted to use your kindness, you made time to meet up with a friend who’s going through a difficult time.

Using your character strengths at work-My experience

Discovering your own character strengths and learning how to use them to make your daily life happier and more fulfilling is a fascinating and very rewarding journey. Work is a huge part of life for many, and all too often, I meet people whose work leaves them emotionally exhausted and physically ill.  The joy has gone out of their work.  Don’t let that happen to you. Identify your strengths, recognise when you perform well and look for ways to ensure that this happens more often. Ask yourself:

What does your best feel like?

When are you most energised and engaged?

When are you so absorbed in what you are doing that time just flies by?

When do you experience repeated success and gain the respect of others?

I learned that to be a success I needed to recognise what my strengths were and to find ways to use them in my work. Obviously, there were areas where I needed to improve but I figured that focusing on my weaknesses wasn’t going to get me very far in the short-term.  It wasn’t going to be much fun either. It was the right decision, by focusing on utilising my strengths I achieved much greater job satisfaction, I was more motivated, I was more willing to share my knowledge and skills with others, I was more creative and I also earned more.  And I like to think I achieved some longevity as I am still doing what I love.

 

Maureen O’Callaghan is a Member of the Chartered Management Institute and has an MSc in Mindfulness-Based Approaches. She works with organisations, teams, and individuals to create less stressful working environments, improve team working, enhance performance and productivity and develop leadership and management skills.  For more information visit www.mocallaghan.co.uk or e mail maureen@mocallaghan.co.uk

June Newsletter

 

Introduction to Mindfulness – It’s simple but not easy!

You’ve probably seen many different definitions of mindfulness is, and most of them will likely include reference to being aware of your thoughts and emotions, and focusing on the present moment.

You may also have seen mindfulness meditation exercises with instructions like ‘Close your eyes. Focus on your breath. If your mind wanders, return your focus to your breath.’ Sounds easy, doesn’t it?

But at the beginning, it’s far from easy. You’ll be amazed at how much constant chatter goes on in your mind, and how much frustration and judgement there is if you feel like you aren’t ‘doing it properly’ or if you can’t ‘stop your thoughts.’

This is one of the biggest misconceptions of Mindfulness. It’s not about having no thoughts, it’s about accepting that they’re there on the surface, and letting them go without becoming attached to them.

Another misconception is that you have to actually be meditating to practise mindfulness, and of course, you don’t.

Bringing mindfulness into your day to day routine is one of the best ways to become truly mindful. If you can learn to focus on what you’re doing in the present moment without reacting, judging, criticising, worrying, or complaining, you’ll feel far less stressed. You’ll also be able to live a calmer, more fruitful, and enjoyable life, because you’re not rushing around doing everything on autopilot.

Work on being in the moment when you’re doing everyday things, like eating, cooking, talking to others, and working. Even something as simple as washing your hands can be an exercise in being present. Notice the scent of the handwash or soap, the feel and temperature of the water, whether you notice any sensations in your hands-don’t judge, just notice.

Try it. Try to be as present as possible in your everyday life. It isn’t easy. But just learn to watch your thoughts. Notice them, take a pause, and let them go. Then notice how free your mind feels.

Adapted from: https://makemindpowerful.com/mindfulness-practice-daily-life/


Using mindfulness to be your best self

If you were asked what kind of person you would be if you were the best possible version of yourself, what would you say? I bet you wouldn’t say that the best version of you is someone who reacts at the slightest provocation, is prone to road rage, and who regularly feels like they’re at breaking point because life is so busy.

If this sounds familiar, use mindfulness to help you become your best self. Someone who is calm and considered, who gets along with others, and who isn’t on autopilot and stuck on their default ‘doing’ mode.

Mindfulness can be as simple as just learning to take a moment. So before you have a conversation with a colleague, or talk to your partner about the fact that they’ve not emptied the dishwasher for the umpteenth time, just stop.

It doesn’t matter where you are, just stop. Check in with your emotions. Are you angry, frustrated, anxious, or sad? Where in your body can you feel it?

Take a deep breath and sit with the emotion. Don’t try to bury it, or react, just accept this is how you feel. Then exhale, and let it go. Repeat this for however long you’ve got and you’ll feel much more at peace.

Just taking that moment to reflect on how you feel, ground yourself, and restore some calm can improve both your state of mind, the relationship you have with yourself, and the interactions you have with the people around you, whether you’re at work, or in your personal life.

