Two minute mindfulness lesson – the what and the why

 Two minute mindfulness lesson – the what & the why

As people interested in business, there is an overwhelming business case for increasing wellbeing, and for maximising positive emotion in the workplace. 

This ranges from productivity to sales effectiveness, leadership to customer service, employee engagement to cultural agility. The burden of evidence is unequivocal. Getting the emotional climate right in people and organisations is the fastest and most reliable way to improve financial performance and shareholder returns.

But in what ways can this be done? To answer this, we first have to talk about time… 

Time perception is paradoxical, ‘the present’ is both vanishingly small and infinitely large: 

  • At the moment the next word you’re about to read is in your future. But now you’ve read it, it’s in your past. That’s all the present is – that infinitesimally small boundary where the future instantaneously changes into the past.
  • But on the other hand, the present is the only time frame we are ever in physically – we spend our entire physical life in it, so for us it is everything we do, it’s infinite.

There’s a further enigma in the way we experience time:

  • We spend virtually all of our thinking time either with memories or with ‘what happens next…’ So our thoughts are usually placed in the past or future. But physically we are always firmly in the present. 
  • Mind in one time frame, body in another. This creates mental tension, and it also gets in the way of our savouring what is going on around us right now.

Mindfulness is the way to restore harmony. We can exploit these apparent paradoxes to improve our wellbeing through a short scripted meditation called The Now. 

The meditation focuses our mind on the present moment, filling our awareness with it, so our body and mind are united in time. It also reminds us that whatever has happened in the past, and whatever might be about to happen in the immediate future, we are at this very instant, even if only for a brief moment, safe and secure.

With a little practise this quick to learn technique is a powerful tool for finding peace: 

Whenever you feel overwhelmed, stressed, or sad, sit quietly, close your eyes, and rehearse the following thoughts:

I am centring my awareness in this present instant of time.

Calming my breathing, letting the slow steady rhythm of it fill my mind and my senses.

All of my sadness, all of my regret, all my guilt, shame and anger are in the past.

All of my fear, all of my anxiety, all my uncertainty and stress lie in the future.

That leaves nothing that can harm or disturb me in The Now.

In this present moment I am safe. I am savouring the peace and security I have in this very second.

Negative emotions are all about things that have already happened or will / may happen at some future point. Even something that might happen in five minutes cannot physically reach us right Now. We are always safe and composed in the Now. 

This is one way in which mindfulness increases happiness.  There is another.

Savouring the Now, this present moment, has far-reaching psychological benefits. Positive psychology looks at happiness in three time frames. To be truly happy a person needs to feel happy about the past, the present, and their future. Mindfully savouring the Now impacts all three:

  • It intensifies our perceptions of what is going on around us in real time, and increases how much we notice. This builds psychological resources that we can draw upon in the future by creating strong and positive memories, the very stuff of happiness about the past.
  • It is most obviously specifically an exercise for increasing our happiness about the present
  • Like all positive conditioning, its cumulative impact when repeated regularly directly boosts optimism. Optimism is defined as expecting positive outcomes, which is another way of saying happiness about the future.

The benefits of mindfulness align perfectly with laudable humanistic values. Indeed the admirable goal of positive psychology is ‘to improve human wellbeing’. However let’s not be tempted into thinking these things are simply nice to have.

Wellbeing and mindfulness are not just the right thing to do for people, they are very good business.

Inspirational business psychologist Graham Keen is CEO of New Impetus International Ltd, an independent company with bases in Cheshire, Yorkshire, Lancashire and Copenhagen. He founded the company in 2000 to create and deliver services solidly based on hard evidence. The firm now works with 140 clients worldwide, including many household names, mostly in the UK, Continental Europe, and a bit in the USA and Middle East.

An Oxford University Engineering Science graduate, Graham trained in positive psychology with Prof Martin Seligman in 2003, which taken together with his earlier experience as plc CFO and corporate finance practitioner, brings a unique view of business.

Graham is an energising tutor and speaker. He is warm but direct, passionate, and occasionally hilarious. He has the knack of telling surprising and uncomfortable truths in a way that inspires acceptance and ignites action.

He has a 20 year track record of winning even reluctant people’s buy-in to change, and consistently improving patterns of organisational behaviour.