Working Mindfully with Anorexia

This is a powerful article that asks ‘how mindful can you really be with an anorexic child?’  Working mindfully with anorexia written by Hector, a client I coached a while back. Hector’s daughter wasn’t diagnosed at the time we worked together so this is a real-life story of how mindfulness can be a much needed support in times of intense challenge.  Thank you Hector for allowing me to post it here.

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“Pause, and take a deep breath” 

 

“Always put your own oxygen mask on first”

You hear this quote a lot if you have an anorexic child. Just surviving the unimaginable reality of this illness is often the best we parents can hope for. The importance of “self care” is constantly emphasised by the experts, and “mindfulness” is often suggested as one of the ways to maintain some sanity and hope. 

But pausing and taking a deep breath can seem impossible when faced with the often violent resistance parents face. So finding the time, and peace of mind, to regularly meditate may seem faintly ridiculous to some of you.

I have to confess that I started doing mindfulness meditation a year or so before my daughter was diagnosed. I started with the Headspace app and then was coached by Simon Barnes. So it was easier for me to stick with it while in the trenches with the bullets flying overhead.  Continue reading “Working Mindfully with Anorexia”

Mindfulness training: its scope and outcomes in the workplace

While it’s worrying to see so many people struggling with workplace stress and anxiety, it’s encouraging to see more organisations taking employee health seriously.

Here’s a brilliant article I spotted recently in the Human Resource Management Digest.  It’s a literature review that helps us understand the scale of the problem and more importantly, it demonstrates how mindfulness is helping to tackle the issue.

Avoiding responsibility for employee mental health, either intentionally or unintentionally, is considered a poor business choice these days.  Many organisations do take steps to embed individual and team mindfulness in the organisational culture but many fall way short.  If this is true for you, maybe your workplace needs you to ask for it.  If you work in HR, why not quote the article below to promote mindfulness in your workplace?  If you need some help, just drop us a line here.

 

Modern business practice is characterized by constantly changing, competitive and complex environments with the increased demands of globalization and technological development. Demanding work conditions involving high performance requirements, heavy workload, deadlines and management of work and personal roles can in some cases lead to anxiety, stress, emotional exhaustion, burnout and health issues. In turn, this has an adverse effect on the learning and performance of employees and on organizational effectiveness, therefore employee well-being is an important consideration for human resource managers. One area of increasing interest to researchers and practitioners in the promotion of physical and psychological health is the practice of mindfulness.

A research paper by Johnson et al. (2020) examines the scope of mindfulness as an intervention in the workplace and identifies the outcomes of mindfulness training at individual, job, team/group and organizational levels. A literature review of twenty eight empirical studies is carried out using Torraco (2005) and Briner and Denyer’s (2012) four steps method.

Mindfulness

Mindfulness is the process of training the mind to pay more attention to the present moment, specifically to your own thoughts and feelings and to the world around you. This is a skill which can be developed through training using techniques such as meditation and relaxation exercises. The practice of mindfulness has been shown to increase resilience, emotional intelligence and concentration as well as improving relationships and self- awareness. As it helps individuals manage their day-to-day wellbeing and promotes emotional balance it is considered to be an up and coming approach to supporting employees with regard to mental health issues, burnout and work-related stress. Training in mindfulness is increasingly being introduced by organizations however research into the effectiveness of this training is limited and still in its infancy in human resource development literature.

The scope of mindfulness training in the workplace

The literature review identifies features of mindfulness training in the workplace from the 28 empirical research examined. Most studies have been carried out since 2015 within a positivist research paradigm examining mindfulness as an independent variable. Common themes are anxiety, depression, stress, compassion, turnover intention and job performance and findings have included enhancing working memory and slowing the aging process.

Most studies are carried out in higher education and health care setting but other industry sectors in which mindfulness training takes place include marketing, insurance, pharmaceutical companies, restaurants and service centers. Research findings are mostly published in health care and psychology-related journals as opposed to training, business and HRD related publications.

A range of training programs are used as an intervention the most researched being the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program developed at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center. Most programs have a similar format with an average running time of 8 weeks of 2 hour sessions. Training can involve a range of activities including formal presentations, meditation, mindful communication, mindful journaling and body awareness. The training is considered to be a cost-effective way of improving employees’ well-being and productivity. A range of measures are being introduced to measure the effectiveness of the training programs.