And if you’re still sceptical, here’s what the research has to say about how mindfulness helps you live and work at your best.

  • Studies show that mindfulness can cause significant changes to the structure and function of the brain. It improves focus and self-control after as little as 11 hours of mindfulness practice. It also improves creativity and the ability to think outside the box.
  • 163 different studies show that mindfulness reduces anxiety and stress.

 

https://mindfulmethodsforlife.com/your-best-self/


How to keep the joy in mindfulness-it shouldn’t feel like hard work!

Even with the best of intentions, sometimes things get in the way of your ability to be mindful. You’re only human, so some days, compulsive thoughts, lack of concentration, a lack of time, and a negative mood can take over.

Mindfulness is not something that comes easy to most people, it’s something you need to work on, but it shouldn’t be arduous, or another thing to add to your already never-ending to do list. Here’s how to practice mindfulness and keep it joyful. Hint: It’s not all about meditating!

Try these fun ways of incorporating mindfulness into your life;

Go for a mindful walk

Even just 10 minutes is enough to be of benefit. Go out and be surrounded by nature (if you can.) Focus on what you can see, what you can hear and what you can feel. What colour is the sky? Can you hear the birds singing? Can you feel the breeze on your skin? Now focus on the walking itself. Pay attention to how your body feels with each step. Enjoy being completely present and you’ll notice so many things you never noticed before.

Try mindful colouring

Colouring books aren’t just for children. Focusing your attention on a simple task like colouring in an image will really help you get into a more relaxed state.

Eat mindfully

Instead of shovelling your food down without noticing, really pay attention to how it smells and tastes, and you’ll find that you really savour it. Try mindfully eating a piece of chocolate, and I guarantee, chocolate will never have tasted better.

Sit outside

This is a perfect exercise to do on your lunch break, or any time during the day when you get a few moments. Close your eyes and just listen. What can you hear? Can you hear insects buzzing? The breeze rustling in the grass? This can instantly bring your full attention to your surroundings and make you feel peaceful.

Join a group or take a course

If you find meditation difficult but you really want to get into a more mindful way of living, you can join a mindfulness meditation class or group. Many people enjoy coming together with like-minded people to learn more about mindfulness. The next step would be taking a mindfulness course, like the mindfulness based stress reduction (MBSR) course. The courses are generally eight weeks long and they can help you learn how to integrate mindfulness into your everyday life and create lasting change.

https://spiritualbliss.com/2017/02/joyful-guide-living-mindfulness/

 


Using mindfulness at different times of the day

So hopefully by now, you’ve realised that mindfulness is best achieved by being mindful in the course of your daily life, during your activities and interactions with others. But what types of mindfulness practices are best for different times of the day? Read on to find out!

When you wake up: Try a short meditation

Not much prepares you better for the day ahead than a short meditation in the morning. You can even do it before you get out of bed. There are some fantastic apps like Headspace which provides some short meditation practices for free, and longer ones if you subscribe. Just taking a few moments to be present and clear your mind before your day starts can make all the difference to your outlook and mood.

At lunchtime: Eat mindfully

It can be tempting to bolt your food down, thinking that you haven’t got time to linger over it, but it’s better for your mind (and our stomach) if you take the time to eat slowly and deliberately. Really take the time to notice the texture, smell, taste, and colour of your food, and you’ll find that eating is a much more pleasurable experience.

After lunch: Take a mindful walk

If you can, take a short walk after lunch, and go somewhere where you’re surrounded by nature. Walk slowly and notice how your body feels. Think about all of the muscles and body systems that are working together just so you can walk. Notice the sights, sounds, and smells around you, and notice the sense of calm that takes over.

Before bed: Try a body scan

If you find it hard to wind down at night because your mind is full of thoughts and worries, a body scan is the perfect way to take you out of your mind and focus your attention on your body. Lie in bed and rest with your hands by your side. Starting with your toes, focus your attention on each part of your body, working all the way up to your head. Notice whether there’s pain, any sensations, or tension anywhere. Don’t dwell on it, or judge it, just breathe into it and let it go. Here’s a great body scan meditation to help you wind down and get a restful sleep.

Any time of day: Focus on your breath

It’s amazing how just focusing on your breathing, even for a few moments, can restore a sense of calm, no matter how frazzled you are. Breath in through your nose, pause, and breath out through your mouth, making sure that you breath into your belly. When we’re stressed, we usually take shallow breaths into the chest. Focus on your breath for a few minutes and if your mind wanders (which it will), gently guide it back to the breath. Try this when you’re about to go into an important meeting, stuck in a traffic jam, or in any other situation that raises your stress levels.

