The UK as a mindful nation?

The UK as a mindful nation?

Yesterday (20th October 2015) in the UK a somewhat unusual report was published.  Coming from the Mindfulness All-Party Parliamentary Group (MAPPG), following eight hearings in parliament and over a year of research, the report, Mindful Nation UK, makes recommendations about teaching mindfulness in the workplace, education, healthcare and even in the criminal justice system.  Not the kind of research I ever expected to come from parliament!

OK, being formally trained in psychology and as a mindfulness teacher, I’m perhaps a bit more excited about the recommendations of the report than most.  But then, although mindfulness is not a panacea, I’ve witnessed how the mind skills that it helps develop can be of real benefit in life and work.  So, what does the report recommend?

Here are some examples:

  • For education: create a challenge fund where schools can bid for the costs of training teachers in mindfulness.
  • For healthcare: Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) should be available in line with the NICE guidelines for those at risk of recurrent depression (that’s 580 thousand people!)
  • and in the workplace: leading by example, government departments should encourage the development of mindfulness programmes for staff.

And in all cases, further targeted research should be used to forward understanding and good practice.  The report also sites a shortage of teachers that have been trained according the UK Network for Mindfulness Teacher Training guidelines (the guidelines that our teachers are trained with and follow, naturally :-), see here), at about 2200 in the UK, and 700 for those in clinical practice.

If you’d like to read the full report, you’ll find it here.  It’s 66 pages without appendices, though it’s well structured.  So if you main interest is in, say the the workplace, then you can read pages 39-50.

-Mark

Don’t tell your children that they’re clever

What!?  It’s counter intuitive, but if you want your children to continue to learn and grow, more than three decades of Prof. Carol Dweck’s research suggests that telling them that they are clever is not a good long-term strategy.  In fact, in the long run, the ‘you’re clever’ strategy could actually hold them back.

I first came across this idea in 2007 (I think it was via this article in Scientific American).  It’s one of the outcomes from an area of research related to learning mindsets, covering a spectrum between two polls – a fixed mindset and a growth mindset.

Do you think it’s possible to get smarter than you are already?

Your answer to this question may provide some insight into your own learning mindset.  In super summary, those of us with a fixed mindset tend to believe that ‘we are the way we are’ – using school subjects, perhaps “I’m just not good at maths, what’s the point” or “I’m just gifted when it comes to languages, I’ll stick with that.”

Whereas those of us with a growth mindset tend to believe ‘we get smarter through effort and support’ – perhaps “I’m just not good at maths, yet” or “I do find it easier to learn languages than some, and I’m working really hard at maths so I can be good at that too.”

In a recent article in Education Week, Prof. Dweck points out that it isn’t just through effort that we become smarter.  Although that’s a key ingredient, putting a great deal of effort into the wrong problem solving strategy may be a waste, especially if there was someone who could have helped you find a better one.

There is certainly much more depth to learning mindsets than is portrayed here, or in the linked articles and Prof. Dweck’s book Mindset: How You Can Fulfil Your Potential offers a more comprehensive view.  And I include mindsets (learning and other kinds) in the work I’ve done with schools, and in the workplace (yes, adults have learning mindsets too).

So, how should we support our children?  Well, Prof. Dweck’s article in Education Weeks ends with this:

 

Nice.

-Mark

 

 

Learn Mindfulness Online – starting 2nd June 2015

Meditation Man sittingAnnouncing our next online mindfulness course, starting on Tuesday 2nd June!

If attending a face-to-face course isn’t practical or your preferred approach to learning about mindfulness, then here’s a great alternative.  Our next Core Mindfulness Online course runs over 8 weeks, with 75 minute sessions running each Tuesday evening (19.00 UK time), from 2nd June through to the last session on 21st July 2015.

We’re using Eventbrite to manage the online booking process for us, so you can read more, and join the course by visiting: http://mindfulnessonline.eventbrite.co.uk.

What others have said…

This course has helped me in both professional and personal areas. My concentration levels have improved, helping to to grasp more complex concepts.

Thanks very much for this course! I have learned a lot & feel a better person for it.

I am better at seeing my stress, taking the time to understand it and respond differently.

Any questions… just ask.

-Mark

How can mindfulness impact resilience – 2

Here’s the next part on how mindfulness practice helps build resilience.  Continuing the theme of the ‘resilience tank’ from part 1, which described making better use of the resilience you have by reducing the impact of stress (turning off the tap quicker).  In part 2 we look making the tank itself bigger!  You’ll find the post over on LinkedIn.

