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.

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.

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.

Autumn Newsletter

Welcome to our Autumn newsletter.

There is a lot of promising research on the benefits of mindfulness on many areas of life, and the business world is taking note. Many businesses are turning to mindfulness to help improve performance, but can it really help? A growing body of research shows that mindfulness can improve focus, reduce stress, improve communication, and improve clarity of thought. It has the potential to positively affect the entire culture of an organisation.

Many people will meet the suggestion of being more mindful with a retort about being far too busy to ‘sit and think of nothing’ for 20 minutes, when actually, taking those 20 minutes out to practice can improve your focus so much that you can work through your tasks with a calmer and clearer head.

In this newsletter, I’m going to look at some key factors which affect performance, such as time management, productivity, motivation, calmness, and confidence, and you’ll see how mindfulness pervades every single one of these.

Also, I am delighted to announce that Maureen O’Callaghan Training and Mentoring has been accredited as a CPD Training Provider and that my 10 Week Living and Working Mindfully and 1 Year Mindfulness Teacher Training Pathway courses have been approved for CPD accreditation!

Maureen


How can mindfulness improve performance?

A mindful culture positively affects a whole organisation

Are you a leader who rushes around, constantly pushing to get things done, or are you calm and grounded? What effect does this have on the people around you? If you lead by example and remain centred and calm, people around you will likely slow down, focus, and be more effective.

It improves focus

Studies have shown that mindfulness affects the part of the brain that is responsible for self-regulation. The effect of this is that you don’t spend so much time on activities that make you less productive, like browsing online or looking at social media.

The research also found that people who practiced mindfulness-based meditation stayed on one task for longer and didn’t multitask.

It helps us to accept criticism

No matter how good you are at your job, it’s likely that you’ll have received negative feedback at some point. Criticism, when it’s delivered in the wrong way, can kill morale and productivity. But mindfulness can help you to accept negative feedback more easily. Of course, it’s not easy, but you can learn to focus on your breath, listen to what the other person has to say, and observing your response. This makes it far less likely that you’ll react emotionally to what you hear.

It makes you a better listener

How often has someone been talking to you and you’ve switched off, thinking about what you’re going to have for dinner, or formulating a response in your head? This is not helpful in those situations at work when you really have to be listening, like when you’re talking to a client or you’re in an important meeting. Mindfulness can help filter out the less important things so you can focus your attention on what is important. It can also make you more aware, so that you hear changes in tone of voice, cues for a response, or something that triggers an idea.

Mindfulness helps you build better relationships

A study from Harvard Medical School shows that mindfulness meditation increases the grey matter in the brain’s hippocampus. This area of the brain is associated with self-awareness, compassion, and introspection. Having these qualities and being more attentive, will make you a greater asset at work, but it will also likely make you a person that people want to be around.

It makes you a better leader

Mindfulness can be used to excellent effect by leaders to improve self-regulation, to make more effective decisions and to protect themselves from the effects of stress.

Mindfulness reduces stress

Speaking of stress, work is still the main source of stress for many people. Stress reduces work performance over time. It doesn’t have to be this way, however. Mindfulness can help, and it gives us that essential pause so that we can take a step back from whatever is causing stress, and just breathe. It really can be that simple.

Adapted from https://aboutmeditation.com/mindfulness-at-work/


Getting it all done

One of the biggest stressors that people complain of is an increasing workload and a lack of time in which to do everything. Many people work long hours, to the detriment of their personal lives to get everything done, and this can lead to disillusionment, stress, and diminished work performance.

The good news is that you can gain control of your work time by taking some simple steps to be more productive.

Make a To-Do List

This probably sounds like an obvious step, but an effective to do list will motivate you to complete important tasks and achieve more in the time you’ve got. Instead of scribbling down a list of tasks which gives you little or no direction, write down a to do list, then under each task, write when you need to complete it by and why.

Prioritise!

Your time is precious, so you need to spend it on the tasks that are going to add value in some way, rather than the humdrum tasks that don’t. It’s not to say that these low priority tasks don’t need doing, they just shouldn’t take up a disproportionate amount of your time.