Connecting with others mindfully

Do you meditate religiously, feel less stressed and more focused, only to find that you struggle to find that sense of calm when you interact with others who trigger you in some way?

The key is to work on putting mindfulness into practice in our day to day lives, especially when it comes to connecting with others. Here’s how to communicate mindfully with other people and see the benefits at home and at work.

Work on being present

When someone talks to you, do you listen? I mean really listen. Or are you so distracted or busy thinking about what you are going to say that you don’t pay attention to a word they’re saying?

A good starting point for connecting with others mindfully is to notice when you are distracted and not listening. Just like your mindfulness practice, you have to notice when your attention has wandered and bring it back. A good way to do this is to connect to your body. Feel your feet on the floor, notice any sensations in the body, and notice your breath, then draw your attention back to the person who is speaking. You can’t communicate with others effectively if you aren’t present because you don’t really connect with them on any meaningful level.

Think about what you want to get from a conversation

Whether you know it or not, you probably enter into a conversation with someone from a place of judgement. That co-worker who annoys you? You’ve already decided that they aren’t going to have anything good to say and you’re going to feel irritated by them as you always do. When you go into interactions with this kind of feeling, it’s a barrier to effective communication and it creates a lack of trust and respect. Instead, try to enter conversations from a place of curiosity and compassion. Think about how this will improve the quality of the conversation and the issues you could solve. It’s not about you being right and having to tell the other person why they’re wrong, it’s about realising you have different perspectives and being able to learn from each other.

Be mindful when you speak

Have you ever met someone who speaks just because they like the sound of their own voice? Or someone who thinks that whoever speaks loudest has the most authority? To communicate mindfully, it’s far better to think about whether you need to speak at that moment at all, why you want to speak, and if it would be better to simply listen. Try to consciously pause when you speak to let the other person absorb what’s been said. That way, your words can have so much more impact. Doing this can also calm you down, when the conversation is a little heated, for example. If you’re less overwhelmed, there’s less chance of you saying something that is unwise or purely based on an emotional response. Slow down your speech, breathe, and give yourself time to think.

Mindful communication is a great way of using your mindfulness skills in everyday life. It helps us connect with others on a deeper level, communicate more effectively, resolve conflict more easily, and develop compassion, both for ourselves and others.

https://2bpresent.com/blogfeed/2017/03/communicating-mindfully


Mindfulness and Contentment

One of the things I hope you’ve taken from this newsletter is that being mindful doesn’t mean sitting cross-legged and meditating. It’s being able to be mindful in the ordinary moments of our day to day lives that leads to true joy and contentment.

Being mindfully engaged in the present moment leaves no room for sadness, anxiety, or judgment of anything as ‘good’ or ‘bad.’

Here are some easy ways to be mindful day to day:

Doing the dishes

Yes, you can turn the most mundane of activities into an opportunity to be mindful. Feel the warmth of the water, notice the bubbles, and the clinking of plates and glasses in the sink. Really focus on the doing, not rushing through them so you can sit down in front of the TV.

Brushing your teeth

This is something you’ll do every day for a few minutes, so it’s a perfect mindfulness practice. Notice how your feet feel on the bathroom floor, notice the motion of your arm when you’re brushing, how the toothpaste tastes and smells, the sound of the water running from the tap, and the sensation of how clean your mouth feels afterwards.

Driving

How many times have you driven your car and been on autopilot to such an extent that you can barely remember the journey? Try to focus on being in the car, and on the actual act of driving. Turn off the radio, feel your back against the seat and check you aren’t gripping the steering wheel too tightly. Focus on all of these things throughout the journey, especially if you find that your mind is starting to wander.

Exercising

Hands up, who watches TV or reads a book to pass the time when you’re in the gym? Make your workouts mindful and you will notice the benefits for your body and mind. Focus on your breathing and on the muscles that are working to enable your body to do what it’s doing. Modes of exercise like Yoga and Tai Chi are particularly good for promoting mindfulness through movement.

https://sacredseedyoga.com/mindfulness-ordinary-moments-cultivating-contentment-happiness/



Mindfulness apps and books

So you want to get on, or stay on, your path to mindfulness and it doesn’t hurt to have something to keep you on track. There are plenty of good mindfulness apps and books out there that contain everything from guided meditations to the theory behind mindfulness if you want to know more about how it works.

