Why Add Mindfulness to a Workplace Wellness Program

By Dr. Geoff Soloway

Mindfulness is not just a passing fad.  There’s a reason why it's being integrated into public health care, education, business and more…it works.  Mindfulness is not a panacea for all of life’s problems, and workplace wellness programs are not meant to be clinical interventions.  Mindfulness is a technology of the mind, learning to use our attention and intention in ways many never got introduced to.  While the practice is actually pretty simple and easy to pick up, it is a practice which means the benefits only come with repetition and exercise.

Workplace Wellness Programs often promote physical exercise, and we now know the importance and possibilities of mental exercise.  Mindfulness practice is a form of mental exercise, and when practiced routinely (similar to going to the gym or walking 10,000 steps) there is a significant benefit.  Mental health is top of mind for most workplaces and therefore workplaces need to be offering trainings – not simply education – in the area of mental health.

Coworkers MindWellU Training

There are lots of programs talking about what is mental health and reducing the stigma which are important.  Yet, we now have to develop the skills of mental health that include mental exercises such as mindfulness practice. 

There is no shortage of research illustrating the benefits of training our minds to be more present and aware.  In fact, you would be hard pressed to find one research university across North America that doesn’t have a handful of researchers conducting studies into mindfulness. 

Mindfulness is not going to solve all of problems, yet it does make a qualitative difference in our moments.  When we slow down to pay attention, we realize moments are what make up our minutes, hours, days, weeks, months and years.  Moments matter when it comes to our lives, and the benefits are trackable. Create a way of measuring and tracking the benefits of your mindfulness initiative.

Concentration Take 5 Mindfulness

Mindfulness helps people focus

Given the increasing demands on our day, there isn’t anyone I know who couldn’t benefit from a bit more focus, a bit more calm, and a bit more joy. Presenteeism is one of the biggest issues in today's workplace, people showing up for work, but not really as focused as they could be.  The endless messages and connectivity keep our brains and bodies constantly on the go, with little time for rest and recuperation.   Have you gone on a holiday lately – not much of a holiday if you take your smartphone!  Technology is not the culprit, we need to learn new tools for tuning our brains into the moment, and down regulating our bodies back to physiological balance, and resisting the urge to constantly check our phones helps too!

Laptop Online Mindfulness Training

Mindfulness – not just Meditation

Mindfulness is most closely associated with the practice of meditation.  When we think of meditation, the stereotypical image of someone sitting cross legged comes to mind.  There are many people open to the practice of meditation, however many more that are not quite there yet. Reducing mindfulness to meditation potentially loses the breadth of impact in your organization.  You can find evidence-based mindfulness programs that are customized for the workplace (remember that the standard 8-week mindfulness-based program that you probably heard of was developed for clinical populations, not employees in the workplace).  

For example, the 30 Day Mindfulness Challenge was developed as a workplace intervention aimed at engaging a broad audience, teaching a core mindfulness-in-action practice called Take 5.  Once you complete the Challenge there are opportunities for continued learning in mindfulness and that may include more intensive meditation practices.  Meditation is great and it works, it just may not be the best doorway for everyone to enter into, especially within a workplace context.  

Mindfulness is like exercise, once you stop you lose the benefit.  So best to focus on mindfulness as an enduring or lifelong practice that you are trying to instill in the workplace.  It isn’t a sprint or flavor of the month training whereas you get the certificate of completion and onto the next thing, it is wise to consider an approach that can scale and grow in order to support employees over time.People who are into mindfulness typically love it and want to share it.  Harnessing the energy of early adopters in your organizations can help to spread the work and support initiatives. Try different initiatives to find out who is already into mindfulness and get them involved to help gain momentum. 

Finally, mindfulness is fundamentally a personal practice with professional applications.  Outlining a range of applications and benefits of the practice will help to speak to a wide variety of people in your workplace.  Remember that everyone is motivated by something different, and it is important to help people make connections to the things that matter to them.  The opportunity is that mindfulness is a foundational skillset, a core competency that enhances many different aspects of personal and professional life.

Mindful driving keeps everyone safe

I don’t know about you, but I have a regular route I drive to work each day.

I’ve never ‘studied’ this route but I know it like the back of my hand. I know the timing of the lights – if I get a green on Inglewood then I need to speed up to catch a green at the next light – I know each store I pass, and I know which lane moves faster than the other. This daily repetition has burned the route into my brain and now I can travel it on autopilot.

