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Wednesday, 6 July 2016

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Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Why mindfulness in the workplace? What the Mindful Nation UK report says.

More and more organisations are introducing mindfulness to their wellbeing programs but what are the benefits and who is doing it? 

Here is a good summary from the Mindful Nation UK report produced last year by an all-party parliamentary group at Westminster (MBI's refers to mindfulness-based initiatives):

"A number of randomised controlled trials of MBI's have found positive effects on burnout, wellbeing and stress. Mindfulness can assist with focus and a range of cognitive skills. Studies have shown that those using mindfulness report lower levels of stress during multi-tasking tests and are able to concentrate longer without their attention being diverted. 

"Even brief periods of mindfulness practice can lead to objectively measured higher cognitive skills such as improved reaction times, comprehension scores, working memory functioning and decision-making."

Among those who have introduced mindfulness training in the UK and US, according to the report, are:

Teacher employers (University of Toronto)
Fire services in the US
Judges in the US
National Health Service
Department of Health
British Telecom
Goldman Sachs
Transport for London
Surrey & Sussex Police Force

The report notes that mindfulness is not the answer to a dysfunctional or toxic workplace. But most workplaces are neither toxic nor dysfunctional and mindfulness has a big contribution to make to employee wellbeing.

You can get the Mindful National UK report (pdf) at this link.

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Seven ways to make 2016 a mindful year

If practising mindfulness is in your plans for 2016, these seven tips will help:

1. Choose a short mindfulness practice you can use every day or several times a day.
For instance, notice the sensation of your breath at your nostrils for the length of three in-breaths and three out-breaths. Even in this short space of time, your attention will drift; bring it back to your breath calmly and without self-criticism.

2. Try a little acceptance at the start of the day.
Mindfulness has two major aspects: returning your attention from mind-wandering to the present moment; and practising acceptance. Briefly look over what you are going to have to do today and accept it. This could include an annoying task or an unpleasant meeting or any of the other challenges in our day. Just accept it. Try to do this at a set time, for instance before you get out of bed in the morning, having breakfast, waiting for a train or tram and so on.

3. Make a "no problem solving" period part of every day.
We have an addiction to mulling over problems and this exiles us from the present moment. Set a short period every day during which you promise not to solve a single problem in your life! During that time you will find it much easier to be present and mindful. Good times for this? During meals, when commuting or tidying for instance.

4. Find your anchor point.
The "anchor point" is a practice or sensation that anchors you to mindfulness and helps you come back when you find yourself wandering off in your mind. Examples are: the sensation of your breath against your nostrils; the feeling of your feet against the floor, ground, or against the soles of your shoes; or the use of a silent word such as "returning."

5. Do a body scan when you wake up at night.
When you wake up at night it's all too easy to drift into worries or regrets. Instead, bring your attention to your body from your toes to the top of your head, in stages (for instance toes, feet, calves etc). Rest your attention on each area for the length of three in-breaths and out-breaths. When you find your mind has drifted, come back to wherever you had reached. Doing this mindfulness practice is far more restful than worrying about being awake - and it might even send you back to sleep!

6. Use a free mindfulness resource. 
If you're on Facebook, join my mindfulness group for a simple, unobtrusive way to remind yourself to be mindful during the year. Enter the name of the forum (Padraig O'Morain's Mindfulness Forum) in your Facebook search box. It's a closed group but if you click "join group" I'll add you. Thousands of people receive a brief daily mindfulness reminder in their email from myself. It's called The Daily Bell and you'll find a sign-up box on this blog.

7. Eat with awareness
Be aware that you are eating while you are eating. Pay attention to taste and texture and to the sensation of fullness. If you don't already eat mindfully you will be surprised at how much of our eating is "mindless".  One way to practise mindful eating is to choose to be aware of your food for the first minute of every meal. This will then expand into a more general mindful eating practice.

Related: Six ways to make 2015 a mindful year

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Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Mindfulness and the appreciation of fleeting happiness

I have met people who refuse to be happy because happiness doesn't last. They have never accepted the fact that you can't summon happiness and you can't make it stick around. It comes and goes. They even think happiness causes subsequent unhappiness - though that unhappiness would most likely have come anyway.

So mindfulness doesn't guarantee happiness. However, it can increase your appreciation of your own happiness when happiness comes to call. 

Think of happiness as a visitor who comes into your home, stays for a while, then goes away without warning about its business. But though you are sorry to see it go, you know it will come back again.

The next time you notice you are happy, make a space for it. When you find yourself ignoring your visitor and going off into some story of resentment or fear in your head, come back to your experience of happiness. Just check in that it's still there and, if it is, enjoy it.

