Teaching Mindfulness – Myths, Misconceptions, and the Right Approach

Mindfulness can have some wonderful benefits for everyone, but for many people who are so used to living their lives on autopilot, surrounded by distractions and worries, just learning how to ‘be’ and not react can be a difficult concept.

This is why it’s so important that people are introduced to mindfulness by teachers, therapists, coaches, and mentors who have the right skills, knowledge, experience and personal attributes.

The mistakes some mindfulness teachers make

Sometimes, with the best intentions, people make mistakes when teaching mindfulness to others, including:

  • Teaching people about mindfulness without actually using mindfulness.
  • Giving the impression that they know more about mindfulness than they actually do.
  • Promising ‘guaranteed’ or fast results.
  • Insisting that their approach to mindfulness is superior to other approaches.
  • Believing that mindfulness can be taught and learned as a concept, rather than practice.
  • Presenting the practice as magical or immediately life-changing in some way.
  • Telling you that practicing mindfulness means that you’re mindful by default.

Better ways to teach mindfulness

Practise what you preach: Demonstrate being mindful by being in the moment.

Be honest: Tell your learners about how much experience you have rather than claiming you know more about mindfulness than you do.

Realise that mindfulness is a practice: You don’t do eight or ten sessions and come away with the ability to be automatically mindful; becoming mindful is a way of life which gives you greater results over time with regular practice.

Trust your own path to mindfulness: No matter whether you learned mindfulness through at a Buddhist centre or you received more formal training, no one path to becoming mindful is better than the other. Encourage your learners to find the path that works best for them.

Realise the importance of knowing your own mind: Reading about mindfulness is not the same as knowing what’s going on in your own mind. Understanding your own thoughts and feelings and how you react to them is the first step to disciplining your own mind and becoming mindful.

Know that mindfulness can be uncomfortable at times: If you feel like your head is always spinning with thoughts, worries, and distractions, then paying attention to it in mindfulness sessions can be very uncomfortable and difficult. Doing the work to become mindful is not easy, but it’s so much easier if you have a good teacher supporting you through the process.

Remember that mindfulness is not magic: It’s a practical way to manage difficult emotions, reduce stress, build resilience, and improve physical and emotional health. You have to work at being mindful, it doesn’t just happen.

Better teacher training

Because we realise the importance of experienced and well-qualified mindfulness teachers, we are offering a Mindfulness Teacher Training Programme made up of 10 individual modules.

Flexible learning

We can offer the programme as:

A complete Teacher Training pathway

For people who have completed an 8 week course, practice mindfulness themselves and want to share mindfulness and its benefits with others.

Individual CPD Modules

For people who have completed their teacher training.

What does the programme involve?

Students will learn via E learning and teaching days which provide the opportunity to apply mindfulness through learning activities and reflection. Learners can also access telephone mentoring and this is encouraged, particularly where additional support needs have been identified. Course numbers are kept to a maximum of 10 so that every learner gets a high level of support.

Every module is linked with a real life work environment, and learners are encouraged to take responsibility for their own personal development, such as learning from other mindfulness practitioners and experts to reinforce their learning.

What makes our programme amazing?

All our tutors and assessors have mindfulness and teaching-related qualifications, and a minimum of five years’ experience of teaching and personal mindfulness practice.

There’s also an opportunity to become a member of a Mindfulness Teacher Support Network once you have completed the programme, which is a teaching community where you can contribute to online forums, access guided practice recordings, observe teaching, get valuable peer support and advice, and find courses and supervision to continue your personal development as a mindfulness teacher.

To find out more about our mindfulness teacher training, click here

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

Reconnecting with Yourself – The Benefits of Going on a Retreat

Retreats give you the chance to have some time away from the constant demands and distractions of everyday life. They allow you to think about who you are, how you are, and most importantly, they give you the chance to just ‘be.’

This is so important for your mental and physical health. Retreats can help if you’re feeling stuck, uninspired, and burnt out; and you might just discover something about yourself that you never knew.

The benefits of going on a retreat

You get to focus on what matters

Getting away from the trials and tribulations of daily life allows you to focus on what inspires you, whether it’s your business, a hobby, or travelling. Inspiration can often motivate you to make positive changes in your life.

Less distractions equals more time

At home you might have family problems or money worries to deal with, and you might just not have the head space for thinking about your dreams, wishes, and goals. On a retreat, there’s no rushing, just plenty of time to allow inspiration to flow.

