Friday, May 31, 2013

How practising mindfulness in the workplace can boost productivity

Not that long ago, meditation was seen widely as the preserve of hippies and saffron-clad monks, unsuited for the business world. Nowadays, a growing number of businesses are recognising what mindfulness has to offer, including Transport for London (TfL), Google, GlaxoSmithKline, the Home Office, the Cabinet Office, KPMG, and PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Interest in applying mindfulness within the workplace is rising rapidly. In February 2012, hundreds braved the snow to attend the UK's first Mindfulness at Work conference in Cambridge and many delegates are expected at the Mindfulness4Scotland conference in Edinburgh on 10 March 2013, which will explore practical applications and benefits of mindfulness at work. The Mindfulness in the Workplace and Mindful Leadership LinkedIn group is growing fast - it has more than 2,000 members.

Mindfulness has roots in the Buddhist belief system, although there is a tradition of contemplation within most religions and belief systems, including Christianity.

However, what we are now seeing is a widespread secularisation of the approach, thanks to the work of people such as Jon Kabat-Zinn, founder of the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts medical school.

Kabat-Zinn's mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) programme has been widely adapted and implemented worldwide, along with a variation referred to as mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) that was developed at the Oxford Mindfulness Centre.

The National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence's recommendation of MBCT as the go-to therapy for recurrent depression has also contributed to mindfulness extending beyond the spiritual arena.

Kabat-Zinn defines mindfulness as "paying attention in the present moment, non-judgmentally".

Mindfulness is a way to train the mind, but also includes paying attention to the body and the world around us. It helps us recognise that we are not a slave to our thoughts and that we can choose how we respond, two strands highlighted by the Mental Health Foundation (MHF).

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