The outcomes of mindfulness training in the workplace

This study carries out an analysis and review of 28 empirical studies and identifies 51 significant outcomes of mindfulness training categorized at four levels individual (23), job (17), team/group (7) and organizational (4). At the individual level mindfulness training is shown to promote positive change in cognitive and emotional aspects. It contributes to increased well-being in employees through a reduction in stress, burnout, turnover intentions, anxiety, emotional exhaustion and distress. At the job related level it can increase job productivity and other job-related positive outcomes including job satisfaction, engagement and work-life balance. Group and team related outcomes include improved relationships between team members with more social support, reduced conflict, a sense of community and team cooperation and productivity. Finally, at the organizational level through mindfulness initiatives employees were more willing to engage in positive work culture and practice, leader procedural justice enactment and organizational mindfulness.

Practical Implications

The literature review shows that mindfulness training programs promote physical, psychological and productivity benefits however only a minority of organizations are putting this training in place. Leaders and managers should consider incorporating mindfulness practice as part of their professional development programs to improve performance levels within the organization.

The study’s findings demonstrate how mindfulness training can have an impact at the job level improving employee productivity and performance. As such assessment of mindfulness traits could be a valuable tool for the recruitment process.

In addition leaders could consider the design aspects with regard to physical space as they introduce the practice of mindfulness and take ideas from institutions which promote a mindful state in their members for example retreat centers.

Commentary

The review is based on “Mindfulness training in the workplace: exploring its scope and outcomes”, by Johnson et al. (2020), published in European Journal of Training and Development The purpose of this study is to carry out a literature review in order to examine the scope of mindfulness as an intervention in the workplace and identify the outcomes of mindfulness training at individual, job, team/group and organizational levels. The results find 51 significant outcomes of mindfulness training categorized at four levels individual (23), job (17), team/group (7) and organizational (4). Therefore leaders and managers should consider incorporating mindfulness practice as part of their professional development programs to improve performance levels within the organization. This paper has an original approach by providing a summary of the scope and outcomes of mindfulness training at a range of levels within the organization.

References

Briner, R. and Denyer, D. (2012), “Systematic review and evidence synthesis as a practice and scholarship tool”, in Rousseau, D. (Ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Evidence-Based Management, Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp. 112-129.

Johnson, K.R., Park, S. and Chaudhuri, S. (2020), “Mindfulness training in the workplace: exploring its scope and outcomes”, European Journal of Training and Development, Vol. 44 Nos 4/5, pp. 341-354, doi: 10.1108/EJTD-09-2019-0156

Torraco, R.J. (2005), “Writing integrative literature reviews: guidelines and examples”, Human Resource Development Review, Vol. 4 No. 3, pp. 356-367.

Finding Peace in a Frantic World – November

When is the next course?

 

Our next Finding Peace course starts on Tuesday 1st November at 6:30pm and finishes at 8:30pm.  It runs over eight consecutive weeks and is online via Zoom.

What is it?

Finding Peace in a Frantic World runs over eight consecutive weeks.  It introduces mindfulness and provides teaching support for developing a personal mindfulness practice, and invaluable resources. It is being taught in community settings, higher education settings, and in workplaces all over the world. Since January 2013 it has been taught to parliamentarians and their staff in the UK Houses of Parliament.

How much does the course cost?

The cost of the Finding Peace course is £200.  But, in the spirit of community and making this powerful tool more accessible, we offer some assisted places on a first come first served basis.  Plus, you can save £100 if you come with a friend or partner!

Don’t Rush!

Deciding whether mindfulness is right for you, or if it’s a good time to do it, can be difficult. To help with this, we include a free interview to discuss the course and answer any questions you may have.

The orientation interview usually takes 30 minutes but there’s no obligation to sign up. It’s an opportunity for us both to be clear that the course is right for you.

If you would like to learn more about our next course please click here to book an orientation interview.

What do I need to know?

The book, Mindfulness: Finding Peace in a Frantic World, accompanies the course so you will need to purchase your own copy.  It can be found in all good book stores for around £14 and for much less in secondhand shops.

If you’re still keen for more information about the course further details can be found here.

Finding Peace in a Frantic World – October

When is the next course?

Our next Finding Peace course starts on Monday 31 October at 6:30pm and finishes at 8:15pm.  It runs over eight consecutive weeks.  The venue is Kambe House on Portland Square, in the heart of Bristol.