You get to really notice what’s around you

It’s amazing what you notice when you’re not running around after children, scrolling through social media, or mindlessly watching TV. You get to hear the sound of the wind, the birds singing, or even just the silence and experience truly being in the moment.

It gives you the chance to mentally detox

We all have so many stresses in our lives, and we’re bombarded with so much information that it’s not surprising that we just need time and space to mentally unwind every now and again. Going on a retreat is the perfect opportunity to clear your mind of clutter.

It reminds you of who you are

You may be a sister, wife, brother, husband, or friend, but don’t forget that you are YOU; an individual irrespective of societal labels. Going on a retreat allows you to just be you.

It helps you establish new habits

If your hectic life doesn’t allow you time to do what you love, or spend time on your hobbies, you can establish a routine of doing them on a retreat. Then you’ll be inspired to integrate your new way of being into your home life.

Our Mindfulness Retreats for Women

Whether you are hoping to feel more balanced and relaxed, or you want to experience a true sense of wellbeing, our retreats might be just what you need.

Our aim

We want to create a safe, supportive and non-judgemental space where you can just be, as well as giving you the practical tools to leave the retreat feeling inspired, renewed and energised.

Who is it for?

The retreat is open to all women, and it’s run by experienced mindfulness teachers who are able to support beginners and challenge more experienced mindfulness practitioners.

What does the retreat involve?

  • Each retreat programme is different, but retreats will usually include:
  • Gentle movement and relaxation techniques
  • Meditation practices
  • Opportunities to discover your innate creativity
  • Thoughtful, self-supporting lessons designed to improve your health and wellbeing
  • Opportunities to reset bad habits and introduce self-care strategies
  • Free time which you can use for rest and contemplation
  • For more information about our Mindfulness Retreats, click here

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

Creating an Achievement Culture

The culture of a business has a huge impact on productivity and employee engagement. If there is a blame culture which penalises people for failure, employee engagement and morale will be low. But if there is a culture where achievements are celebrated, employees will feel more valued, be more committed and motivated to do well, which equals a more productive and successful business.

How can you create an achievement culture?

Recognise a job well done

If employees have performed well or gone the extra mile, recognising this and rewarding it is a form of positive reinforcement which is more likely to motivate employees, make them feel appreciated, and want to do well.

Set clear objectives

It can be difficult to keep employees motivated if they aren’t clear on the goals they’re working towards. If employees know exactly how their job role contributes to the overall success of the business, this will motivate them to achieve their targets.

Use incentives

When incentives are used appropriately, they can be used as a tool to encourage employees to collaborate and motivate each other.

Lead by example

Employees do take note of the behaviour of managers, so pay attention to what messages your behaviour gives them. This will impact on employee performance and what they think is expected of them.

Be visible

If employees feel far removed from managers, this can create feelings of mistrust. If however managers are seen to be visible and accessible, it builds trust and a feeling of ‘we’re all in this together.’

Be clear about standards

Be open and honest with employees about what you expect from them in terms of performance. If there is evidence of poor performance, deal with it sooner rather than later as this can undermine your authority and perceived leadership abilities.

Commit to learning and development

Employees should have the chance to develop within their role, for their benefit and for the benefit of the business. The world of business is constantly changing, and competitors will always spring up where you least expect it. Would you want to be in a position where you have stagnated or lack the expertise in your workforce because you had failed to encourage anyone to develop? Offer training in service standards and industry-specific training to keep employees’ skills up to date.

The culture of a business is often developed at the top but it pervades every level of an organisation. The culture will either motivate employees to do well for the good of the business, or it will make them feel undervalued and disengaged. Which do you think makes better business sense?

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

The Role of the Manager in Preventing Stress

Many people would probably say they feel stressed at work from time to time, but while a little stress is motivating, there is a point when stress becomes detrimental to physical and mental health.

A study carried out by the British Heart Foundation found that two out of every five employees say that stress has affected their health to the point where it’s made them smoke more, drink more, eat poorly, and miss out on exercise.

What are the main causes of workplace stress?

  • Long working hours
  • Increasing workload
  • Difficult relationships with managers or co-workers
  • Poor working conditions
  • Lack of support from managers
  • Lack of control over job role

What can a manager do to prevent stress?

