Today: how mindfulness can benefit your everyday life, both personally and professionally.
Currently a lot of hype around this thing called mindfulness - actually it’s been around for thousands of years. It’s become a big thing because now Science can actually prove how it works. The research shows how you can radically improve your life (personally and professionally) with some simple mindfulness exercises.
Ask: How many people already practice mindfulness and meditation (who practices formally or informally?) Show of hands.
You wouldn’t expert a physical trainer to talk to you about exercise without that person suggesting if you want to change your current level of fitness, you need to increase or change your level of exercise.
It’s the same with mindfulness – you can talk about it (and argue its usefulness) but only with practice can you experience the benefits.
This is to get a baseline and remind you of what happy feels like for you...
Show of hands those that believe they could.
I want to propose that mindfulness is an effective way to achieving greater happiness. Personally I think it’s the only way – but I’ll let you decide for yourself. In fact later on I’ll take you through some practical steps you can take to test it for yourself (see slide 15 notes) .
But first – let’s talk about mindfulness.
Ask: You do mindful activities often (tell the person beside your favourite activities when you lose all sense of time and place).
Funny disclaimer: if you become very aware, present and mindful, you may find a number of things that you are unhappy about, so it’s not a path to instant happiness.
Talk to your neighbour…
Key points: You are mainly unconscious of what is going on in your head Just because you think a thought doesn’t make it true Each thought causes chemistry to occur – so you feel how you were just thinking (whether you are aware of the thought that preceded the emotion or not!
See Buddha’s brain page 179 - 181
? Use image instead of quote Science: Why do our minds wander? Discuss Dopamine. Dopamine (feel good chemistry drives our attention) is released to maintain a feel good state. The brain has a trapdoor opening and closing releasing dopamine either responding to a lack of dopamine (boredom) or stimulation (something more interesting happens e.g. You get a text). This trapdoor opens when you feel bored in a meeting by allowing for more interesting thoughts in (get lost in your MM); or opens when something more interesting catches your attention or when you need to respond (increased stimulation) - this is an adaptive positive response allowing you to shift your attention, but leads to attention becoming scattered.
Lets talk about fire-fighting and chaos as common states for people in the workplace. Do you have examples of these events? Examples from the group.
We all know people that thrive on this kind of chaos and excitement. Consider the project manager “hero” type. These people keep info to themselves so they can create a crisis and rush in on adrenalin to “save the day”. This means the quality of outcome is frequently lower than it would have been, but the relief for everyone is high, so these people are seen as high performers when they are not.
I have many example and have been guilty of this myself in my past life running on coffee, panic, adrenalin and then alcohol to try and stop the cycle so it could all start again. I was regarded as very successful by a number of people and eventually became burnt-out as a result and then sought a new approach that would be both sustainable and satisfying.
So why practice mindfulness? On the left is our default thinking mode – on the right a Mindful mode. Each on the left is an (adaptive) healthy response, but the pace of modern work/life causes our minds to become maladaptive. Modern life has taken your default mode and fed it steroids.
Monkey mind: Adaptive (you can think); Maladaptive (you can’t stop thinking – overwhelm, worry, fatigue, anxiety, depression). Ask: can you stop thinking? MFN involves becoming aware (conscious) – trying to stop thoughts but developing self-mastery through a tiny shift in perspective!
Past/Future Thinking: Adaptive (ability to think, remember/reflect on the past, plan and predict the future); Maladaptive (50% time spent worrying about the future, resisting the present and regretting the past and missing out on life as it occurs around you – the present). mindfulness brings you into the now (sweet spot). You are an experienced time-traveller…
How much time in your work do you spend in future fantasising, either on future work expectation (good and bad) or on out of work (after work or weekend) anticipation?
Conversely, how much time do you spend living in the past of either good or bad work and personal events, while you are working? It’s a common state.
Autopilot: Adaptive (saves time and energy); Maladaptive (keeps you stuck thinking and repeating behaviours you’d rather not); Basically the more routine you are, the less aware you are.