Mindfulness apps

Here are a few of what I think are the best apps;

Calm

It gives you guided daily meditations, and music to help you focus, relax, or sleep. It also has a feature called Sleep Stories, which are calming bedtimes stories narrated by the likes of Stephen Fry to help you wind down. There’s plenty of free content, and there are more features you can access if you subscribe and pay an annual fee.

Headspace

This is one of the best-known mindfulness apps. It is a great introduction to mindfulness and offers bitesize sessions of three, five, or ten minutes, depending on how much time you have. You’ll find everything from body scans to focusing on the breath.

Stop, Breathe & Think

What I like about this app is that it encourages you to ‘check in’ with yourself before meditating. The app will then suggest a meditation session you will benefit from. There are 30 free sessions available, and many more if you upgrade to the premium service.

 

Mindfulness books

If you’re a bit more traditional, and you like to be engaged in an informative book, here are a few I like:

Mindfulness: An Eight-Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World

by Mark Williams. Danny Penman

The simple, yet powerful practices in this book are based on Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), and you can get the benefits even if you practice for a few minutes each day. The good thing about this book is that anyone can benefit from it, not just people who suffer from anxiety or depression. It’s for anyone who is struggling to keep up with the ever-increasing demands of the modern world.

 

Into the Heart of Mindfulness: Finding Our Path to Well-Being

by Ed Halliwell

This book looks at how mindfulness can help us recognise and transform unhelpful ways of thinking and habits and live with less stress and more compassion. There’s an emphasis on mindfulness as a lifelong path which can lead to a much more fulfilling life, rather than just a short course or quick fix.

If you would like support and guidance along your mindfulness path, why not join my Mindfulness Facebook group? I also offer a telephone mentoring service that is designed to help support people just like you in their practice.

 

 

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, promote workplace wellbeing, 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 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 you do not wish to receive further copies of the newsletter contact me and I will remove your details from our database.

How to Be an Effective SME Leader

The majority of businesses in the UK are SMEs. SMEs are crucial to the economy because they provide jobs and they drive innovation, but according to research, one thing in particular is holding them back- poor management. 

Problems in SME leadership

According to a study carried out by Warwick Business School, under-developed leadership and management skills coupled with a failure to adopt best practice is negatively affecting the performance and growth of many SMEs.

Businesses which are led by leaders with strong leadership skills are more profitable and more productive, thanks to good strategic management and people management practices.

One of the best ways you can be an effective SME leader is to ensure that you develop your leadership skills and continue to do so. The good news is that even if you feel like you’re out of your depth with some aspects of management, and with being an entrepreneur in general, there are a lot of valuable training, education, and consultancy resources out there that can help you, and your business grow.

 Being an effective SME Leader: What you need to know

As well as developing your management and leadership skills, there are other things to consider if you want to increase your effectiveness as a leader of an SME.

The kind of leadership your business needs can change as the business changes

When a business starts up, much can be achieved by a leader’s drive and inspiration alone, but as the business grows, there needs to be more of a focus on strategy. You might find that you feel like a true entrepreneur at the beginning, then you move on to a stage where you plan for the longer term and put down solid foundations, before moving back to feeling entrepreneurial when you want to introduce new products or services, or take the business in a new direction.

As your business grows, you’ll come up against new challenges

As your business expands, you’ll find that you have to deal with leadership and people management issues you’ve not faced before. To overcome these, think about what you need to learn or what help you might need to recognise and solve problems. Do you know another leader or business that has faced similar challenges? How did they deal with them? Do you need external help? Asking these questions will give you some perspective on how to deal with the issues in your business.

Nobody expects you to have all the answers and do everything

In the beginning when you’re getting your business off the ground, it makes sense that you’ll be involved in every decision, and taking a lead role in most tasks, but as the business grows, you should think about developing and empowering others to take over key roles and tasks within the business. Your business will only grow if everyone’s skill set is being used in a way that truly meets the needs the longer-term needs of the business (including yours).

 

Maureen O’Callaghan is a Member of the Chartered Management Institute and has an MSc in Mindfulness-Based Approaches. She works with organisations, teams, and individuals to create less stressful working environments, improve team working, enhance performance and productivity and develop leadership and management skills.  For more information visit www.mocallaghan.co.uk or e mail maureen@mocallaghan.co.uk

How to Deal with Workplace Bullying

Bullying in the workplace has an insidious effect not only on the target of the bullying, but also on the organisation. Bullying creates an unhappy and toxic working environment where morale and productivity are low, and sickness absence rates are high, and this can only affect a company’s bottom line.