If employees are suffering from stress, it not only harms their health, it can harm the business. Employees who are burnt out will be less motivated and productive, and more likely to take time off work. Employers also have a statutory duty of care to look after the heath, safety, and welfare of employees, and if they don’t, they are leaving themselves open to litigation.

Managers can’t eliminate all stress but taking these steps can make the workplace a healthier, happier, and more productive place to be.

Set a good example

Managers play a big part in establishing a workplace culture, so if they work late every day and don’t take a proper lunch break, employees are likely to follow suit. Managers should actively promote a healthy work/life balance by taking breaks, using their holidays, and not working excessively long hours.

Encourage employees to take breaks

The law says that employees are allowed to have at least a 20-minute break for every 6 hours they work, and studies show that many people are more productive if they work for 90 minutes then have a 20-minute break. Managers should encourage regular breaks that will work for the business. They could encourage employees to take a short walk after lunch, have short periods of quiet time throughout the day, or have regular check ins with employees over a cup of tea or coffee.

Listen to employees

If employees feel that they can’t express their concerns openly to a manager, this will add to stress. Managers should commit to listening to concerns, suggestions, or complaints without judgment, and they should work with the employee to find a solution.

Build good teams

Employees can be a great source of support to each other, but if a team doesn’t work well together, it can increase overall stress levels in the workplace. Managers should aim to organise team building events regularly to help improve communication and build trust.

Allow for flexibility

While it’s not practical for all businesses, giving employees some flexibility with their working hours and where they work from can help to reduce stress. Many employees have responsibilities at home like caring for children or caring for a sick relative and trying to balance this with a gruelling work schedule can be a big source of stress. Managers can consider allowing employees to work from home regularly or allowing them to work flexible hours to keep stress levels low.

Losing good employees can harm a business in terms of the expenses that come with sick leave, and any litigation claim that might be made if work has contributed to a stress-related illness.

Managers should do everything they can to promote a supportive culture in the workplace and not treat adherence to policies like a tick box exercise. They must make sure that they are trained to recognise stress in the workplace, and that they know how to support employees adequately. Only then will employees be happier, more productive, and less stressed.

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 http://www.mocallaghan.co.uk or e mail maureen@mocallaghan.co.uk

Strengthening Personal Resilience

Resilience is the ability to bounce back from the challenges and adversity that we all face in life. Some people naturally face adversity and deal with it, but even if you feel like you don’t deal with life’s hard knocks very well, the good news is that resilience is something that can be taught and learned.

What makes someone resilient?

A resilient person understands that pain, failure, and discomfort are part of life. Along with happiness, they are just some of the vast array of emotions we experience at any given time.

If we strengthen our resilience, it will not only make us much more emotionally balanced, but it can benefit our physical health too.

A study of 99 men at Harvard University found that the way they viewed negative life events (fixed and unchangeable versus temporary and able to be influenced) predicted the state of their physical health up to 35 years later.

How to strengthen personal resilience

When bad things happen, look for meaning

If you’re resilient, you’ll be able to find good things even in difficult situations. Every difficulty has the potential to teach you a life lesson. Resilient people have the capacity to feel sad about negative events, but they are also able to see what the event has taught them and what they have to be grateful for. If you aren’t resilient, you’re likely to only feel terrible if something bad happens.

But you can change this and respond in a more emotionally balanced way. You can do this by challenging negative thoughts and any negative self-talk. So instead of telling yourself ‘There’s no way I’ll get this job’ when you go for an interview, challenge the thought. What evidence is there to suggest you won’t get the job? Is what you’re telling yourself realistic?

Build a good support network

Having the support of friends, family, and work colleagues is important if you want to be more resilient. Problems don’t seem as bad if you are able to talk about them and others can help you to keep perspective. And the effects of having a good support network don’t just benefit your mental health, they can boost your physical health too. A 2006 study found that having close friends can increase resilience against illness. The study of 3000 nurses with breast cancer found that those with 10 or more close friends were four times more likely to survive than those without close friends.

Be grateful

When you face adversity, being grateful for the good things in your life helps you keep some perspective. Try writing down 3 things you are grateful for every day for 30 days. You can also try drawing your attention to the things in your life that you might take for granted; a roof over your head, a loving partner, and a job you enjoy for example.

Expect change, and accept it

Change is a part of life, and so is sadness and loss. If you choose to move towards pain and cope with it instead of trying to eliminate or avoid it, you’ll be so much more resilient. Ask yourself how you can solve your problems and what you can learn along the way.

