A Trial of Mindfulness in Schools – yet don’t forget to analyse academic achievement and the impact of social media.

Back in December I wrote “Mindfulness for school pupils – improved wellbeing and better grades”. (Here)

So, I was delighted to see that education secretary Damian Hinds has announced a trial to teach mindfulness within 370 schools . The trial is being led by the Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families in partnership with University College London and it will run until 2021. The trial will involve pupils being taught muscle relaxation techniques, breathing exercises and mindfulness.

“As a society, we are much more open about our mental health than ever before, but the modern world has brought new pressures for children,” says  Hinds.

It’s also worth noting that recent research conducted by University College London discovered that teenage girls are twice as likely as teenage boys to exhibit symptoms of depression due to social media.

At the time of writing I have not been able to check out the outcome measures to be used  in the trial – but I while I am sure the trial will investigate the impact of mindfulness upon levels of mental health problems… I hope that it will seek to measure the impact of the trial on academic results also.

Further, it would be very interesting to see if the level of social media usage is reduced – or if the negative impact of social media is reduced by mindfulness  (…I would imagine it might – but this trial could enable us to find out).  If social medial use is causal in the development of anxiety and depression;  then such research would start to give us a real steer on how we can control social media and reduce its impact on the mental health of young people.





Resilience Quotient – so that your workforce is ready to the challenges of the 21st century

Last August I wrote about the Paul Stoltz’s Adversity Quotient: “Adversity Quotient – and “leveraging micro adversities”,  here.

Many of us are familiar with Intelligence Quotient (IQ) and Emotional Quotient (EQ), yet in 1997, Paul Stoltz introduced a new concept – Adversity Quotient (AQ), which predicts how well someone withstands adversity and his/her ability to triumph over it… and research has shown that measurement of AQ is a better index in achieving success than IQ, education or even social skills.

This week I saw this piece by Jan Bruce in Forbes Magazine on a similar concept: “Resilience Quotient” (RQ)… a measurement of a company’s workforce… to predict how a company will respond to challenges;   here.

Jan paints a honest, but though provoking picture of corporate life:

  • This decade marks the most radical disruption of the workplace in our lifetimes.  The confluence of big data, information transparency and innovative business models compels organizations of every size to change at head-spinning speed.
  • In the next few years, as artificial intelligence and cloud computing spread to every corner of every business, the pace of change will only accelerate.
  • Organizations are also changing fast, scrambling the old order.
  • Five generations are active in the workforce. Old organization charts give way to temporary teams. Remote and on-site employees work together in real time.
  • Innovation, emotional intelligence and so-called “soft skills” like communication and creativity are the new competitive edge.

“This exciting new world also threatens a significant human cost. The tsunami of changes has swept away old barriers between work and life. … We expect instant response from ourselves and others. Our powerful technology has, paradoxically, made us more stressed than ever. And stress is killing us... Stressed-out people suffer low productivity and high rates of depression, absenteeism and presenteeism.”

So… what to do?… Well we need build up the resilience of the workforce… but first there are  a few other things to set in place.  (I have added to and reframed some of Jan’s recommendations.):

First: Look at what is stressing staff out and see if you can remove or reduce the stressors: “for example by lowering noise levels in a work area or instituting flexible hours to alleviate stressful commutes”.

Second: Hire resilient people (it is easy to test!).

Third: Change you executive culture. To quote Jan: “It’s especially important for executives to practice resilience skills, not only to manage the high stress of their jobs but to affirm to all employees that yes, resilience is valued and respected at the top. I’m astonished at the number of executives who wear their burnout as a badge of honour, especially because the most successful business leaders consciously manage their stressful lives. The more leaders grow in empathy, focus, self-confidence, positivity and other resilience skills, the better they perform.”

Fourth: Now you can go on to work with staff to develop their own resilience.  At Carina Sciences we have recently released the first product version of the Rezl toolbox that includes a module and a meditation to help people to deal with stress and pressure – including practical steps and “mindfulness based cognitive therapy” techniques to avoid becoming overwhelmed with stress  – so that staff are better able to respond thoughtfully.

Jan highlights the need to develop learnable skills like emotional control, empathy and impulse control that increase resilience – and you will recognise that Mindfulness is a proven way to establish such skills.

Mindfulness is about focus and awareness.  Our Rezl app practices Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) which has been developed as programme to change the way that we react – reducing unhelpful though-pathways and establishing new habits that serve us better.

Research shows that MBCT helps people to deal with stress and pressure; it improves concentration… reducing mistakes and increasing productivity; it makes people more open and more empathetic; give better emotional regulation (control of emotions); and allows a more thoughtful response reducing impulsive behaviour; it improves self-esteem and life satisfaction; it reduces anxiety and depression; and in a change management situation, it enables people to embrace change….positively.

Here is a brief description of MBCT:

  • MBCT is about increasing our awareness of the current moment in a non-judgemental way… as judgements can increase the emotions that we attach to an experience.
  • It makes us aware of how much of our consciousness is automated and how little attention we pay to our experiences and our responses.
  • It increases the ability to focus and to avoid distractions.
  • It gives us an understanding of how our “emotional brain” can overwhelm us at times.  It is about allowing the authority of our “thinking brain” so that we have better “emotional regulation”.
  • It enables us to reduce rumination about the past and anxieties about the future.
  • MBCT allows us to use our “thinking brain” to recognise triggers and to set them aside so that we are not overwhelmed by our emotions. … and this empowers us so that we increase our self-confidence and our self-esteem.   This focus enables a “less emotional response” to pain… stresses… and worries.
  • Finally there is the concept of self-compassion… so that we are not so hard on ourselves and we increase our feeling of self-worth.

So,these are my four steps that will enable your company to increase its RQ –  so that it is ready to take up the challenges of the 21st century.