What is workplace bullying?

Workplace bullying comes in many different forms, whether it’s perpetrated by, or aimed at, a manager, supervisor, a co-worker, or anyone else in an organisation. Examples of workplace bullying include:

  • Insulting someone or intentionally embarrassing them
  • Spreading rumours
  • Excluding or ignoring people
  • Personal or professional criticism that is not warranted
  • Deliberately giving someone an unmanageable workload
  • Making someone do demeaning or pointless tasks
  • Threatening someone
  • Making unwanted sexual advances or sexual harassment
  • Deliberately passing someone over for a promotion or stopping them from developing in their role

It should be noted too that bullying doesn’t necessarily need to be face to face. If the insulting or threatening behaviour happens over email, phone, or text message, it’s still bullying.

The effects of bullying

Victims of bullying can experience stress, anxiety, depression, insomnia, and physical health problems which can all result in time off work. At work, they can find it hard to concentrate and be productive, and they may dread going into work at all.

When is a workplace bully not a bully?

The answer is never. Whether a workplace bully tries to pass bullying off as a misunderstanding, or they are allowed to act however they want because of their position within an organisation, it’s not acceptable.

The role of managers

Managers have an important role to play in tackling bullying in the workplace. They can:

  • Produce and enforce a comprehensive bullying and harassment policy
  • Make sure that any allegations of bullying and harassment are taken seriously and dealt with sensitively
  • Ensure that all employees are clear on the grievance procedure and what they can expect once an incident has been reported

Are you being bullied?

If you are the victim of workplace bullying, here’s what you can do:

Firstly, stay calm

This is easier said than done, but the best way to deal with bullying is to remain calm and professional, and to go through the proper channels to find a resolution.

Speak to the other person

Talk to the person who is bullying you and let them know how much their behaviour is affecting you. If you aren’t comfortable doing this alone, ask a trusted colleague to go with you. Some issues can be resolved informally.

Speak to your manager or HR

If you don’t feel like you can confront someone, talk to your manager, or if it’s your manager who is bullying you, speak to someone from HR. Explain how the bullying is affecting you and get advice and guidance on next steps.

Take things further if necessary

If you have gone through the appropriate channels and you don’t feel like you’re being taken seriously, start looking elsewhere for help and advice. ACAS and the Citizens Advice Bureau are a good place to start.

 

Maureen O’Callaghan is a Member of the Chartered Management Institute and has an MSc in Mindfulness-Based Approaches. She works with organisations, teams, and individuals to create less stressful working environments, improve team working, enhance performance and productivity and develop leadership and management skills.  For more information visit www.mocallaghan.co.uk or e mail maureen@mocallaghan.co.uk

March Newsletter

Positive psychology is a field that looks at what gives our lives meaning and purpose, how we can become happier and more fulfilled, and how we can flourish, and not just merely survive. In this newsletter, we’ll look at how positive emotions can foster positive relationships, what it means to flourish, and how according to a study, how happy we are is largely self-determined.

Maureen


Positive emotions and positive relationships

Emotional intelligence is about being able to identify and manage your emotions and the emotions of the people around you, and the good news is, this can be learned, and achieved through living mindfully. Being emotionally intelligent means that you have a better relationship with yourself and with others.

Emotional intelligence has three elements:

  1. Emotional awareness: Being aware of your own emotions and the emotions of others. If you’re emotionally aware, you accept yourself and others because you understand that every person is different and deals with their emotions in their own way. When you’re emotionally aware, you’re less likely to react emotionally to situations.
  2. Emotional application: This means that you use the emotions you are feeling for your benefit and to help others. You don’t allow emotions to take over, instead, you acknowledge what you’re feeling and think about where it’s really coming from.
  3. Emotional management: This means that you are able to check in with yourself every day, and you try to be positive but you also recognise that negative emotions are a part of real life. Being able to manage your emotions gives you a sense of control, especially during stressful times. It also means that you respect other people’s emotions, empathise with them, and support them if they need it.

Why is emotional intelligence linked to positive relationships?

Emotionally intelligent people easily gain the trust of others, because they’re observant, and they listen and speak without judgement. Instead of judging someone’s emotional reactions, they try to understand them and demonstrate empathy. This can apply to any interaction with others, from close relationships to brief daily interactions.

