Breathe News

September newsletter - Busyness at work

Busy at work? What can we do about the tyranny of busyness? 

 
This month, I’m exploring busyness and burnout and ideas for handling this at work. I took some pictures of our dog Marty sniffing in the woods. He's a great reminder to slow down and be more creative by taking more breaks.
 

How can we be more focussed at work and make self-care a must have and not optional?

Self-care at work

One of my jobs is to go into organisations and coach people about resilience, grit, and self-care. However, I hear the same stories over and over:

  • I'm working harder than ever
  • I can't focus
  • Some of my team are "quiet resigning", and I'm likely to be next
  • I get it that self-care makes me work more effectively, but I have to prioritise my tasks, and I have to come second to what the organisation wants me to do
  • I desperately need a holiday to recharge
  • My organisation is good at providing wellbeing programs, but when do I have time to do any of this stuff?

We are all running crazily toward something. What are we running toward?
 
Some of these time pressure themes are examined in the classic book the Tao of Pooh. The ancient philosophy of Taoism is explored through Winnie the Pooh's and friends' eyes.
 
Pooh, a kind bear with little education, finds a note from Christopher Robbin. He finds it hard to read the message" busy back soon" and asks his wise friend owl to interpret. But unfortunately, owl is not as learned as he thinks. So he confuses the message and reads it as Christopher Robbin has been abducted by a fierce creature called "the Busy Backson", which leads Pooh and friends on a hunt to rescue Christopher Robbin from the Backson.
 
The Tao of Pooh explores complex themes about the importance of slowing down to reflect on what's meaningful and how to prioritise our tasks and focus our energy.

Creativity, and adding value happens when we create space

 
If you are a leader focussing on the next quarterly results, charging at the rollout of the next system, or new in your role and making immediate and drastic changes at work, there is a fair chance you are charging at the wrong thing.
 
You might affect change, but you might  be adding another straw which will break your team's back.
 
Time pressure or the perception of it has a significant impact on us. Over the last 18 months, I have enjoyed the luxury of seeing an existential therapist each month. She has helped me face up to my own need for speed, being busy and multiple projects in multiple places. 
 
But, like many people, my busyness masks a need for connection and validation. The state of feeling a time deficit, "too much to do and too little time," builds its own momentum. Many of us enjoy the stress which comes from working hard and connecting. But this always switched-on "drive state" is unhealthy and often leads to poor collaboration and decision-making.
 
There is a place in your organisation for resilience training, better organising meetings and feedback sessions and helping people become more emotionally agile. 

  • But there is an even greater need for leaders to encourage people to do the following:
  • Have strong boundaries - say no to work and set realistic expectations for delivery times
  • Learn to push back and say no to new client work when there isn't the capacity
  • Have honest conversations with the team about organisational priorities and values and how they align with individual goals and values
  • Walk the talk when it comes to self-care

 
When we create space for reflection at work, we are more creative, collaborative, and engaged. So, what can you do as a leader to make this change a reality?
 
 
There are some ideas for you and your team below.

Best wishes
Andy Roberts at Breathe London

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August newsletter - corporate wellbeing programs

Corporate wellbeing programs in London

 A recent employemto global survey of 22,000 people pointed to the importance of wellbeing programs at work:

  • Burnout - a sense of extreme fatigue - 58% of employees, said that it had affected them within the past three months. 
  • Relationship with work - what does it mean to have a fulfilling professional life? 43% of employees agree that Covid-19 has decreased the importance they place on their careers. 
  • Wellbeing and return on investment - employees who rated their employer's commitment to wellness as good or excellent were 75% more likely to say they were loyal to a business. 

In our experience in London and Australia, wellbeing programs are most effective when:

  • the program is not a sticking plaster covering up dysfunction in the organisation but is aligned with overall training needs;
  • is not seen as a quick fix by the team; more extended programs which enable participants to share ideas and best practices and help mould the shape of the program organically;
  • there is a solid evidence-based approach;
  • an action learning approach is adopted; enabling the participants to discuss the application of ideas and techniques to workplace challenges; and
  • simple and practical.