What is it?

Finding Peace in a Frantic World runs over eight consecutive weeks.  It introduces mindfulness and provides teaching support for developing a personal mindfulness practice, and invaluable resources. It is being taught in community settings, higher education settings, and in workplaces all over the world. Since January 2013 it has been taught to parliamentarians and their staff in the UK Houses of Parliament.

How much does the course cost?

The cost of the Finding Peace course is £200.  But, in the spirit of community and making this powerful tool more accessible, we offer some assisted places on a first come first served basis.

Don’t Rush!

Deciding whether mindfulness is right for you, or if it’s a good time to do it, can be difficult. To help with this, we include a free interview to discuss the course and answer any questions you may have.

The orientation interview usually takes 30 minutes but there’s no obligation to sign up. It’s an opportunity for us both to be clear that the course is right for you.

If you would like to learn more about our next course please click here to book an orientation interview.

What do I need to know?

The book, Mindfulness: Finding Peace in a Frantic World, accompanies the course so you will need to purchase your own copy.  It can be found in all good book stores for around £14 and for much less in secondhand shops. 

If you’re still keen for more information about the course further details can be found here.

Something to Ponder

I often get asked how much practice we need to make it worthwhile.  I don’t know who came up with this quote but I wish I had…

“The difference between one minute of meditation and two minutes of meditation is one minute.

The difference between one minute of meditation and no minutes of meditation is infinite.”

Why not practice as you ponder!

Can companies actually help workers stay happy and healthy?

Online mindfulness at home

Here’s a great blog by Kate Morgan that caught my eye recently.  It looks at the growing need for us all to take care of one another, and employers’ responsibility to create a supportive work environment.  Brief workshops for well-being activities, such as mindfulness,  don’t cut the mustard.  A sustained and meaningful approach is required if we are to take our mental health seriously.  Over to Kate…

More employers are providing mental-health benefits to employees. But is this what workers want – and can they actually help keep people well?

When Eliza, 31, first went to work at a large US investment firm six years ago, it was a “’we don’t talk about our feelings at work’ kind of place”, says Eliza, who is withholding her surname for job-security concerns. “It’s money, so it’s all about numbers, numbers, numbers. There was no place for a compassionate work culture. That’s what I felt like I worked in for years.” Continue reading “Can companies actually help workers stay happy and healthy?”

Awareness of Breath and Body

The awareness of breath and body practice is a staple in mindfulness meditation. Mindfulness guides us to use the experience of the breath and the body because they exist in the present moment.  This is exactly where we need to be if we want to get away from the busyness of the mind.

I know this sounds so simple, and in many ways it is, but as with all mindfulness meditations, we’re up against the autopilot mind.  And this character does not like being in the present. Far from it.  The mind is constantly referencing past experiences in order to navigate to the best outcome in the future.  In itself, this isn’t a bad feature of the human mind, it’s just that quite often the process can become relentless and exhausting.  It’s precisely at this time that we need to recognise overthinking is not our best option and do something different.

Stop overthinking and Sit

We need time to disconnect from rumination because if we haven’t solved the issue in a sensible amount of time, continuing  can do more harm than good.  Research shows we become more clear-thinking and productive by taking time out to calm the mind and body.    So a short mindfulness meditation not only saves you from unnecessary stress and worry, it also gives your cognitive resources a boost.  How many situations can you think of where this would be a sensible option to take?

The great thing with this short sitting practice is you can do it anywhere.  In a traffic jam, during your lunch break, sitting in the park, waiting to see your doctor, or even sat on the loo!

I notice lots more people sitting with their eyes closed these days, and why not?  Once you are familiar with the simple steps of the guidance you can self-guide. It doesn’t have to be perfect, you just have to follow your intention to pay attention to the direct felt experience of sitting and breathing.

Here’s a 10 minute sitting practice to get you going.  I hope you enjoy.

 

 

Loving Kindness Practice

Finding time for the loving kindness practice on a regular basis makes a whole lot of sense but it’s a practice that can feel a bit awkward to start off with.  It took me a little while to get comfortable with it but perseverance really did pay off and I heartily recommend it.

In this blog I’ve included a short version which offers a practical glimpse into the power of this practice.  In a more formal setting it would be at least twice as long as this one because the full practice explores more levels of emotional energy. The benefit of starting small is that it’s easier to get a good foothold and realise the benefits for yourself before the deep dive.