Multitasking: May feel adaptive but really no such thing. Brain can only focus on one thing at a time, so multitasking is really multi-switching (drains your energy & makes you tired and miserable); Point: MFN is about focussed attention & > pleasure and engagement.
Stress reaction: Adaptive (SNS healthy response to threat – fight and flight response – surge of energy keeps us safe); Maladaptive when unmindful: (persistent stress response experienced as anxiety – depletes immune system and results in disease and accelerates the aging process; Your body doesn’t know the difference between physical threat and psychological threat. When the amygdale is turned on the frontal lobes are turned off. Usually react instead of respond. MFN helps us see which stressors are real and which are in our imagination.
When you are paying attention default mental activity doesn’t find a way in.
Ask: Can you think of a time you reacted and said or did something you later regretted? Ask neighbour
Mindfulness builds emotional intelligence by rewiring your brain to remember to take a micro-pause (instead of getting lost in an emotional reaction) you have freedom (from living without regret).
Points: It’s not about getting rid of, pretending, or denying what’s going on - it’s about not being bound to it. Not about being placid and letting people walk over you; mindfulness helps us to engage and respond when we need to, by letting go of the tension and resistance that often gets in the way.
ASK: How often do you hear people say they must have a better work / life balance?
I suggest that there is to be no split between the two – it’s a life / life balance. What part of your existence don’t you want to classify as life?
How many of you work with people that say every day “thank God it’s almost 5pm” or “wine O’clock” ? Current staff surveys are finding that a majority of businesses report people are getting more and more disengaged in their work.
How do we reverse this trend? By restructuring? By training programmes? By new jobs? By more pay? All of these things have been tried and have failed. I suggest the only thing that will actually change is if people become more mindfully engaged and then they will either stay or go where they wish to be mindfully engaged – problem solved! Business example...
Don’t be fooled into looking at lists of “things that make you happier” and doing them expecting a happy download.
Because taking that path means you spend all your time itching to leave work so you can get on with “being happy”.
So how do we change that? Make love and exercise all the time? Never work or sleep – or only do so under duress because you HAVE to if you want to “survive”.
So what’s the thing that links the high happy “things” together and the low happy “things” together? They’re all just activities.
I’m sure you’re all sitting there thinking to yourselves “but I like listening to music more than exercising” or “Reading a book is the highlight of my day”. The point is that it’s different for everybody – the only factor in common is those activities that we choose to give our focused attention to, that we are required to participate fully in. Mindfully.
[Ref: Killingsworth and Gilbert, a professor of psychology at Harvard, found that people were happiest when making love, exercising, or engaging in conversation. They were least happy when resting, working, or using a home computer. Harvard Study Killingsworth PhD (trackyourhappiness.org): people spend nearly half their time (46.7%) thinking about something other than what they are actually doing.]
I promise you now that switching off or disengaging will never create space for happiness. You might get a moment’s quiet, which you might translate to peace and therefore happiness – but you will have sold yourself and your relationships and your world short.
This isn’t about closing your eyes, going Ohmm and leaving the room. This is about closing your eyes, going Ohmm (if you wish) and coming fully and completely into the room. Into the noise, the chaos, into this messy world we all live in – and seeing it for what it is. Not something to be ignored or discounted, but something to leap fully into and embrace with all your heart and mind.
So how does mindfulness manage this interference?
How often have you heard someone say – just stop and take a deep breath? It’s actually really helpful! Activity 1: So let’s do that right now. Stop (close your eyes if you wish) and take 3 deeps breaths. Explain what happens Physiologically: Turn off your Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) - stress response Turn on your Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS) - rest and repair Changes your internal body chemistry Trains your attention to focus (so you can learn how to consciously notice, pause, and respond)
Activity: Longer version. Mindful pause 60 second exercise - a small takeaway. Setup: Begin by just noticing your breath – breathing normally (or slower and deeper if you like). Practice first – breath in, breath out (1) breath in breath out (2) breathe in breathe out (3) Eyes open or closed; count the number of breaths (I’ll call time).
Reinforce that this turns off the SNS (fight and flight – stress response) and turns on the PSN (rest and repair) – and over time rewires your brain to be able to chose what you give your attention to.
