How mindfulness can help your people to lead and inspire
Your day is a blur of emails and meetings. You grab lunch on the run and don’t have time for the gym. Your To Do list continues to grow. Sound familiar? Now imagine a whole team of people operating like this, or a whole business, and ask yourself ‘are these the kinds of minds I want in my organisation’?
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“If you ever feel like you’re operating on auto-pilot, you’re not alone. On average we spend 47% of our day thinking about what we’ve just done, what we need to do or criticising ourselves for what we haven’t done. We spend so much time rushing around presumably trying to be happier and more successful, yet often this leads to more stress and less happiness”.
Why is mindfulness is important?
Debbie believes it’s down to the pace and complexity of our modern lives. “Technology and digital connectedness are causing us to lose our ability to pay attention. We live our lives in a state of partial attention, which puts our brains in constant ‘threat response’ mode, flooding our bodies with ‘fight or flight’ chemicals and hormones.
According to our primitive brain, we’re constantly running for our lives”. This, says Debbie, causes our minds to shut out the possibilities that lead to innovation, creative thinking and aspiration.“We need to take conscious control of our own minds so we’re no longer at the mercy of what’s going on around us, and that” Debbie explains, is where mindfulness comes in. “we can train ourselves to pay attention to what’s happening around us and in our heads, before we rush off to do what we need to do, which can make a big difference”.
Mindfulness, says Debbie, increases our ability to focus intently. It helps us process information so we can make better decisions and allows us to manage the way we act, and react, in moments of pressure.
The science behind mindfulness
Debbie urges us look past the hype around at the moment and focus on the 35 years of science behind the benefits of mindfulness.The practice has been used by doctors and hospitals to help those with stress and anxiety based conditions, and depression.
“What is new is the neuroscience. We now know that brains can rewire and change if we train our minds as we train our bodies.” Studies have used brain imaging to show that changes can happen in a relatively short timeframe. “In just 8 weeks there can be a significant decrease of grey matter in the amygdala – the part of our brain that controls the threat response – and an increase of grey matter in the hippocampus – the part of our brain that regulates our emotions and helps with empathy, perception and our ability to connect”. In fact, there are such strong links between mindfulness and wellbeing and performance that the UK government has put together a working party to look at introducing the practice into hospitals, prisons, schools and businesses.*
Implementing mindfulness in your organisation
Starting the conversation with your organisations management team can be the hardest part, cautions Debbie. “Lead with the science and find case studies to support your case. There’s plenty of global companies who’ve implemented mindfulness programs and seen great results.”
Debbie also warns about ensuring you use the right language to promote the programme “stress reduction might not sound as exciting as enhanced leadership presence and creating a high-performance mindset and then it becomes something aspirational.”
Make sure you find the right people to implement your program. There’s no quick fix, says Debbie. “If your program isn’t designed for the long term, or implemented correctly, it may not have the desired sustainable business impact. Worse still, the results could verge on the negative as people will say they tried it once and it didn’t work. So make sure your organisation is fully committed.”
One final piece of advice – use your networks to link up with other organisations who are setting up programs or have a program in place. Their support, advice and encouragement may be invaluable.
*The Mindfulness Initiative. (2016) Building the case for mindfulness in the workplace. The Mindfulness Initiative. Retrieved from http://themindfulnessinitiative.org.uk/images/reports/MI_Building-the-Case_v1.1_Oct16.pdf