An example of one of our current programs is with the team at Avantgarde in London. They are three months into a program and have already enjoyed:

  • One to one wellbeing coaching sessions
  • A webinar on stress and nutrition with Dr Delia McCabe
  • A fun guided walking tour with Chris Roberts
  • An aromatherapy for creativity and mental wellbeing session with author Julia Oyelye

 
Contact us today if you want to learn more about our approach to team wellbeing programs.
 
Andy Roberts

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July newsletter wellbeing at work

July wellbeing newsletter 

July’s newsletter explores the relationship between self-care, wellbeing and effectiveness at work. 

I’ve based this article on a brilliant new book called “Transcend” by positive psychologist researcher Scott Barry Kaufman.
 
Research indicates that people who display “Light triad” behaviours at work tend to have a healthy relationship with self-care and strongly value their wellbeing.

Light triad behaviours include the following:
 
Fairness - growth in colleagues, thinking of others

  • I don’t feel comfortable overtly manipulating people to do something I want
  • I prefer honesty over charm
  • When I talk to people, I am rarely thinking about what I want from them
  • I want to be authentic even if it sometimes damages my reputation 

Faith in humanity - belief in fundamental human goodness

  • I tend to see the best in people
  • I think people are mostly good
  • I tend to forgive people when they hurt me
  • I tend to trust that other people will treat me fairly

Humanism - valuing the dignity and worth of each individual

  • I tend to treat others as valuable
  • I tend to admire others
  • I tend to applaud the success of other people
  • I enjoy listening to people from all walks of life

 

Light triad people and their relationship with self-care

 
Research shows that people who often exhibit light triad behaviours tend to experience less stress than those who are more upbeat, creative, resilient, productive and emotionally intelligent.
 
And, perhaps surprisingly, despite being available to others, considerate and helpful, they also tend to have strong boundaries and are no pushovers or door mats. Instead, they invest in their wellbeing and prioritise their career development and life goals.
 
Consider the healthy self-care scale questions below. “Light triad” behaviour people tend to place great importance on investing in their health and wellbeing. And then, consider what small steps you could take to invest in your wellbeing.  
 
The backdrop to this is stress and anxiety at work coupled with the cost-of-living crisis. In a recent Employmeto survey of 22,000 people, over half said they had felt burnt out at work in the last three months! 
 
And most of us will feel the pressures of inflation and the cycles of covid waves. Work pressure, tight budgets and low energy levels can be significant barriers to investing in your wellbeing. So, this is a call to action to take small, low-cost wellbeing measures:

  • Take regular nature/dog walk /light breaks throughout the day
  • Schedule meetings with yourself if you are in an office or work from home
  • Exercise or go for walks with friends
  • Reflect on your recent achievements at work and keep your CV up to date
  • Discuss boundary setting with colleagues and practise push back

 

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June wellbeing newsletter

June 2022 newsletter - twenty years of wellbeing

Hi everyone

This month's newsletter is about health, wellbeing and positive ageing. 

Twenty years ago, I left my job in finance, threw away my suits and embarked on a journey of meaning finding. This wellbeing journey led to spending time in ashrams in India, learning to be a yoga teacher, practising vipassana meditation in Canada, training to be a physical therapist in Sydney and studying psychology back home in London. 

All of this was to understand what makes my body and mind tick. I wanted some answers to some common questions:

  • Why did I sometimes feel lonely, bored, sad and dissatisfied?
  • What could I do to maintain my energy and vitality?
  • What could I do in life to make me feel useful and needed?
  • What could I do to feel good in my own skin and not like an imposter?

Over 20 years, a lot of answers have emerged. However, I'm not sure whether that was due to everything I'd studied and taught or simply because the passing of time reveals insights about what's truly important.