Look after yourself

If you’re physically well, your emotional health is likely to be a lot better and you’ll be more resilient. When you eat well, get enough sleep and deal with stress, you’re better able to bounce back from setbacks.

In terms of your emotional wellbeing, practicing mindfulness or meditating can help to lower stress levels and encourage clarity of thought.

Making time to do things you enjoy is another key to becoming more resilient. Choose active pursuits like going for a walk over sitting in front of the TV, because studies have shown that time spent in nature is good for the body and the mind.

 

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 http://www.mocallaghan.co.uk or e mail maureen@mocallaghan.co.uk

Press Release – Women in Business Survey

For immediate release: 30/01/2018

Wellbeing Business to Develop a Support Service for Stressed Out Female Entrepreneurs

A Grantham-based mindfulness and wellbeing business is surveying female entrepreneurs to find out what pressures and challenges they face day to day.

Maureen O’ Callaghan Training and Mentoring are conducting the survey with the aim of using the information to develop wellbeing services that are user led, and that best meet the unique needs of women in business. Focus groups and interviews will also take place at an event for female entrepreneurs where the focus will be on self-care.

Director Maureen O’Callaghan has drawn on her discussions with her peers and her own experience, to think about the additional challenges that women in business face, and to come up with a service tailored to help them maintain their physical and mental wellbeing.

Speaking about the new services, she said;

 “I want to help women to identify the causes and effects of their stress and to have in place strategies that help them to be able to handle the pressures and challenges they face both in the workplace and at home.”

Women are often the main caregivers for children and other relatives, and they still tend to have most of the domestic responsibilities, even if they work full-time. They are also conditioned to be people pleasers and are brought up with the message that they have to please others and be ‘perfect’. This translates into many women being hard on themselves, especially when they’re in business. They tend to fear failure, and play down their abilities more than men, which puts them in a state of perpetual stress.

While men often deal with stress by making poor lifestyle choices, the stress hormones themselves are what affects women’s health. A recent survey found that millions of professional women are teetering on the edge of being completely burned out. They are chronically stressed and suffer from symptoms like chronic fatigue, insomnia, poor immunity, being unable to concentrate, irritability, anxiety, and depression.

The survey can be accessed via the website at www.mocallaghan.co.uk and it’s also being sent out to organisations that support women in business to ensure they capture as many views and responses as possible.

Notes for Editors

The survey has been developed with the support of a student from Lincoln University. 

Contact

Maureen O’ Callaghan

Maureen@mocallaghan.co.uk

Tel: 07939 845 920

 

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. 

Getting on with Others: Communicating Mindfully

We all communicate with others every day, but how much of this communication is mindful? How many times have you asked someone ‘how are you?’ because you’re on autopilot, not because you’re particularly interested?

Being mindful is not just about meditation, you should be mindful in your daily interactions too.

What is mindful communication?

Mindful communication means that you listen and speak with compassion, kindness, and awareness. Often when people communicate, people don’t listen or think before they speak. Mindful communication requires you to listen mindfully and speak mindfully.

How to listen to others mindfully

Clear your mind

When someone is talking to you, try to clear your mind of any thoughts, or judgements about them or what they are saying. It’s not easy but you might learn much more from the other person.

Be attentive

People are likely to feel more comfortable telling you things if you’re attentive, as they will feel like they can be themselves and open up to you.

Make eye contact

Don’t look away or at something else, make eye contact because it shows that you care about what the other person is saying to you.

Put yourself in the other person’s shoes

People tend to see things based on what they perceive about the world. Try to see something from the perspective of the person you’re talking to. You might disagree with their opinion, but that’s okay.

Don’t assume what people mean

If someone says something that you don’t understand, ask them to elaborate on what they just said, and do so with compassion. Communication between two people is often muddled because they have misunderstood each other.

How to speak to others mindfully

Think before you speak

When someone asks you a question, don’t just start talking for the sake of talking. Take time to think about your response and what you say is much more likely to be well received and meaningful.

Choose your words carefully

Insulting or painful words aimed at another person can really damage a professional or personal relationship. Even if something makes sense to you, someone else might just not get it. Be sure to think carefully about your choice of words.

