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Types of Interventions in the Workplace – Which are most effective?

Which ‘course’ is best

By now, you may have decided that you would like to embark on some kind of mindfulness training programme for you or your staff team. Have a search online and you’ll find there is a bewildering array of mindfulness courses available. But which one is best suited?

I’m going to talk about a few of the most commonly used courses. The main point to note however is that it is the mindfulness practice itself which is most effective.

Essentially mindfulness practice is mindfulness practice: you and those around you will reap benefits if you embark on daily practice. But there are some other factors to consider if you want to get the most out of a course, including the specific needs of your work environment.

An explosion of research

There has been an explosion of research into the benefits of mindfulness over the past decade. This is a good thing: it’s what convinced me to start practising daily, to carry out my own research and to take up mindfulness teaching. However, mindfulness is much older than that: it’s an ancient practice with its roots in Buddhism. An American called Jon Kabat-Zinn adapted mindfulness for the Western world towards the end of the 20th century. He became aware that there were benefits to stillness, spending time focusing on the here and now, and increased awareness.

Much of the research on mindfulness interventions has focused on the earlier structured eight-week mindfulness courses that were developed. These include mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT). MBSR was designed to help manage stress and anxiety, and has been applied to pain management. MBCT was designed to help people who suffer from depression. In both courses participants learn to practise mindfulness in different ways and are encouraged to take up daily practice. Other mindfulness courses have been developed more recently, such as mindfulness for health (MfH) and mindfulness-based addiction recovery (MBAR).

The similarities between all of these courses are greater than their differences. The key factor when it comes to looking at the benefits of mindfulness – improved workplace productivity, reduced burnout and improved job satisfaction, to name but a few – is taking up daily practice. The benefits are realised from as little as ten minutes a day of mindfulness meditation practice. Unsurprisingly, there appears to be greater benefits for people who engage in daily practice which is longer than this. The more time someone has been doing daily practise, the better too.

It’s all about the day to day practice

So when people ask me which type of mindfulness course they should do, the first thing I say is that it does not really matter: the essential component is your regular daily practice. However, the benefits of learning in a group and getting peer support mean that you are likely to realise benefits over and above the benefits of the mindfulness practice itself in a course with people who have similar goals or difficulties to yours. In other words, the most effective course for you is the one for people like you. If you are looking to manage stress, do a mindfulness-based stress reduction course.

If you are looking to improve health, do a mindfulness for health course. If you are looking to boost performance in the workplace, do a course designed for people in the workplace.

Another reason to do a mindfulness course is that you will be more likely to keep up your daily practice: mindfulness is about establishing new habits and ways of thinking, after all. In a structured course, you also get to ask questions of an experienced teacher and practitioner, helping to overcome commonly encountered obstacles. You may still experience some benefits from practising by yourself, but you really can’t beat learning mindfulness in person in a supportive peer group environment.

And what’s better than an off-the-shelf course for you and your colleagues? A tailored course designed for the specific needs and challenges encountered by the staff in your workplace.