In this newsletter, I've set out some of the physical things I do most days; the little habits that build over time to enhance and sustain wellbeing. Next month I'll focus more on the psychological tips and tools. For the last six years, I've lectured in wellbeing and mindfulness at the College of Medicine and Dentistry at James Cook University. This role has made me even more appreciative of the importance of solid research supporting wellbeing tools and practices. Unfortunately, there's a lot of quackery and bullshit out there.

I hope you find some of these ideas helpful and share them with friends and colleagues. And please share with me the things you do that have helped over the years.  

As you think about your wellbeing practises, think about this COACH model of wellbeing developed by Daniel Levitin:

  • Curiosity - be interested in the world - explore another person's perspective
  • Openness - be agile and open to different views and try new things
  • Associations - cultivate warmth in your relationships - do some of your wellbeing systems bring you closer to others?
  • Conscientiousness - explore tenacity and grit - leaning into suffering and challenges can often lead to the greatest growth
  • Healthy practices - Identify the wellbeing systems which sustain you and stick to them

Here are some quotes from the inspiring Daniel Levitin in his book, "The changing mind":

"My business is right here on earth. Trying to be a better person, trying to do things which make other people happy. That's what it's about. This other stuff doesn't mean anything."

Sonny Rollins jazz legend

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage."

Anais Nin – French/Cuban American writer

Best wishes

Andy

Gut health – kefir and fibre

The probiotic industry is worth billions and growing. But, in general, forget it. It's a scam.

There is very little robust evidence that these over-the-counter pills are of any benefit. This is a shame because your enteric nervous system (0.5 Billion neurons and containing 100 trillion bacteria - the microbiome) is a pretty important place. For example, 90% of our serotonin is produced in the gut. Serotonin is essential for maintaining a sense of calm and balance. GABA is another vital neurotransmitter which helps us dampen down stress. These are just two of the multitude of neurotransmitters which rely on a healthy diet and a healthy biome.

Eating fibre helps maintain gut health and, therefore, focus on prebiotics rather than probiotics. Reynolds et al., Lancet, (2019)

Prebiotics vs. Probiotics. ... PREBIOTIC FIBER is a non-digestible part of foods such as apples, garlic, asparagus, bananas, mushrooms, honey bananas, onions and garlic, Jerusalem artichoke, the skin of apples, chicory root, beans, and many others. 

With this knowledge, I throw a banana, kale and psyllium husks into a blender for a morning smoothie. Doing this helps feed me the best conditions for enabling my biome to do its thing, i.e. feeding my gut to create the neurotransmitters, to build my brain, allowing me to feel calm, centred and upbeat. 

The other thing I do is drink some kefir yoghurt (fermented milk). In one of the small handful of studies on probiotics, kefir consumption has a positive impact on mood and the brain's emotional centres - K. Tillisch et al, Gastroenterology, (2013)

Meditate on the breath

Every day I spend 20 minutes focussing my attention on my breath. Each time I notice a thought, feeling or sensation, I note the experience and return my attention to the breath point of focus. 

Think of using this technique as a loving survey of yourself. The object is not to be blissfully thought-free or to enjoy a change of conscious experience (although this happens occasionally) but rather to become kinder to yourself and self-accepting of your present experience.

There are many different ways to focus on the breath. For example, focussing your attention on a certain part of your body, such as your abdomen. Whatever you choose to attend to is not the most important thing. What is more important is your relationship with the stories and feelings you experience emerge between you as an observer and your point of focus. 

The benefits of this type of practice are robust. For beginners, even just a few minutes of practice can lead to:

•          Less amygdala reactivity to stress

•          Better ability to focus 

•          Improved working memory

•          Less mind wandering

•          Markers for inflammation lessen 

•          Immune system strengthening

These are state changes in experience, i.e. the benefits accrue when the technique is practised repeatedly. In experienced meditators with 1,000 plus hours of practice, there are trait-like changes which means that they generally become more calm, focussed and balanced in their day-to-day activities.

