14 Feb How to be more resilient, focused, creative, attuned to others and happier:
The next event in the iOpener series is about mindfulness and will be led by expert practitioner, writer and coach Liz Hall. In readiness for the event, Liz shared more about the impact mindfulness has had on her life and why she chose to pursue it.
On encountering mindfulness…
I first encountered mindfulness 25 years ago through a friend who worked as a counsellor in general practice. I was very overwhelmed – ironically working as a journalist writing about wellbeing and work/life balance amongst other topics! – and she suggested I try a different approach. Essentially, instead of taking time out to meditate – I was very time poor as I had a young baby – she suggested I carry on doing whatever I was doing but with a different set of attitudes, and cultivating a sense of being in the present moment rather than planning what I would be doing next. It sounds old hat nowadays as we come across mindfulness in lots of quarters but it was revolutionary for me and quite the life saver!
I was very overwhelmed – ironically working as a journalist writing about wellbeing and work/life balance amongst other topics!
On mindfulness itself…
I see mindfulness as mental hygiene, a vital practice and philosophy to keep me mentally well and resourceful. It helps me be more resilient, more focused and productive, more creative, more attuned to other people, happier, in fact. In my coaching and leadership development practice, it’s essential for ensuring I show up at my best and am really present for others. And I find sharing mindfulness with others through my work very heart-warming as it helps so many people in so many ways.
I see mindfulness as mental hygiene, a vital practice and philosophy to keep me mentally well and resourceful. It helps me be more resilient, more focused and productive, more creative, more attuned to other people, happier, in fact.
I think the fact that so many more businesses are recognising in the first place that they have to take action because so many of their employees are overwhelmed and stressed is very welcome, and if they then put in measures and invest in supporting employees to have go-to-strategies to help them be more resilient, that’s wonderful.
However, I do see sometimes – and this has been highlighted by some and dubbed McMindfulness – that some businesses want a quick fix, and in some cases are trying to put a plaster on a gaping wound. Mindfulness is a tried-and-tested approach with a vast evidence base highlighting how it boosts resilience and wellbeing, and also creativity, emotional intelligence and son on, and it’s vital, I’d say, for businesses to develop the kind of future-fit adaptive collaborative leaders we so need. But it’s important to pay attention to the rest of the organisational culture, of course.
Some businesses want a quick fix, and in some cases are trying to put a plaster on a gaping wound.
Mindfulness or meditation?
Mindfulness can be defined in many ways, and to be honest, it’s highly experiential. But essentially it’s a specific form of mind training involving setting the intention to pay attention in the present moment, cultivating a set of attitudes including curiosity, non-judgement and so on.
Mindfulness training includes some formal meditations to build mindfulness skills including metacognition (being aware of being aware), but it can also be practised informally. It can involve movement such as mindful walking. In fact in some ways, it’s a philosophy, a mindset. So in the case of me first discovering mindfulness, I was seeking to be more mindful as I did the many things I had to do, I wasn’t practicing formal mindfulness meditation. Meditation can also take other forms that wouldn’t be defined as mindfulness – there are many forms of meditation out there, for example involving chanting. The intention may not be to be mindful, although mindfulness skills may be developed anyway.
It’s a philosophy, a mindset
Does mindfulness do anything for our brain?
What’s exciting about mindfulness is that there is such a huge evidence base. And even after just eight weeks of participating in a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction programme, the brain shows signs of ‘rewiring’. Regions relating to learning and memory processes, emotion regulation, decision making, self-referential processing and perspective taking become larger, for example. Mindfulness boosts activity of the pre-frontal cortex, the ‘seat of our executive functioning.’ And lots more!
Mindfulness boosts activity of the pre-frontal cortex, the ‘seat of our executive functioning.’
On practicing mindfulness day to day…
It’s best to try it out, as I’ve said it’s experiential, and you can’t really learn how to do it by reading about it. Personally, I set a time each day to practice mindfulness meditation- 20-30 minutes, but I also try to adopt a mindful compassionate approach to all that I do.
You can’t really learn how to do it by reading about it!
What does anyone starting out need to know about mindfulness?
In addition to appreciating that they have to try doing it, preferably with someone who knows how to teach it, they need to know that it’s a very simple approach, but requires practice. And that if their mind jumps all over the place at first, there’s nothing wrong with them, that’s how our minds work! And that a little goes a long way, they’ll most likely reap the benefits really quickly. And then, like me, they might be hooked!
A little goes a long way…reap the benefits really quickly.
Join Liz on Wednesday March 4th, 5pm – 6.30pm 33 St James’ Square London and try it out for yourself.