The purpose of this is two-fold. Firstly it will get you familiar with focussing on your body which is your best tool in developing focussed attention states. Secondly, this is a beginning practice in being able to observe you thoughts and feeling as they arise. It is though developing some skills in this that the ability to respond rather than react to events starts.
Exercises with directed at happiness with a mindfulness focus.
5 Steps to Happiness – 2 month programme
This is a short summary and guide to undertaking the five key activities given by Shaun Achor in the video The Happiness Advantage. Practice each activity every day for 2 months to see lasting change.
3 Gratitudes Each day, we ask ourselves one or all of the following three questions: Who or what inspired me today? What brought me happiness today? What brought me comfort and deep peace today?
As you write in your journal/smartphone etc (find a consistent time), also challenge yourself by not repeating items from the previous days, for this will make you look more deeply at all the “little” things that enhance your life and give you joy: waking in a warm bed, your favourite song, a phone call from a friend, the ability to touch/see/ or hear, electricity, the beating of your heart, coffee, a hug etc. Journaling When you have a great experience during the day - share it (or write it down). Tell someone else (You get almost as much pleasure when you tell the story again – effectively doubling the impact).
Exercise To teach your brain that behaviour matters – so get moving at least a bit more than you currently do. Talk a walk, take the stairs at work, stretch etc
Meditation As per the class here, take a moment to listen to your breathing, centre yourself and clear a space – even if it is only one minute a day – but every day, then build it up to 2, then 3. Go get the phone app Getsomeheadspace to get started.
Random act of kindness Kindness includes many things, gifts, volunteering, a smile – and of course an authentic thank you. My favourite is engaging people serving in shops to break the monotony of all the unhappy or neutral customers they see each day. The other simple on is passing the vouchers/coupons to the next person in the line. Whatever it is, turn on that bright light you all carry within you…
Talk about the informal practice of MFN (these are just a few examples)
Activity 3 The real juice comes from starting a formal mindfulness practice (learning how to sit) Practice the longer version of the exercise.
Points: Mindfulness is a process NOT a destination. Nobody instantly becomes mindful... Mindfulness requires persistence, focused attention and repetition. Mindfulness (focused attention) works best with proper support and guidance.
Feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 021 157 4279
Mindfulness and Happiness presentation [13 Jan 2016]
Martin Giles | Kerene Strochnetter | Wendy Weber
S What is happiness?
S What is mindfulness?
S What’s the link?
S Why be mindful everywhere?
S A ‘taster’ exercise
What is happy for you?
S Close your eyes and think about a time when
you felt happiness
S Turn to the person next to you and describe
what that happy feeling feels like for you –
one minute each
S Share with the room
Now here’s a big question…
S If everything in your life – house, job,
weight, partner, family, income, Wellington
weather etc – stayed exactly the same as it
is now, could you be happier than you are
So what is mindfulness?
S Giving your full attention to what’s
happening right now
S Being aware of your thoughts and emotions
S Able to choose where to direct your attention
S Able to respond (rather than react) to what is
What goes on in your head?
S Around 50,000 thoughts a day
S Mostly same as yesterday
S 90% unconscious
S Mostly negative & self-critical
S Only 52% of thoughts we are
aware of are on task
Why does your mind wander?
S Your brain has a built-in desire for stimulation
S Dopamine is released to maintain a feel good state
S Modern life feeds your distractible
monkey mind steroids
Why practice mindfulness?
Mind - FULL (default) Mindfulness
S Monkey mind vs Mastery of the mind
S Future / Past thinking vs Present moment focus
S Autopilot vs Conscious attention
S Multitasking vs Mono-tasking
S Stress reaction vs Considered response
Mindfulness creates a space...
S The bad news is there aren’t any. Sorry.
S Practicing mindfulness gives you the ability,
tools, the space and understanding to create
a happy life.
S More bad news – you have no excuses, it’s all
up to you
S Practice paying attention to what you’re doing
S Move through your day one step (job) at a time
S Avoid multitasking
S Take proper breaks – get up - move around
S Stop and take a few breaths between activities
S Practice the mini pause (or go for 60 seconds)
S Doodling / writing