Great reading - "Altered traits" by Goleman and Davidson 

 

Move with mindfulness (and when you can in nature)

I practise yoga postures most days and walk the dog every day. 

Yoga includes dynamic movement, making shapes with my body and breathing with awareness as I create these shapes. It also involves balance, for example, standing on one leg and then shifting to the other.

There are multiple benefits of mindful movement, whether it's yoga, tai chi, boxing, ballet, or hiking in nature, including:

Blood pressure, stress levels, balance, body awareness, muscle tension

Complex movement requires the brain to work hard and strengthen the connection between our five senses, body, and brains. As we age, these connections can wither. I experienced this after multiple covid lockdowns; I went on a hike with a friend in North Queensland and noticed that my normal flexibility, balance and confidence was reduced as I walked across boulders. However, within a few hours, my confidence started returning; my brain and body connections were firing again.

A sedentary lifestyle withers our ability to connect with accuracy to the world using our five senses. It's a case of "use it or lose it."  Move around your local environment, take different walks, use your balance and mindfully move your body.

One exercise you can try is balancing on one leg for a minute whilst brushing your teeth and then swap to the other.

Listen to this Michael Mosley podcast to learn more. And for a great read on the science of movement and balance, read "Physical Intelligence" by Scott Grafton. He explores how movement stimulates our creativity and supports our wellbeing.

Exercise for better memory and creativity

Swimming is almost sacred to me. Living in Sydney, I feel blessed to have so many 50m swimming pools close to my home. These include the iconic Icebergs at Bondi to the Harbour Bridge pool.

What's clear from the research is that moderate physical exercise improves memory (1), and creativity (2) and counteracts some age-related memory impairments. And in a large University of Sydney study, people who exercised regularly appeared to undo some of the harmful effects of a poor night's sleep.

What’s also clear is that the exercise doesn’t need to be long and intense. And finding an activity which you do with a friend and your intrinsically motivated to do makes it more likely you will stick to it.

  1. P.D. Loprinzi, M. K. Edwards, and E. Frith, “Potential avenues for exercise to activate episodic memory related pathways: A narrative review,” European Journal of Neuroscience 46, no.5 (2017)
  2. Y. Kuo and Y. Y. Yeh, Sensorimotor-conceptual integration in free walking enhances divergent thinking for young and older adults,” Frontiers in Psychology7 (2016): 1580
  3. S.F. Tsai et al., “Exercise counteracts aging related memory impairment: A potential role for the astrocytic metabolic shuffle,” Frontiers in aging neuroscience 8 (2016): 57

 

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Self-compassion

In today's wellbeing piece, I focus on raising self-awareness about inner self-talk and how we can learn to tame the inner bully.

There are some great talks and podcast links from Kristen Neff, Sharon Salzberg and Tara Brach on the link. Read more about self-compassion below.

Self-acceptance and self-compassion

In this podcast, positive psychology and creativity expert Scott Barry Kaufman explores his recent book, “Transcend”. They explore his ideas about re-working Maslow’s hierarchy of needs to develop a new understanding between meeting unmet primal needs, connection, warmth and shelter, and meaning finding and purpose.

This talk gets to the heart of understanding that mindfulness means raising our self-awareness about our triggers, weaknesses and deficits and leaning into these things with acceptance and self-compassion.

Scott Barry Kaufmann interview

Developing greater self-compassion

In this podcast, Sharon Salzberg talks to Kristen Neff. Along with Paul Gilbert, Neff is one of the leading researchers in the field of self-compassion.

They discuss some of the reasons why a harsh self-critical response can engage our fight/flight response and undermine our wellbeing as well as our ability to respond to challenges and collaborate effectively.