The basic principle behind loving kindness practice is to remind us of how good love and compassion makes us feel.  We readily offer them to family and friends but forget to save some for ourselves.   This behaviour carries a warning i.e. your reserves won’t last long and you will suffer.  We need to let in loving kindness not just give it out.

On the other side of the coin, this practice reminds us how holding on to negative energy can be health-sapping.  Conversely, by releasing ourselves from ill feelings and resentment is liberating and health giving.

So how do we do this?  Simple, just do the practice and find out.  I hope you enjoy this short version of the loving kindness practice.

 

The 3 Step Breathing Space Practice

Being a mindfulness teacher I often get asked “what’s a quick and easy bit of mindfulness you can share with me?”  And to be honest I don’t like the question because it assumes mindfulness is about quick fixes, which it definitely isn’t!

What I am happy to share at times like this is one of my favourite practices, the 3 step breathing space.  I call it a pocket-practice because you can carry it with you and use it absolutely anywhere.  The results can be transformative and once you’re practiced enough to run through the steps without thinking about it you can literally do it in the time it takes to breathe in and out.

So what’s so good about the 3 step breathing space?

All mindfulness practices help us to focus attention on what’s going on in the present moment and usually this is done formally, with time taken to prepare a space where you won’t be disturbed.  The 3 step breathing space is what we call an informal practice, which makes it more flexible and perfect in real time situations.

For example, imagine you’re having a difficult or challenging conversation and you’re getting triggered.  Anger and fear rise automatically and before you know it you’ve said something you regret.

This kind of reactivity is dangerous because it happens so quickly and can feel quite norma i.e.  just part of who we are.  The next time a similar situation arises it’s easy to repeat the pattern.  What we need is something to break the cycle and this is where the 3 step breathing space comes in.

The practice in action

Now imagine the same conversation except this time you’re aware of the sensations of being triggered, maybe tightness in the tummy, a frown on the forehead, buzzing in the brain etc.  As you acknowledge these early warning signals, rather than subconsciously riding along with them,  you increase your mental capacity enough to remind you where you might be heading.  You’ve stepped off the ‘stress express’ and with a simple out-breath you’re able to speak calmly and consciously. This is the 3 step breathing space in action but, as with all mindfulness practices, it takes practice to use it skilfully.

Try it for yourself

This may sound too good to be true but I guarantee that with some practice you’ll soon get the gist of it.  Do the practice a few times a day and when you feel familiar enough with the 3 steps you can experiment and make it your own.  Good luck.

 

 

Why bother getting a mindfulness meditation teacher? by Hector Taylor

This is a question you may have pondered yourself and it’s completely justified.  I totally get that taking the leap into meditation and finding the right teacher can be a bit daunting.  So imagine my delight when Hector, a guy I worked with recently,  told me he had written a blog about the mindfulness journey we shared – no need for me to tip-toe around the many reasons I could give for living life more mindfully.  He tells the story much better than I ever could.  Over to you Hector.

“Daddy, since you started meditating you are a lot calmer and you seem a lot happier”.

This is what my twelve-year-old daughter said to me one bleak winter’s day, in the bleakest winter in memory, mid-January 2021, right smack in the middle of the covid lockdown. Her saying this made me really happy, as I had started meditating in the summer of 2020 specifically so I could cope with the inevitable winter lockdown.

I am divorced, and although my kids live with me half the time, I felt very lonely and restless when I was alone in the house.  I was particularly anxious about the idea of long winter days working at home not having any contact with other humans.

Initially I had found a meditation course on the Headspace app that addressed loneliness. I used that for a month or so, and it seemed to improve things. At least while I was actually meditating, I didn’t feel so restless. I thought it worthwhile to keep going and see if it could improve other areas of my life; maybe make me slightly more at ease with day-to-day living; and therefore help my kids be more at ease with their lives too.  

I did other courses on the Headspace app, but as they got more advanced, they asked me to use visualisation or just to follow the breath. I found these practices really challenging, as my mind raced all over the place. While this is “normal and natural”, it didn’t feel like I was doing very well, and I was becoming a bit disheartened. 

Maybe you are at a similar point. I can picture you sitting in your meditation position, with a slightly dissatisfied look on your face. You have just finished meditating, but you really aren’t convinced you’ve done it right. Despite practising regularly for the last few months, you don’t really believe that you’re getting any better at meditation.