We have a tendency to devote more attention to getting what we want than to enjoying while we have it. This may have developed as an evolutionary trait - for instance, hunters and gatherers need to spend more time hunting and gathering than, for instance, eating what they have gathered. So it comes very easily to us to discount happiness and let it go by unnoticed.

Mindfulness, the practice of returning again and again to awareness of your experience, will help you to enjoy your happiness while it is with you and, with luck, it will prolong its stay. But one hour or day you will notice that happiness has gone away. Relax. It will return. Your job is to notice it when it comes back and to give it your attention.

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Thursday, 26 November 2015

Ireland's Mister Mindfulness, Frank Liddy, becomes Zen chaplain to Belfast City Council

Image from Belfast Telegraph
If Ireland has a "Mister Mindfulness" his name is Frank Liddy and he's based in Belfast. If you're involved in mindfulness work you won't spend long in Belfast without hearing his name. He runs the Mindfulness Belfast website  along with David Cameron (no, not that one).

According to the Belfast Telegraph, he is now the first Zen chaplain to Belfast City Council "his role is to provide secular advice for the Lord Mayor, and he is also a mindfulness practitioner for Aware, the Northern Ireland based depression charity."

He was appointed as a local assistant to the Dalai Lama on the latter's two visits to Belfast.

I really like this quote from the Belfast Telegraph article:

"My Zen teacher told me that I had two lives. When I asked when I would get my second life he told me it was when I realised that I had only one. The idea is that only when you fully realise that you have one life is when you will live it to the full."

He is a member of the Black Mountain Zen Centre in Belfast.

The Meditation How website  has this interview with Frank Liddy about how he came to Zen via the trauma of the Troubles and his discovery of Transcendental Meditation.

Oh, and it you'd like to hear the Body Scan delivered in a Belfast accent, check this out.

Click for my free audios/resources and my courses.

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Seven ways to practise mindfulness of breathing

1. Focus on your out-breath
 As you breathe, give your main attention to your out-breath. Sometimes it feels as though the breath is going right down through your feet and into the floor. The out-breath tends to be particularly calming.

2. Find your anchor point
 This is the point at which you are most aware of your breathing – typically your nostrils, chest, tummy, throat. Bringing your attention to the anchor point can return you to mindfulness straight away. If you don't have a particular anchor point, you can establish one by, for instance, focusing for a while on the sensation of the breath at the tip of your nose.

3. Count each cycle of breathing
 Count your first in-breath and out-breath as one, the next as two, the next as three and so on up to seven. When you get to seven return to one again. If you become distracted and lose your place, return to one and start again.

4. Observe without managing
 Observe your breathing without trying to change it in any way. This is actually almost impossible to do but making the attempt means you really have to pay attention.

5. Visualise
 Imagine you're standing on a beach in your bare feet. The water is coming in very slowly, touching your toes, and then going out slowly again. Try to match the water coming in with your in-breath, then a pause, then the water going out with your out-breath.

6. Cool in, warm out
 As you breathe, notice that the air is cooler as you breathe than when you breathe out. Keep returning your attention to this change in temperature.

7. 5/7 breathing
 Make each in-breath last for a count of 5 and each out-breath for a count of seven.  A variation is to breathe in to a count of 7 and out to a count of 11. If you find that too much, use 5/7 instead.

You'll find a Mindfulness of Breathing audio at the link below:

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Saturday, 24 October 2015

British parliamentarians recommend the promotion of mindfulness practice by government.

An all-party  group of Members of Parliament in Britain has issued a report urging the adoption of mindfulness practices in many areas of public life. The Mindful Nation UK report is based on evidence given to the group by various occupational bodies and by people involved in the promotion of mindfulness and also draws on international research.

The report recommends the promotion of mindfulness practices particularly in education, health, the workplace and the criminal justice system.

It includes case studies and references to research and would be particularly valuable if you're interested in promoting the value of mindfulness within particular settings such as a workplace.

Some main points from the report:

The NHS should make Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy available to the 580,000 adults each year who will be at risk of recurrent depression.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence should review the evidence from mindfulness-based interventions in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome, cancer and chronic pain.

The Department for Education should designate three teaching schools to pioneer mindfulness teaching.

Schools should be offered the opportunity to bid for a fund of £1 million a year to pay for training teachers and mindfulness.

The Department for Business Innovation and Skills should work with employers to promote the use of mindfulness.

Government departments should encourage the development of mindfulness programs in the public sector.

Criminal justice system
Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy should be offered for recurrent depression to the offender population.

The effect of mindfulness-based interventions among the U.K.'s offender populations should be researched.

You can get a PDF of the report at this link.

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