Self-compassion research is a large and emerging field in psychology.  Both Gilbert, Neff and other researchers have developed highly effective programs to help people develop greater self-compassion.  Self-compassion is intertwined with compassion for others and connection with others.

Kristen Neff interview

Mindfulness and leaning into self-awareness 

In this talk from 1988 mindfulness expert and psychotherapist explores the link between mindfulness, counselling, therapy, and coaching.

He provides fascinating insights into some of the limits of mindfulness in a Western setting.  Mindfulness has become core in education and workplace training but many of the training programs cherry pick bits of eastern contemplative practises.  There are great benefits in teaching people how to be more focussed and regulate their emotions through self-soothing.

Mindfulness and therapy with Jack Kornfield

Getting the balance right between remaining calm but not aloof 

I like this talk by Jack Kornfield. It’s from about eight years ago and goes to the heart of mindfulness psychology. How on the one hand can we have equanimity – easy come/easy go/not holding on to stuff whilst being compassionate and caring.  

Jack Kornfield podcasts often have the feel of a bedtime story. But he skilfully weaves together his knowledge of contemplative eastern traditions and psychotherapy.

Compassion and equanimity with Jack Kornfield

Book a mindfulness at work course for you and your team 

Contact us today 

Focus at work

Focus and effectiveness at work 

This newsletter includes some great resources , talks and podcasts on how to improve attention at work.

On our training programs we hear the same thing again and again.

  • “I can’t focus properly anymore.”
  • “People interrupt me, and I get distracted.”
  • “My days are filled up with back-to-back meetings.” 
  • “I don’t have time to focus on what’s important.”
  • “There’s no time for creativity.”
  • “I’ve lost the ability to read to the end of a page without getting distracted.”

On one of these programs I asked the team to self-rate their abilities using Richard Davidson’s emotional style model. The ability to focus was the lowest score.

And yet few workplace training programs include attention training. As the godfather of American psychology, William James noted:

“The faculty of bringing back a wandering attention over and over again is the very root of judgment, character and will.”

“An education which should improve this faculty would be the education par excellence”  William James 1890

Without presence it’s hard to develop and deploy our emotional abilities at work. And it’s hard to step back and take a moment to reflect on some of our biases and autopilot behaviours which impact wellbeing, collaboration and effectiveness.

Here are some useful resources for improving focus at work.

Books

 

“Focus – the hidden driver of excellence” by Dan Goleman

This book is an excellent read for any leader or emerging leader who feels swamped with data and unsure how to prioritise tasks.

Goleman is one of the people who made emotional intelligence popular. He built on the foundations of academics, including Mayer, Salovey and Caruso. Their research and applications in workplace settings pointed to emotional intelligence being a series of different, developable abilities.

And with many, if not all of these abilities, there is a clear research link between practising various mindfulness techniques and developing these abilities. For example, the ability to regulate emotions to express things coherently and in a contextually sensitive manner.

In this book, Goleman explores a model of four things that a leader needs to focus on. He also explains the brain science of why these four things sometimes complement each other and sometimes compete. For example, one of the areas we need to focus on is attention to detail: we need to make sure that we are focused on safety, completing a job, working through our tasks and extracting value from the systems we have in place right now. For many people, this is a comfortable place. It’s a place where we tick boxes and strike a line through things on our to-do list. Unfortunately, however, this is a zone of potential intoxication. 

Each time we tick something off our to-do list, we get a little hit of dopamine, which feels good. Dopamine feels good and is a signaller of a future reward – which means we become ever more engrossed in our tasks, potentially at the expense of seeing different ways of doing things and checking our task alignment with our colleagues and organisation. It also means we narrow our focus into detail at the expense of blue sky creative thinking.

The four areas in his model are:

  • Extracting value and follow-through (as above)
  • Exploring new opportunities, threats, regulatory frameworks
  • Connecting with the team – passionate, energetic, listening, collaborating
  • Self-awareness and self-care – tuning into our energy levels and understanding the impact of our own physical and mental wellbeing and our ability to learn, communicate, collaborate and lead

He discusses how we need to maintain a balanced portfolio of attention between each of these areas.