Be true to who you are

Sometimes when we speak to someone, we want to portray a certain image of ourselves. We might end up trying to be something we’re not, which is not the best way to communicate meaningfully with someone. Be true to who you are, and always speak with compassion and kindness.

Say what you mean and mean what you say

This applies to a business or a personal relationship. If you say to someone that you’ll call them, do exactly that, and you’ll get a lot more respect from the other person.

Everyone likes to feel listened to and understood, and communicating mindfully is a great way to make sure that happens, in all of your interactions.

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. 

Pressures and Challenges Faced by People Running Businesses

Being your own boss sounds like a dream; the flexibility to work when you want, escaping from office politics, and even working in your pyjamas if you want to, and it can be.

But if you decide to go it alone, it can come as a bit of a culture shock. Leaving the security of a salary and suddenly having to make all the decisions can be daunting. Here are some of the pressures and challenges faced by people running businesses:

Giving up financial security

Walking away from a permanent job, salary, and other benefits can be scary. But, the benefits of being your own boss can outweigh the risks. When you’re just starting off, you might be able to start your business on the side, but if you want your business to grow, eventually you’ll have to give up the day job.

Financing your business

If you’re just starting out, you’re likely to need to gather information on possible funding options for your business, and then start working hard on building a network of contacts.

Coping with uncertainty

When you start your own business, you’ll have many concerns. Will your business be profitable? Will you be able to pay yourself a salary? When you don’t have a steady wage to fall back on, and everything else is in a constant state of change, uncertainty is an unpleasant fact.

Staying motivated

The idea of running your own business might be attractive, but will you have the drive, belief, and determination to keep going through the tough times?

Lack of time

When you start your own business, you’ll soon come to realise that there aren’t nearly enough hours in the day. You’ll likely spend long hours working in the business and on the business, and that’s on top of trying to maintain a family life and social life.

Being afraid of failure

The idea of being self-employed can be attractive, but there will be inevitable challenges along the way. Don’t let mistakes or bad luck deter you from following your dream, if you want it enough. Learn from your mistakes and move on.

Hiring staff

If you need to hire staff, it can be a minefield. You need to pick people who are the right fit for your business, and consider how much it will cost to hire them.

Isolation

Being a business owner can be quite lonely, especially if you’re a sole trader. You might be working lots of hours when you first start your business, so you might not see family and friends as often.

How to reduce stress when running your own business

Don’t let your thoughts stress you out: What you tell yourself is true. If you tell yourself that you’re going to lose customers or that you’re going to fail, all it does is stresses you out. Don’t let irrational thoughts defeat you before you even start, concentrate on the facts.

Accept what you can and can’t control: Once you understand that you can’t control everything that happens in your business, you’ll feel more at ease. But there are things you can control, like taking time out to do things you enjoy or making sure that you finish working early on at least a few nights per week.

Make time to relax: Stress damages your immune system, and it can seriously affect your mental and physical health. Make time to do things you enjoy; you’ll be more relaxed, and your business will benefit.

Use mindfulness meditation: Mindfulness helps you to notice and accept your thoughts, without judgment. It also helps you to relax, so you will be able to choose not to react emotionally to things. This will put you in a far better position to fully enjoy, and immerse yourself in running your business.

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. 

Creating a Good Work-Life Balance

The world of work is very different today. The lines between home and work are becoming increasingly blurred, as smartphones mean we are available 24/7, and economic pressures mean that many of us work longer hours than ever.

This makes the answer to the age-old question of how we can achieve a work-life balance even harder to find.

The answer lies partly in us taking ownership and creating boundaries so that other people will respect them, and in companies, who need to take on board the notion that we will be happier, healthier, and more productive if we have more balance in our lives.

Here are some ways that you can create a good work-life balance;

Don’t be constantly available

You might think it’s easier said than done in these days when our smartphones are linked to our email accounts, but when you’re spending time with your family, or you’re enjoying some much-needed time off, should you be expected to answer work emails? The answer is no.

Set up an autoreply on emails to manage expectations that you will reply within a certain time frame if you’re out of the office, no matter how tempting it is to hit reply when your phone pings. Your time out of work should be your own. Constantly checking emails doesn’t make you more productive, in fact it disrupts your workflow and increases stress.