Autopilot is both good and bad, as we teach people in the 30 Day Mindfulness Challenge.

Going on autopilot can be beneficial when making breakfast, for example. You can easily move through the morning tasks while thinking of other things like the day ahead.

The same goes for showering - most of us automatically go through this routine without giving it much thought and instead problem-solve, plan or anticipate what’s next.

When it comes to driving though, autopilot is a risky proposition:

  • Distracted drivers are three times more likely to be in a crash than attentive drivers (Alberta Transportation, 2010).
  • 80% of all vehicle collisions have some form of driver inattention as a contributing factor (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2009).

Because we’re hardwired to shift into autopilot when executing a familiar task (driving to work/school/home, making coffee, having a shower), we need to actively work to stay engaged.

Take 5, the core mindfulness practice taught in the Challenge, is a proven way to get off autopilot and into the moment and can be done in the middle of whatever you’re doing, including driving.

The steps are easy:

  1. Feel your seat in the chair
  2. Notice something new (texture, sound, vibration, whatever)
  3. Take one deep breath
  4. Take four more deep breaths
  5. Notice now

 

Try this the next time you’re making a familiar trip to work, school or the grocery store. It will make the drive safer AND more enjoyable, as we regularly hear from Challenge participants like below.

"I realized I zoned out while I was driving A LOT. Being able to notice this and pull myself back to the present by focusing on one small thing has made me a safer driver."

To learn more about the effects of mindless driving, download the 2016 McGill University study “Mindless driving linking trait absentmindedness to risky driving behaviour”

Want mindfulness to become a daily habit in your life? Join MWU’s evidence-based 30 Day Mindfulness Challenge to learn Take 5 in just five minutes a day.

30 Day Mindfulness Challenge sticks like glue according to recent poll

A UBC research study shows people benefit from the 30 Day Mindfulness Challenge beyond 30 days, but what about 8 months or 18 months out?

We asked the thousands of people who have taken the Challenge if it sticks & here's what we found out...

As far back as 18 months, 94% report they are still experiencing some sort of benefit from the Challenge.

"I took the Challenge more than a year ago and although I don't remember the titles for the things, I learned when I am feeling overwhelmed to stop and try to find my way back into my body and be more mindful."

"I look at a lot of situations differently now and what I learned in the videos have stuck in my brain and still pop up in everyday life."


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Whether the Challenge was taken 18 months or 8 weeks ago, the number one skill people learned is "Take 5", with more than 80% still practicing it today.

"Take 5 is still a really useful tool for checking in with myself and interrupting the stress response. When I am practicing it fairly consistently, I am more patient and more able to take things as they come."

"Take 5 is my 'go to' method of finding a quiet solitude in my mind - a place of relaxation and centering of my thoughts and emotions."


The second most lasting skill learned in the Challenge is "Thoughts are Not Facts". In this lesson, participants learn that thoughts are just projections of the mind and these 'thought trains' can carry us places we don't want to go.

"I have a better ability now to step back and see the big picture rather than getting on a thought train to somewhere negative."

"I benefited greatly from the thought trains lesson. Now when I find myself thinking negative thoughts I remember the lesson and change trains."


95% of Challenge participants are satisfied with the training and approximately the same number would recommend it to a colleague, friend or family member.

"The 30 Day Mindfulness Challenge will help you to cope with the stressful situations life can throw at you, whether at work or at home." 

"Skills learned in the Challenge will help you to pause before reacting, practice non judgment and refocus when dealing with multiple tasks that are presented all at once.”

 

How to 'Keep Take 5 Alive'

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If you took the 30 Day Mindfulness Challenge awhile ago, it might be time for a refresher. After all, one of the hardest parts about mindfulness is remembering to practice!

Take a moment now to remember your experience in the Challenge and how Take 5 made you feel. Did it lower your stress, help you focus or improve your performance in some way?

If so, then it's time to 'Keep Take 5 Alive'!