Peak Mind by Dr Amishi Jha

I’ve watched Dr Jha’s TED Talk so many times. Every year I show it to our medical students. That short TED is a powerful business case for learning to train our attention and embed mindfulness techniques into our home and work lives.

If your job requires that you:

  • absorb and store information;
  • come up with novel and creative solutions;
  • sustain your attention for long periods;
  • shift your attention seamlessly from one task to the next; and
  • sift through information and distil what’s important

Then developing mindfulness practises will help you be more effective in your role.

The organized mind by Daniel Levitin

This a great book by neuroscientist Daniel Levitin. Written before the pandemic, it’s never been more relevant to consider the impact of data overload, how we store that data and how we can train our attention.

Offline by Imran Rashid and Soren Kenner

This is a great book explaining coherently how big tech hacks into our brain/mind/body/community connections to bring our eyes to a screen, manipulate your choices and ultimately extract value by doing this.

They provide excellent examples of how to curb tech addiction and create healthy screentime.

Podcasts

Ezra Klein interviews Johann Harri about his recent book “Stolen Focus”

The importance of attention - for wellbeing and at work

In this TED Talk neuroscientist Amishi Jha introduces her research. She illustrates how practicing mindfulness techniques not only reduces stress but helps us pick up vital information at critical moments, such as on battlefields, in hospitals and other emergency situations. It illustrates how much we might be missing at home and at work. Mindfulness helps people be more situationally aware, safer and be able to observe, store and recall information more accurately. 

Dr Amish Jha TED

Mindset coaching 

To find out more about mindset coaching with Andy Roberts, contact us today.

Andy Roberts

 

Stress and self-compassion

The relaxed brain - resources for understanding and managing our stress with self-compassion

What I've learnt during the pandemic is that I've lived with anxiety for much of my life. Perhaps, all of it.  For many years I was in denial about that. And I also recognise that low-level stress has helped energise my work and spurred me on. It's just that occasionally it's debilitating and all-consuming.
 
One of the books that helped me understand more about the brain and how certain mental exercises can help us become more focussed, resilient and balanced is "The Emotional Life of Your Brain" by Richard Davidson.
 
This book is a great starting point for anyone wanting to learn how to look after their brain, mind and body.

 

“The emotional life of your brain” by Richard Davidson

 

This book helped me understand more about the relationship between mindfulness, emotional intelligence and developing our leadership capabilities at work.  His work also helped me appreciate that the different range of mindfulness techniques do different things to increase the effectiveness of our brains. So, mindfulness is not one thing!

I, therefore, moulded, and framed parts of our mindfulness at work program in terms of brain gym training.  It's important to appreciate that mindfulness is not just about the brain: it is an integrated, intertwined mind, body, brain, environmental and community series of techniques and frameworks centred around Buddhist schools of thought.

However, it is exciting to explore how we can use our minds to train our brains to improve our minds! And to many people, thinking of "brain gym training" is an effective way to introduce people to mindfulness practises. 

In this book, Davidson explores what is happening to our brains as we engage in different types of mindfulness activities. And he develops a model of abilities he calls "emotional style". He takes us on a journey of brain enhancement in the following areas:

  • Focus
  • Emotional regulation/resilience (not sweating the small stuff and bouncing back from setbacks)
  • Self-awareness (awareness of the sensations and emotions within our bodies and how these impact our ability to collaborate, communicate and learn)
  • Social signal awareness – tuning into others
  • Context-awareness – doing and saying the right depending on the context you find yourself in
  • Hope and optimism – generally having an optimistic, growth mindset

I've used this six-element framework in many of our emotional intelligence programs. 