If you work smarter, you don’t have to work harder

Prioritise the most important tasks you have to do and don’t get stuck doing less productive things; this is a far better way to use your time. Checking social media might be tempting, but it might also be the reason you never leave work on time. Workers in the UK now work more hours than ever, and research from the Mental Health Foundation on the effects of working long hours makes for grim reading. When employees work long hours, 27% report feeling depressed, 34% feel anxious, and 58% feel irritable.

Draw a line between life and work

Even if you don’t finish all your work for the day, make a note of any tasks you haven’t completed, so you feel a little more organised for the next day. If you really must take work home, keep it away from your living area, so work time doesn’t encroach on your time.

Sometimes ‘good enough’ is okay

If you’re already feeling overworked, trying to aim for perfection in everything you do is not realistic. Sometimes, accepting that you’ve done a good enough job is all that is expected. Don’t put pressure on yourself when you don’t need to.

You don’t need to work hard and play hard

You don’t need to be constantly crashing around at 100mph. This is not good for the body or the mind. Learn to pace yourself, and take more time to relax.

Have interests outside of work

It’s healthy to have interests outside of work. People who feel stressed at work can use exercise, hobbies, or mindfulness to reduce stress in their lives overall.

Learn the art of time management

If you feel overwhelmed, make sure you’re spending your time on the things that really matter. You can be busy without being productive. This takes a little bit of work, but take a good look at your day and see where your time really goes. Focus on the things that are going to move your business forward, not just on the noise.

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. 

Why Mindfulness is the Key to Innovation

The world of work is becoming increasingly uncertain, and the lack of stability caused by factors like the economic downturn has seen many businesses struggling to survive. Today’s workers face heavier workloads, pay cuts, and job insecurity, and this has inevitably impacted upon their physical and mental wellbeing.

What is the answer?

Innovation is the key to helping businesses and workers become more resilient to future challenges and changes. The world of work is not the same anymore, so the way we work cannot remain the same. Innovation boosts productivity and performance, makes businesses more competitive, and boosts worker motivation and job satisfaction.

What is innovation?

Innovation means adapting our ways of working so that we are more prepared in the face of uncertainty. Introducing innovation involves getting used to the idea of change, which is not always easy. A business or organisation might need to introduce additional training for employees or focus more on activities which help them to move forward. Mindfulness is one strategy that is being increasingly used in the business world to help encourage innovation and enhance people’s wellbeing in one fell swoop.

What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness is a mind/body practice that has its roots in ancient meditative teachings, but its effectiveness on wellbeing is backed up by over 40 years of research. The basis of the practice is bringing your attention to the present moment, and accepting it for what it is. It doesn’t teach you to ignore thoughts and feelings, rather it allows you to recognise them, then let them go. It’s easy to see how this could translate into a work environment; imagine how much better it would be if you could choose to react to a difficult work situation calmly and rationally, rather than allowing emotions to take over; well you can. It’s the increased awareness of ourselves and what’s around us that can help to encourage innovation in the workplace.

Mindfulness and innovation

Most of our day to day actions are carried out when we are on autopilot. We are bombarded with distractions and information from the moment we open our eyes each day. This prevents us from being fully present in the moment, and fully aware of what is going on around us. It also leads us to become quite rigid in our thinking and unaccepting of the opinions of others.

Mindfulness allows us to acknowledge where we are doing things or behaving in a certain way out of habit, and then clears the mind to allow in new ways of interpreting things. It removes the impulse to react emotionally, and so we automatically become more receptive to new ideas and we focus better.

How mindfulness boosts innovation

Forward-thinking companies like Google and Apple have implemented mindfulness-based activities in their workplaces, and for employees, Tai Chi and meditation are part of a normal working day. The idea is that a calm, open, and aware mind is more open to new things, and more able to come up with new creative ways of working.

How distractions stifle innovation

Think about a time in your life when you had a lot on your mind. How did you deal with it? Did you distract yourself by browsing social media, or by watching a film or TV? This does nothing to clear your mind, rather it fills it with even more distractions. There’s no room for anything new.

When you learn to become mindful, it frees up space in your mind to be creative, to use different thought processes, and to embrace something new.

Clear your mind and innovation will follow

Being mindful is not something that you can learn overnight, it takes sustained practice. It’s not about suspending thoughts, it’s about noticing them, but then letting them go.

By practising mindfulness, you can create space in your mind, and let creativity and clarity in. A clear mind is far more able to be creative, innovative, and calm, which is good news for the health of an organisation, and everyone who works within it.

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.