 

Here are the top five ways to 'keep take 5 alive':

  1. Print the Take 5 Infographic and post it somewhere visible... near your desk, on your fridge, in your wallet or any other place where you'll see it regularly.
  2. While you're at it, download the Take 5 podcast too and play it as you transition from work to home at the end of the day, at bedtime, before an important event or any other time you need to become more fully present and aware.
  3. Time for a new cue! Think of something you do multiple times a day and link your Take 5 to that. Could be sitting, walking, eating, sipping... whatever is going to be easy for you to remember.
  4. Take a few moments today to check in with your Buddy. Are they still practicing mindfulness? How about Take 5? See if you you can commit to texting each other weekly with a Take 5 reminder of your own.
  5. Add Take 5 to your calendar and schedule the appointment to repeat daily. Voila... instant reminders!

 

If you have a 'Keep Take 5 Alive' tip of your own please share it with us at challenge@mindwellu.com.

(VIDEO) A career switch into mindfulness is life changing for a busy exec

Ann Gallery, Co-Founder of MindWell-U, describes how she discovered mindfulness

It's been three years since I co-founded MindWell-U, a company that delivers evidence-based online and in-person mindfulness programs and training, and while I'm busier than I ever have been in my life - I'm a whole lot happier and fulfilled.  

Benefits of mindfulness

After learning mindfulness my priorities became clearer, expectations of myself were more realistic, and I started to get a whole lot more joy out of everyday things.  

Now when I'm not working, I'm really not working

I'm doing whatever it is I'm supposed to be doing (what a concept!). I'm engaged with what I'm doing and who I'm with instead of worrying about to-do lists, deadlines, calls that need returning or what to make for dinner. 

Don't get me wrong, no one would ever call me 'mellow' (I'm just not made that way as my friends, family and two dogs will attest!) but with mindfulness I now have frequent doses of joy in my day which makes life a whole lot more pleasurable, my relationships more fulfilling and the world a brighter place.

If you practice mindfulness I'd love to hear what it's done for you.

Ann

Ann Gallery is the Co-Founder & Chief Marketing Officer of MindWell-U. She can be reached at ann@mindwellu.com 

 

   

 

Mindfulness in Action: No Dark Rooms, Yoga Mats or Scented Candles Required

Types of Mindfulness

While it’s proven mindfulness works and is used by big business, healthcare, the military, academia and governments across the globe (and don’t forget Anderson Cooper reported on 60 Minutes that it “changed his life”), there are many different kinds of mindfulness.

For some people mindfulness means sitting down to mediate or attending a retreat.  For others it means stopping what they’re doing to tune into a podcast or dial up an app to get a quick reprieve from life’s stressors.

But what to do when you’re too busy to attend meditation classes and retreats, or your phone and favorite app aren’t handy (or even worse, the wifi is down)?

The answer is to try something called ‘Mindfulness in Action’.

Innovated by Dr. Geoff Soloway, a PhD in Mindfulness from the University of Toronto, this technique teaches people how to be mindful in the middle of whatever it is they’re doing.

Yes, that means people can be mindful while washing the dishes, walking the dog, disagreeing with a friend or colleague or just about any other situation in between.                       

An image showing mindfulness while washing dishes, walking the dog, or at work

A practice known as ‘Take 5’ is the way to get mindful regardless of what you’re doing.  Dr. Soloway explains:

“Take 5 is a five-step process designed to help people flip from thinking to sensing mode which is how to get into the present moment and become mindful. Learners don’t have to close their eyes or even stop what they're doing to Take 5 which is what makes this technique so beneficial.”

mindfulness take 5 infographic

Participants Agree, Take 5 Works

Participants in the 30 Day Mindfulness Challenge, the online training that teaches Mindfulness in Action and Take 5, agree. The following testimonials come from a major airline that offered the Challenge to employees this past spring:

“Stopping to Take 5 allows me to think more clearly.”

“Being able to Take 5 to reset and get back into mindfulness was amazing. I feel more in control now and ready to face new challenges.”

“Take 5 made me realize that when I am faced with a stressful situation I can refocus and be able to deal with the task.”

“During a disagreement with a colleague I chose to Take 5 while they ranted on. This gave me the opportunity to listen and let them be heard. Instead of continuing the argument I took a step back, reflected and let it go.”

“While running late, I took a Take 5, and it really reduced the anxiety and stopped fueling the stress.”

To learn more about mindfulness, download the Take 5 instructions or find out about the 30 Day Mindfulness Challenge and upcoming training dates, visit: http://www.mindwellcanada.com/