How mindfulness makes us more emotionally intelligent

The 2015 paper Benefits of Mindfulness Meditation on Emotional Intelligence, General Self-Efficacy, and Perceived Stress found that mindfulness helps us increase our emotional intelligence in three key ways:

  1. It improves our ability to understand our own emotions
  2. It helps us to recognise the emotions of others
  3. It improves our ability to manage and control our own emotions

How mindfulness can help you manage your emotions: An example

Mindfulness improves a person’s ability to use their emotions effectively by helping them determine which emotions are beneficial when undertaking certain activities.

Do you feel annoyed or stressed out when you really need to be productive? Well doing a short mindfulness practice can make you aware of the emotions you’re experiencing. You might be aware in that moment that you’re feeling distracted or irritated, and that you are unlikely to be productive if you carry on working. So this is the perfect opportunity to do a short mindfulness practice to acknowledge your emotions and bring you back to the present moment. If you make this a regular habit, you are more likely to learn how to manage your emotions which will help you be more productive, less stressed and in control.

Adapted from: https://positivepsychologyprogram.com/mindfulness-emotional-intelligence/


5 Ways to Wellness: How Organisations Can Build Wellness into their Culture 

Happy, healthy employees are good for business. They take less time off work, and if they believe that their employer cares about their wellbeing, they’ll be more motivated, engaged, and productive, which is great for the bottom line.

So how can organisations who want to take advantage of this build wellness into their culture? Here are five strategies.

Create well designed workplaces that inspire

How many people would describe their workplace as ‘inspiring?’ Probably not many. Attention should be paid to workplace design and designers should aim to create light and airy spaces which are more conducive to creativity and calm. Furniture and other equipment should be ergonomic so as to increase comfort and reduce the risk of repetitive strain injury.

Encourage employees to take regular breaks

Many people eat their lunch at their desk every day so they don’t really get a true break from work and their screen. This is not great for motivation or productivity, and unsurprisingly, surveys have shown that employees feel much more productive after taking a break.

Promote personal and professional development

If employees feel they are being challenged and encouraged to develop, they’ll be more motivated, and more likely to stay.

Introduce flexible working

This may be harder to implement if you’re a small business, but employees who have a better work/life balance are happier, more productive, and more loyal. Allow employees to work flexible hours or to work from home every now and again, and promote a healthier work-life balance throughout your entire organisation.

Introduce fitness opportunities into the workplace

If employees are chained to their desk all day, it’s terrible for their mental and physical health. Offer employees subsidised gym memberships or start walking groups, and make sure that employees have facilities where they can get changed and showered, or store their bike if they want to cycle to work. Employees will feel healthier and more energetic, which equates to less time off sick and more time being productive.


What it means to flourish

What would you say if someone asked you what it means to flourish? Would you say it means being successful and financially well off, or would you say it means being happy and being able to grow and develop as a person? Well, as it happens they’re both right.

To flourish encompasses a lot of things that might make us feel happy and give us a sense of wellbeing.

Dr Martin Seligman is often thought of as the ‘founder’ of flourishing, and he developed a model (the PERMA model) to explain the factors that contribute towards greater feelings of wellbeing. These are:

Increasing positive emotions

  • Engaging with the world through work and our hobbies and interests
  • Meaningful relationships
  • Finding meaning and purpose in our lives
  • Achieving our goals by using our strengths and skills

Everyone can flourish, but it can take some work to get there, and to have a healthy balance in the key areas of our lives.

How can you flourish?

  • Expand your social network. Try to meet new people often and work on having deeper relationships with your family, friends, and significant other.
  • Make sure you experience the good things in life. Regularly plan fun and meaningful things into your life, and simply enjoy your experiences.
  • Have more fun. Instead of automatically saying ‘no’ or ‘I don’t know,’ plan a short break, have a date night, or try something you’ve always wanted to do. Anything that makes you smile, laugh, and feel good inside counts.
  • Live your life according to your true values. Do things that fulfil you. You will never flourish if you’re not living authentically.

Do you want to read more on flourishing? Click here

 


Positive thinking and gratitude

Positive thinking and gratitude play a big part in a happy life. We all know that sometimes something happens and we might find it hard to see any positives at all. We also know that it’s easier to wallow in self-pity, but it’s definitely not better for us. Focusing on the negatives all of the time can really affect our quality of life and our outlook. So how can you learn to look on the bright side?

One way you can feel more positive is to practice gratitude.