How can mindfulness impact resilience – 1

So, it’s a smart idea of build resilience before we actually need it – as per the last article, you wouldn’t try and run a marathon without building good physical resilience, mental resilience should be no different.  I  also suggested that mindfulness practice is a great tool for building resilience, but how exactly does mindfulness impact resilience?  Here’s a link to the first of a short series on that very topic, how can mindfulness impact resilience.

-Mark

Resilience – build it before you need it

I’ve just posted an initial article on Resilience.  It’s a broad topic affected by everything from our mood, to life experience to gene expression – but critically, there’s lots of evidence (including my own research) that we can build mental resilience at work, but perhaps not in the way you think… take a look.

Sticking at mindfulness meditation

Create a Mindfulness Habit

Sitting quietly for 20 or so minutes every day seems like such a simple thing – yet, it’s actually quite difficult for many of us.  We so used to doing, that something we perceive as not doing (just being) is hard to do.  It’s strange, if think about all the hours we work in order to take two weeks break away from it all, you’d think a 15 minute holiday every day would be easy.

If someone suggested that with 15 minutes of relaxed training a day, you could improve your mental performance, self-control, resilience, concentration, relationships with others, and reduce stress, do you think you would give it a go*?  In my experience, most people would, and do.

The problem comes a week or two down the road.  It’s difficult to feel like you are accomplishing anything during mindfulness practice – how can this relaxing, activity be doing me good; then add in that doing bias, and you have a recipe for lots of people to start mindfulness practice, only to give it up quite soon after.

If the benefits are real, and there are plenty of empirical studies that say they are, then how do we stay motivated to stick at our mindfulness practice?  Here are a few suggestions, see if any of them work for you…

Create a habit

Once it’s made its home in our regular schedule, anything becomes easier to do.  So, making it a habit is a good goal.  Association is one of the tricks to creating a habit – associate your mindfulness practice with… your morning coffee, do your practice then have your coffee; or practice before your shower; or after you’ve been to gym.  With association, you’re hooking your mindfulness practice to an existing habit.  Also, after you’ve practiced, giving yourself a reward will help cement it – so the coffee after your morning practice, or 5 minutes playing your favourite game, or a little taste of something sweet.

Charles Duhigg’s book, The Power of Habit, has plenty of examples on making and breaking habits, and he also offers a number of supporting resources, like a flow chart on habit creation in the resources section of his website, it’s worth a look.

A regular reminder of the benefits

Part of the problem with dwindling practice, is that the details of the benefits and the reasons why we first thought we’d like them, fade.

Do some of your own research on the benefits of mindfulness, and write yourself a personalised summary.  It doesn’t have to be elaborate, perhaps half a page on how repeated mindfulness practice might impact your life.  Now, take a copy of the benefits with you, in your bag or wallet, and take a look at the summary as you walk between meetings, commute to work, or take a break, reading your summary regularly.

I’m sure you can think of multiple variations on this theme, including re-writing the benefits from memory, writing a blog post about them (ahem), discussing the benefits with like minded friends, and so on.

Buddy-up

This one is tried and tested… find a buddy who is already practicing mindfulness, or just starting, and practice together.  Or, agree to text each other after you’ve completed your practice, or some other model of mutual encouragement.  Or, if there is a group that practices regularly, join them.

Commitment contracts

Finally, a personal commitment contract might work.  This is a contract you make with yourself, committing you to regular practice – and if you fail to keep your commitment, there is a forfeit.  It might be, paying  money to a charity you don’t agree with, or denying yourself pudding, or … doing something else that you don’t like.  It doesn’t have to be big, just a little nudge to get you over the practice hurdle, while you’re still working on making it a habit.  It’s really useful to have a buddy to report to, even if they’re not practicing themselves.  You agree to tell them when you’ve done it, and if you don’t tell them, they ensure the forfeit goes ahead.

It’s worth checking out the website StickK where you can automate this process, for free!

Generally, it’s easy to see why we should practice mindfulness, the benefits generally out-way the costs.  But, regular practice for many of us, isn’t quite as easy as we’d imagine.  So, use that initial period of motivation to help create a habit that will keep you practicing for the long term.

Happy mindfulness habits,
Mark