The “Urgent/Important Matrix” can be useful here. It helps you to focus your attention on the most urgent and valuable tasks on your to do list. There are 4 categories that your tasks will fall into:

  • Urgent and Important: These are the tasks that must be done right away.
  • Important and Not Urgent: These are tasks that probably contribute to your long term goals and they should be worked on each day so that they don’t become urgent.
  • Urgent and Not Important: These are the tasks that stop you from completing your important work. Whether it’s something your manager has passed onto you or it has been delegated from elsewhere, think about whether the task is important to you. See if it’s possible to delegate or reschedule these tasks, or even try and avoid them landing on your desk altogether.
  • Not Urgent and Not Important: These are distractions that don’t contribute to your goals. You might have imposed them on yourself or they may come from others, but try not to let them rob you of the time you should be spending on your work.

Create a schedule

Life is not perfect, and so despite your best efforts, you might still have to deal with interruptions and being asked to do extra work with a short deadline. There is a way you can see what time you actually do have, all you need to do is make a timetable or schedule of your week.

So looking at a weekly timetable, or your diary if that suits you better, then:

  • Block out the hours you don’t want to work as ‘not available.’
  • Allocate an appropriate amount of time you’ll need to do your important tasks well. (prioritise things that need to be done in the next week.
  • Schedule in ‘contingency time’ for interruptions and things you might need to deal with from day to day.
  • The time left over is for non-urgent tasks.

Do you need to delegate?

You may need to delegate some of your work to others if you are going to spend more of your time on valuable tasks. You don’t need to be a manager to delegate, but remember that effective delegation is not just about passing work onto others, it’s about involving others in doing something that uses everyone’s skills and knowledge and that builds a sense of working towards organisational goals as a team.

Putting an end to procrastination

What do you do each day that eats into your work time? Do you scroll through social media (okay, cat videos are compelling!) or do you always have a few cups of coffee before you even get going? A good way to identify which habits are robbing you of your time is to record how you spend your time each day. When you see exactly where your time goes, you might be surprised! Procrastination is behind most of our time-wasting activities. If you know you need to write a long report, you might avoid it by tidying your desk, or browsing the internet, promising yourself that you’ll get started ‘in a minute.’

To beat procrastination, break bigger tasks into smaller chunks. So you could spend 10 minutes writing a title and a structure for the report, then complete small sections of it at a time. If you really need motivation to continue, promise that you’ll work solidly on your task for 45 minutes, then give yourself a reward, such as a nice cup of coffee or a piece of cake.

Some more reading material…

Do you work ever longer days and still don’t seem to get everything done? This article talks about why the key to success and productivity is not what you do at the start of the day, it’s what you do at the end:

http://uk.businessinsider.com/things-successful-people-dont-do-at-the-end-of-the-day-2014-10?r=US&IR=T


Facebook Groups

We currently have two Facebook groups, one for Mindfulness Discussion, and one for Workplace Wellbeing. Come join the discussion!


Mindfulness practice

Mindfulness of the breath with self-compassion

Try this simple mindfulness exercise a few times per day, even if just for a few minutes at a time. Focus on your breath. Don’t try to change your breathing, just notice it. When your mind wanders, as minds do, just say the word ‘thinking’ to yourself then return your attention to your breath. Do this without criticism; minds wander, that’s what they do. Just return your attention to your breath when it happens, even if it happens a hundred times.


Tips to Change Your Life

Reproduced from be me life coaching


Mindfulness News

In a fast-paced world, businesses are turning towards using mindfulness and meditation to cope with  change, uncertainty, and a stressful environment. Being able to handle stress, reflecting rather than reacting, and maintaining focus are all key attributes in these busy times, and organisations are finding that mindfulness is the key to improving performance. Here are some of the biggest firms that have implemented mindfulness techniques;

Google

Every year, thousands of Google employees take a mindfulness course called ‘Search Inside Yourself.’ It’s so popular that there’s a six month waiting list to enrol. The mindfulness practitioner who runs the course Chade Meng Tan, managed to talk the sceptics at the internet giant into implementing mindfulness by explaining the neuroscientific evidence behind it. Now the mindfulness programme is one of the reasons why Google is rated as the world’s best employer to work for.

General Mills

The food company behind Häagen-Dazs and Cheerios have implemented mindfulness and they’ve seen their business grow. They ran a 7-week mindfulness and meditation programme and carried out a review where they found out that:

  • After the programme, 83% of participants said they took time out to optimise their productivity
  • 80% of senior staff said that their decision-making had improved
  • 89% of participants said they had become better listeners

Intel

Intel made a resolution to deal with employee stress more effectively and now thousands of employees take part in their Awake@Intel programme, which includes yoga and mindfulness practices. Although many employees were initially sceptical, many participants reported improved creativity, well-being and focus, reduced stress and greater enthusiasm after taking part in the programme.