How many things in your life do you take for granted? Our fast-paced modern lives where everything is available on demand has made us forget about the truly important and joyful things we should be thankful for. The simple things that make our lives richer, like a kiss goodbye from your partner in the morning, a hug from your child, or a phone call from a friend.

Many studies have found that practicing gratitude makes us more compassionate towards ourselves and others, it helps us sleep better, and it increases self-esteem and mental strength. This is not surprising. Once you realise how many things in your life you have to be thankful for, it can be hard to complain too much about your life.

An exercise in Gratitude

The gratitude journal

Having a gratitude journal is an easy way to practice gratitude. You can write in it every day or a few times per week. Some people like to do this before bed. Write down three things you’re grateful for and say why. So instead of just saying ‘I’m grateful for my friend,’ say what he or she did that makes you feel so grateful.

Even if you think you’ve had a terrible day, I guarantee you’ll still have things to be thankful for, and you’ll realise that maybe it wasn’t that bad after all.

Optimism and hope

So gratitude and positive thinking can improve your outlook, and make you feel much more optimistic about your life. Optimists generally feel more confident about the future and their lives. Here are 7 benefits of being an optimist:

  • Optimists experience less distress than pessimists when they face difficulties in their lives
  • Optimists cope better with negative events, like having major surgery or a serious illness
  • Optimists are capable of learning lessons from negative situations
  • Optimists are not in denial, so they deal with problems before they get serious
  • Optimists are less likely to give up because they believe they can achieve a positive outcome
  • Optimists enjoy better physical and mental health because they experience less stress and generally eat more healthily and exercise more
  • Optimists are more productive and effective in the workplace. One insurance sales industry study found that the most optimistic sales people sold 88% more insurance than pessimistic employees.

 

Hope and Positive Psychology

Hope is similar to optimism and we tend to feel hopeful if we:

  • Know what we want
  • Can think of several ways we can get there
  • Start working towards what we want and keep on going, even if it gets tough

Like being optimistic, having a sense of hope has many benefits. Hope protects against negative emotions and intrusive thoughts, and it can also even prevent diseases (because hopeful people tend to take action to prevent diseases like eating well and exercising).

Research has shown that athletes with a higher sense of hope perform better and that hopeful students do better academically.

http://positivepsychology.org.uk/optimism-and-hope/


Happiness and Wellbeing

The pursuit of happiness is like the holy grail. Everyone wants to be happy, and everyone defines happiness in their own way.

The psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky talks about the “happiness set point,” in her book, The How of Happiness. She writes that there’s compelling evidence that 50% of happiness is genetically predetermined, 10% is due to life circumstances, and 40% of your happiness is determined by your outlook.

So with that in mind, you have quite a lot of control over how happy you are, or not.

Mastering the happiness habit

Focus on positive thoughts

The more we focus on positive thoughts, the happier we generally are. A study in the journal Science found that many people go through their days on autopilot or daydreaming, and when their minds wander, they generally wander to unhappy thoughts. This is where practicing mindfulness can help. It focuses your mind on the present moment, and gets you to ‘smell the roses’ rather than thinking about the past or worrying about the future.

Replay positive memories

Instead of thinking about unhappy times, thinking about good memories makes us feel happier and more positive. There are going to be things that happen in our lives that we can’t control, but we can control what we focus on.

Take action to be happy

Making a commitment to doing things to make you feel happier each day can improve your mental and physical health, and your overall enjoyment of life.

How to build a happiness habit

  • Notice the good in every day. Stop rushing through life at 100mph and missing the good things that make life worth living
  • If you find you’re caught in a cycle of negative thinking, train your brain to focus on something else, your breathing or an activity like calling a friend
  • Carry around positive memories. If you want to feel happier, look at an old photograph or a picture or video on your phone that brings back positive memories
  • Think about your strengths, every day. Write down 10 of your best qualities and look at the list each day to make you feel more positive


 

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, promote workplace wellbeing, 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 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 you do not wish to receive further copies of the newsletter contact me and I will remove your details from our database.

How to Increase Employee Engagement

One thing that many organisations struggle with is keeping their employees engaged. Whether the problem is the culture, a lack of purpose or of opportunities to grow, disengaged employees cost businesses dearly due to lost productivity and high staff turnover. So how can you motivate employees and get them engaged and working for the good of the business again?

Tell them your ‘why’

What is your company’s mission and purpose, and how do your employees fit into the overall picture? If they understand this, they’ll feel as if they are a vital and valuable part of something bigger than them, and they’ll be more motivated to work towards business goals.

