Attention is fragile and often hijacked by the stress of daily life. With everything happening around us, it’s unsurprising that people can feel distracted, foggy and unable to pay attention to tasks at hand.
During the Foundation Stage of our workplace assessments, we help teams understand the simple things that can keep them well. Below are some of the key techniques we use when looking at attention . They’re simple and can fit easily into most people’s routines.
So firstly, what is attention? We can think of attention as the leader of our brain. Wherever our attention goes, the rest of the brain follows. Whatever we pay attention to the brain amplifies.
Internal and external influences such as stress can deplete our attention and reduce its efficiency. This makes us more vulnerable to distractions.
Research led by UC Berkeley suggests that we take our minds away from the task in hand nearly 50 per cent of our waking moments
In this TedTalk, Neuroscientist and Professor of Psychology Dr Amishi Jha outlines three types of attention disruptors: threatening information, stress inducing information and negative mood. Each dramatically impacts our ability to function at work.
How Mindfulness Can Combat Disruptions
The opposite of a stressed and wandering mind is a mindful one. Mindfulness is paying attention to our present-moment experience - with awareness and without the emotional reactivity of what's happening.
Here Dan Harris of Ten Percent Happier explains why Mindfulness is a superpower and describes mindfulness practice as...
'the ability to know what is going on in your head at any given moment without getting carried away with it'
Mindfulness practice is like a bicep curl for the brain. The more we practice, the stronger our attention becomes, optimising our focus even when under high pressure.
Research has found that the attention of someone who hasn't had mindfulness training declines when they are under stress, but for those who practice mindfulness regularly, their attention remains stable.
A Simple Mindfulness Technique
One example of a really simple tool is the STOP technique:
- Stop - Stop what you are doing, halting both thoughts & actions
- Take – Take some deep breaths to bring yourself into the present moment
- Observe - Observe what is going on with your body, mind & emotions
- Proceed - Proceed with whatever you were doing, making a conscious effort to incorporate whatever you have just learned
A Little Every Day...
In her book, Peak Mind, Dr Jha's research has shown that real benefits can be seen in as little as 4 weeks. Just 15 minutes of mindfulness every working day can have a big impact.
In addition to a regular practice we should encourage people to incorporate ‘micro mindfulness breaks‘ throughout the day. Even for just 60 seconds! This will further help individuals to manage stress and anxiety levels throughout a particularly stressful time.
As well as increasing attention and reducing stress, regular mindfulness practice can help:
- Improve cognition & emotional regulation
- Offer protection against a depression relapse
- Boost immunity, lower blood pressure & help manage chronic pain
And it's Good for Business
Researchers have found that the higher the levels of mindfulness, the higher the levels of self-efficacy and the lower the levels of presenteeism. Presenteeism is the growing trend which involves employees coming to work even when unwell.
Research from Deloitte and mental health charity Mind estimates that presenteeism costs UK employers between £26bn and £29bn annually.
How can The Conscious Workplace help?
As part of our Foundation Stage, we help businesses build Wellness Action Plans that identify the best techniques for their specific business environment.
Using this approach, we create an environment with a focus on prevention. We also help every employee to take responsibility for their own wellbeing.
Mindfulness can be a useful technique to help people “tune in” to how they are feeling, which is the first step in recognising and managing overall wellbeing.
If you need support with your organisation, or want to understand how we can support your existing programmes, please get in touch with myself or one of the team.