Goldman Sachs

You wouldn’t expect a firm of driven, type A personalities to warm to mindfulness, but the investment bank now includes mindfulness in its wellbeing seminars and actively promotes the use of the Headspace meditation app.

Could your organisation benefit from mindfulness?

Why not take advantage of 10% of our comprehensive Mindfulness in the Workplace e-learning package? Click here to find out more.


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.

June Newsletter

Stress can impact upon productivity, and even more importantly for employees, their physical and mental wellbeing. They might lose sleep, eat unhealthy foods, drink more, and smoke more, all of which increases the likelihood that they’ll become less productive, demotivated, and absent from work.

In this newsletter, I’m going to look at the importance of looking after the mental and physical wellbeing of employees, and why doing so is better for an organisation in the long run.

There are also some informative articles on stress, nutrition, and sleep; an EBook you can download on how to find the elusive work/life balance, and the latest workplace wellbeing research and news.

Let’s make our workplaces happier, healthier, and more productive places to be!

Maureen


How to manage workplace stress

If you’re a supervisor, manager, or HR officer, the first time you may become aware that an employee is stressed at work is when you see a fit note stating that the employee is absent from work due to a ‘stress-related illness.’ One in three fit notes given out by GPs are for mental health problems, and while stress in itself is not defined as a medical illness, if it is not addressed early, it can lead to anxiety, depression, behavioural disturbance, and physical illness.

How should you deal with workplace stress?

  1. Look at the reasons behind the stress, both in the workplace, and in the employee’s personal life. Invite the employee to discuss the root causes of the stress and if they’re identified, how you can work together to approach and resolve them.
  2. If it’s difficult to identify a particular cause, but work appears to be a contributing factor, consider using the Health and Safety Executive’s Stress Risk Assessment (hyp) questionnaire tool. This will help you identify the possible causes of workplace stress such as work relationships, lack of support, and change.
  3. Look at the organisation’s culture. If employees say they feel overworked and undervalued, what can you do to address this? Doing so may help prevent work-related stress problems before they even arise.
  4. A referral to Occupational Health is a good idea if the causes of stress are still not clear. An adviser can give their opinion on whether they believe the employee has a medical condition, and whether they need further support from a manager, counsellor, or therapist.

There is no quick fix or one size fits all approach that can be applied to mental health issues because people recover at different rates, and everyone has different levels of resilience. But if people are well supported at times of crisis, they are likely to recover quicker and become more resilient to stress in the future. Addressing mental health in a timely, thorough, and professional manner from a health and wellbeing and business perspective is crucial.

If you would like more guidance on managing stress in the workplace, our e-learning packages are an informative, valuable, and flexible learning option for you. We’re currently offering 10% off our Mental Wellbeing in the Workplace and Mindfulness in the Workplace packages.

My free EBook on Work-Life Balance is also available for download by clicking here.


The effects of work on our diet

Work-related stress can have a considerable effect on our eating behaviours too. Long working hours, our desk-bound culture, and a work culture that values getting the job done rather than focusing on wellbeing all contribute to poor eating behaviours and patterns. Here’s a fascinating interview with Dr Meg Arroll, a psychologist and author who has studied the relationship between stress, weight and fatigue. Click here to read more.

The importance of gut health

The health of your gut can be linked to many health issues, including poor mental health. Scientists even refer to the gut as the ‘second brain’ because it’s lined with 100 million nerve cells that control digestion. Having a healthy gut plays a key role in wellbeing, because ‘good’ bacteria in the digestive system affect many of the body’s functions like nutrient absorption, immune response, the ability to eliminate toxins and the production of hormones. If there is an imbalance of the bacteria in your gut, inflammation occurs in the digestive system and symptoms occur throughout the body.

Research has found that when the gut is irritated or inflamed, the nerves in the gut send messages to the central nervous system which can then trigger changes in mood.

So how can you improve your digestive health? Here are 10 tips for better digestion, courtesy of SuperWellness


Some reading material...

Managing stress

This is an informative article about what causes workplace stress and how it can be managed effectively. Click here to read more.

