Talking points

Put your mind to it

Our busy lives and always-on mentality can leave us stressed, distracted and exhausted. Is mindfulness training the key that unlocks happiness, health and productivity?

08/05/2017

Louise Chester

Founder and Managing Director

Mindfulness at work

We’ve all reached the end of a working day frustrated at how little we’ve achieved, how much time we’ve spent responding to incoming emails and text messages or dipping in and out of an endlessly updating news cycle. We all know the feeling of being crushed by fatigue yet unable to stop because there’s still so much to do.

This, believes Louise Chester, former City investment analyst and founder and Managing Director of Mindfulness at Work, is why we need mindfulness. “We work with nurses, prison wardens, CEOs – and it’s exactly the same for everybody,” she says. “When you’re able to place your attention where you want to and sustain it and not get distracted, a calmness and happiness comes from that.”

Focus, productivity, happiness, improved relationships with others and even better sleep – all these benefits are attributed to mindfulness by its practitioners. But is there any evidence that mindfulness actually works?

Building resilience

“What evidence isn’t there?” Louise laughs. “Research has shown an increase in the grey matter in the cerebral cortex and a corresponding uplift in performance. A study of US Marines has shown that their working memory capacity doesn’t degrade under stress and they recover more quickly from wounds. Our own research, which we carried out with Cranfield School of Management, showed an uplift in resilience.”

With multiple studies supporting its effectiveness, it’s not surprising that mindfulness has spread from the ashram to the boardroom. But how can you equip your workforce with the skills they need to master their own mind?

Mindfulness training usually begins with an introductory presentation, Louise explains. “We give them a taste of some of the science behind mindfulness, help them understand why it might be beneficial and share a short practice with them. Specific aspects of working life such as meetings, dealing with emails and change management can be covered. 

“You start by choosing something as the anchor for your attention,” Louise explains. “Normally we use the breath, because you can only breathe in the now, so it’s a very good way of paying attention in the present moment. You observe the breath and every time your mind wanders, you bring it back. It’s really important to bring kindness to yourself. You need to soften and smile and say, ‘Ah, yes, there goes my mind again.’”

Being kind to oneself can be unexpectedly challenging – especially for high achievers. In Louise’s experience, people often turn to mindfulness when they realise the pressure they put themselves under simply isn’t sustainable.

“They come to the realisation that what they’re doing isn’t serving them, their colleagues or their clients well for the long term, and there must be another way. And that’s what we teach them,” she says. 

Author

Louise Chester

Founder and Managing Director

Mindfulness at work

This article is issued by Cazenove Capital which is part of the Schroders Group and a trading name of Schroder & Co. Limited, 12 Moorgate, London, EC2R 6DA. Authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority. 

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