Tell them their ‘why’

Employees will feel less engaged if they don’t understand how they contribute. Be sure to clearly define their role and how it contributes towards the achievement of strategic goals.

Communicate

If managers make an effort to be approachable and have regular contact with employees, they’ll feel valued and less like they’re just a ‘number.’

Encourage collaboration

Encouraging employees to contribute their ideas and suggestions will increase engagement, inspiration, and innovation.

Encourage regular breaks

If motivation and energy levels are low because people are stuck at their desks all day, including at lunchtime, make a point of encouraging them to take regular breaks, away from their screens and ideally, in the fresh air.

Be flexible

Employees have lives outside of work, and many of them would be better engaged if they had more flexible working patterns. Being able to start later, finish earlier, or occasionally work from home would improve work/life balance for many people, and they’d be happier, more productive, and more likely to stay as a result.

Look after employee wellbeing

If long working hours prevent people from exercising or heavy workloads make them feel chronically stressed, they’re much less likely to be happy and engaged at work. Introducing things like subsidised gym memberships, walking groups, and relaxation or meditation classes can go a long way towards improving employee wellbeing.

Reward a job well done

Giving an employee some recognition for a job well done can really boost morale and make them feel appreciated. It doesn’t have to be anything costly, but whatever it is, recognising good work can be an incentive to work hard for the company.

Encourage professional development

If employees see that they’re being encouraged to develop and learn new skills, they’ll feel more challenged and engaged, and they’ll want to stay, rather than go elsewhere for better opportunities.

 

Maureen O’Callaghan is a Member of the Chartered Management Institute and has an MSc in Mindfulness-Based Approaches. She works with organisations, teams, and individuals to create less stressful working environments, improve team working, enhance performance and productivity and develop leadership and management skills.  For more information visit www.mocallaghan.co.uk or e mail maureen@mocallaghan.co.uk

How to Take Inspired Action

Do you ever try to plan something to the letter, only to find that something unexpected happens and throws everything up in the air? Whether it’s work plans or plans we make in our personal lives, life has a funny way of scuppering our best intentions.

When things in life are going our way, it feels good, but when something happens to derail us, we can feel all sorts of emotions, from disappointment, to frustration, anger, anxiety, and overwhelm.

The reason for this is our need to control situations and their outcome, especially if the situation stirs up negative feelings like anxiety and fear. But control is an illusion, the only thing you can really be in control of is your own reaction to a situation, and the action you take as a result.

The importance of awareness

When you find yourself in an unexpected difficult situation, it’s important to take a moment and give yourself some breathing space before you make a decision about what you’re going to do next. Be aware of how you feel. Do you feel sad, angry, or frustrated? Acknowledge this. You might have felt these feelings so often that you’ve forgotten what they truly feel like. Allow yourself to just be with your feelings and to see them for what they are, even though this may be uncomfortable. This awareness gives you some much-needed space and being mindful grounds you in the present moment when you start thinking about things that have happened in the past, or trying to control a situation that may or may not happen in the future.  It can also help to ask yourself these questions:

What is it that I believe when I’m feeling like this?

Is this belief true?

What would my life be like if I didn’t have this belief?

Taking inspired action

Awareness and mindfulness are about what is present in each moment, and from a place of being aware and mindful, it is more likely that we’ll take inspired action. Inspired action is action we take when we’re choosing what our actions are inspired by. Every action we take is inspired by something, whether it’s habit, compassion, greed, or desire. Being aware and mindful helps you to make conscious choices about what inspires your actions. It might be that you mindfully decide to let go of a habit that no longer works for you, or you give up rushing through your life at 100mph and slow down and smell the flowers, either way, being truly aware can transform your life.

Inspired action feels good, but it’s not always comfortable

You might have to follow a course of action and simply trust that it’s right, and fight your mind’s desire to plan and control every aspect of what happens along the way. It’s not easy, but when your actions come from a place of deeper awareness and knowing, they are more aligned with who you really are, and you get to experience the true peace that comes with that.

Maureen O’Callaghan is a Member of the Chartered Management Institute and has an MSc in Mindfulness-Based Approaches. She works with organisations, teams, and individuals to create less stressful working environments, improve team working, enhance performance and productivity and develop leadership and management skills.  For more information visit www.mocallaghan.co.uk or e mail maureen@mocallaghan.co.uk