Sleeping better and productivity

Poor sleep can be disastrous for physical and mental health, not to mention productivity in the workplace. Click here to read about the problems that poor sleep can cause and what managers can do to help.

 


The importance of a health and wellbeing strategy

According to a survey by Aon Employee Benefits, the number of employers who have invested in workplace wellbeing initiatives has risen from 36% to 42% this year. Wellbeing apps, virtual GP services, weight loss support, smoking cessation and physical activity programmes are among the initiatives being considered to help employees become healthier and happier at work.

The key is for organisations to focus on taking preventative action rather than acting when employees are already experiencing issues.

Managers have an important role to play in creating a workplace culture that pays attention to wellbeing, especially when it comes to stress reduction. They can do this by encouraging a healthy work-life balance, listening to employees, building supportive teams, and giving employees some flexibility over where and when they work. Being able to recognise stress and other issues in the workplace and knowing how to support employees adequately is crucial in a healthy workplace.

Learning these skills is an investment in yourself, which will empower you to make the right choices for your organisation. E-learning is a fantastic way for busy managers to access high-quality education and resources, and the opportunity to build peer to peer support networks brings the benefit of being able to share experiences and learn from others.

There’s currently 10% off our Mental Wellbeing in the Workplace and Mindfulness in the Workplace e-learning packages which cover how to effectively support employees through difficulties related to their mental health, and how to communicate mindfully, share information, and facilitate change.

As well as being mindful of the wellbeing of your employees, it’s important that you check in with yourself too. If you manage or own a business, the chances are you don’t take enough time off or have much balance in your life. This can be true of any manager or business owner, but it rings particularly true for women, who as well as running their business, still have most of the childcare and household responsibilities. Burnout is common among women, and that’s why we hold Mindfulness Day Retreats for women, which are all about learning to relax, be mindful, and look after yourself. Click here for more information.


Beat Stress with a Mini Meditation

3-minute Breathing Space Meditation

When you’re stressed out, it can be difficult to remind yourself to stay calm, and when you’re busy, you might feel like you don’t have time to meditate. This is exactly why this short Breathing Space meditation was created. It’s designed to create a pause in your day so you can collect your thoughts, ground yourself, and keep perspective. Use this daily, anytime you feel like you need it.

Here’s what to do:

  • Sit or stand up straight and close your eyes if possible. Be aware of your thoughts and feelings and acknowledge any difficult feelings that arise. Can you feel any sensations in your body? Acknowledge that they’re there, but don’t try to change them.
  • Now concentrate on the breath. Focus on the physical sensations of the breath in the abdomen; expanding as you breathe in, and relaxing as you breathe out. Ground yourself with each breath, and if your mind wanders, guide it gently back towards the breath.
  • Finally, expand your awareness to take in the body as a whole. Imagine the whole body is breathing. If you feel any discomfort in your body, imagine that you’re breathing in to these areas. Explore the sensations, but don’t try to change them in any way. Once they stop being the focus of your attention, become aware of the whole body again.

-adapted from Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Finding Peace in a Frantic World by Mark Williams and Danny Penman.


Mindfulness Research

Practising mindfulness at work and at home can help employees to detach themselves from workplace problems and demands when they get home, according to a study. The study looked at mindfulness and the stressor-detachment model, which says that increasing emotional stress and a demanding workload at work should correspond with the inability to detach yourself from work when you get home. The inability to switch off is associated with lower wellbeing at bedtime. The study found that mindfulness could be a useful tool in helping people to psychologically detach themselves from work despite high job demands.

Haun VC et al. “Being mindful at work and at home: buffering effects in the stressor-detachment model”. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology.


Wellbeing News

Drinking alcohol to cope

More than half of all adults who drink alcohol say they do so to cope with the pressures of daily life, according to a poll for the charity DrinkAware. More than one third of those questioned said they drank alcohol to forget about their problems. 47% of people reported having a drink to cheer themselves up and 41% of people said they felt it helped when they felt depressed or anxious.

Increase in referrals for mental health support

The nurse adviser service RedArc said it gets 30% more referrals for mental ill health in January than at any other time of the year. They have urged employers to remind employees about mental health support services in the workplace such as access to counselling.


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.

April Newsletter

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

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.

 

Mindfulness research

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.

 

Mindfulness news

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:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Mindfulness-practical-guide-finding-frantic/dp/074995308X

 

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

https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/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.

https://www.mindful.org/five-steps-to-mindfulness/

 

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.