So what do you do?  Do you give up meditation altogether?  But you do believe it is benefiting you in some way.

Maybe try another meditation app that is better than the one you’re on? But you’ve been using Headspace and everybody else seems to rate it.

Maybe just need to try harder while you’re meditating?  But everything you’ve heard tells you that trying harder is counter-productive for meditation.

Perhaps there’s another way to get better meditation? Maybe there are people out there who can teach mindfulness meditation? Maybe you could find a meditation teacher that won’t lure you into some weird religious cult?

Do these teachers actually exist? How do you find them? How much do they cost?

In this blog, hopefully I will answer these questions and I’ll tell you how I got on.

How weird are Mindfulness Meditation teachers?
I spoke to three or four teachers before I decided on Simon Barnes, a Mindfulness Meditation teacher in Bristol. To be fair, they all seemed to be decent reasonable people. In my admittedly limited experience, people involved in mindfulness tend to be very genuine and really believe in what they are teaching. But they are rarely preachy, and don’t try to sell you an impossible dream. Mindfulness is a westernised secular form of Buddhism, so no teacher is likely to get overly spiritual or religious.

I chose Simon because the course timing suited me, and he seemed like a normal bloke. He would describe himself as a Buddhist but he rarely uses Buddhist terminology. Also he drinks beer and watches rugby. These are two of my favourite habits, that I had no desire to stop simply because I wanted to get better at meditating.

What qualifications do mindfulness teachers have?
One of the frightening things about mindfulness is that it is completely unregulated. Anyone could set themselves up as a mindfulness teacher, so it is open to abuse. That said, there’s a lot of science behind mindfulness meditation.

Buddhist meditation practices were first westernised by John Kabat-Zinn who is a professor of medicine at MIT and has a PhD in molecular biology. Many of the mindfulness leading lights are academics in recognised universities; for example Kristin Neff, a specialist in self-compassion mindfulness, is a professor in educational psychology at Texas University. One of the leading voices in the UK is Mark Williams, a professor of clinical psychology at Oxford University. In fact Oxford along with Bangor and Exeter universities are the leading education centres for mindfulness in the UK.

They set up the British Association of Mindfulness-Based Approaches (BAMBA). So if your teacher belongs to BAMBA they are likely to have had thorough training. Simon Barnes did a Masters in Mindfulness over five years at Bangor University. 

How will a mindfulness teacher teach you?
If the teacher has come through the BAMBA training they’re likely to teach you one of these courses:

How much does a mindfulness teacher cost?
Obviously this will vary between teachers. I paid Simon £50 per session, which may sound a lot, but most sessions lasted over an hour and half. The courses tend to cost between £300 and £500 depending on the length and many are done in groups.

It won’t get too weird
If the cost isn’t prohibitive, I would recommend contacting a few teachers and speaking to them to see what they offer. You can simply Google “Mindfulness Meditation near me” or you could go through the BAMBA website. The choice is huge these days as they all teach over Zoom, so you are not limited by geography. If you go through the BAMBA website, or simply contact Simon, things won’t get too weird.

On a course the teacher will take you through various aspects of mindfulness so you can get deeper into the practice. They will also explain the science behind it and demonstrate lots of different meditations as you go along. I loved being able to discuss which meditations worked for me and which didn’t. Simon gave me realistic expectations that some just wouldn’t suit me and I should concentrate on the ones that did. Also, that even for him, some days the meditation just feels really average, and that accepting that reality is a breakthrough in itself. Having weekly sessions with him meant I kept practicing. Therefore I developed the habit of regular meditation that I have been able to sustain. Having someone to discuss the meditation with, enabled me to realise that I was making progress and getting minor breakthroughs as I went along.

These breakthroughs are notoriously difficult to describe but they do feel good, and have had a positive effect on the rest of my life. I do believe I am slightly more at ease with day-to-day living, and my family did survive the lockdown with our sanity intact. As I said my daughter certainly noticed the difference.

So be brave and give a mindfulness meditation teacher a call. You won’t get forced into anything, or any cult! You never know, if you do a course, your loved ones may tell you how much calmer and happier you are since you started meditating. 

Written by Hector Taylor
Hector is a freelance copywriter and content marketer.

https://www.linkedin.com/in/hectorottomartrain/