His more recent book, "Altered Traits", builds on this one and improves upon it. Since publication, research into mindfulness by neuroscientists has improved in leaps and bounds. However, this book helps people appreciate that mindfulness is not one thing. It is a series of complex techniques and frameworks under expert guidance. Not all methods are suitable for each person.

 

“The compassionate mind” by Paul Gilbert

 

Gilbert is one of the world’s leading researchers in compassion. In this book, he explores our fight/flight response and the relationship with our inner self-talk dialogue.

Our harsh inner critic drives our attention toward weakness, deficits and threats. He discusses whether this caveman response is adaptive in handling complex challenges, connecting with others and influencing people.  

In other sections of our program, we explore our internal narrative and ask you to label, note, and hold this inner dialogue softly. For example, we might speak to ourselves in a manner that we wouldn’t dream of talking to a best friend. So why do we do that to ourselves? And what physiological impact does this have on us when we are self-critical?

He discusses techniques to help hold this self-talk, self-soothe, connect to others, engage our compassionate rest and restore response. Self-acceptance does not mean we don’t want to improve or change our behaviours, but it means doing so with a kinder internal voice. 

This book explores how we can be a positive coach to ourselves – working hard, being tenacious, being encouraging and reflecting on achievements and challenges.

Andy Roberts at Breathe London

Find out more about our mindset coaching programs today 

Mindfulness at work resources

Mindfulness at work resources

The books listed here provide the tools, frameworks, and inspiration for our mindfulness at work foundation program. Find out more about our program today.

Altered Traits by Richard Davidson and Daniel Goleman

This book is probably the most significant scientific deep dive into how different mindfulness techniques impact our health and wellbeing. It sifts through and separates the strong from the weak research and provides the business case for practising a range of different mindfulness techniques under expert supervision. 

If you want to be more self-aware, focussed, resilient, self-compassionate, physically and emotionally well and compassionate toward others, mindfulness includes a toolbox of techniques. Not all will be appropriate for you. Not all will work. And the object of mindfulness is not to achieve the outcomes of balance, fulfilment, energy, focus and calm, but rather to be more self-aware and acquainted with the present compassionately and lightly. The benefits are happy side-products.

Mindsight: the new science of personal transformation by Daniel Siegel

This book explores mindfulness from a psychiatrist’s perspective. Siegel’s model of “mindsight” explores a different way of thinking about mindfulness

  • Strengthening the hub of awareness – applying the breaks and calming a skittery mind  
  • Balancing the left and right hemispheres 
  • Reconnecting the mind and body
  • Making sense of our internal stories and habitual patterns
  • Making sense of our mind and finding meaning and fulfilment 
  • Learning to become accepting of our multiple selves
  • The neurobiology of “we” – connecting to others
  • Existential concerns – exploring the schemas which we create to handle uncertainty, change and mortality, and how they can undermine wellness and living a full life

Atomic habits by James Clear

This book is an excellent exploration of creating and embedding healthy new habits. Embedding mindfulness at work and home requires some grit and determination. It requires a plan, tenacity and help from others.

The book explores some simple ideas to nudge ourselves toward healthy new habits. Embedding new habits means setting aside time to practise, creating rituals, lingering in the felt experience of change, sharing with others and most importantly, reflecting on the change you experience.

Mindfulness does not work as an academic experience. Understanding frameworks and science help motivate our change. But change happens a neuron and synaptic connection at a time and requires patience.

If your mindfulness techniques are sometimes dull, repetitive and painful, there’s a good chance you are doing something right! You will also feel balanced, connected, light, and focussed as you practise. That’s great. But other times, leaning into the challenging emotions and thoughts and sitting with them for a while can be the most liberating part of a mindfulness program.

Neurodharma by Rick Hanson

Rick Hanson explores how neuroscience and psychology play catch-up to eastern contemplative frameworks. The book provides a similar framework to our program and teaches some valuable techniques to help us get more acquainted with ourselves. The framework is:

  • Steadying the mind – pressing the breaks to slow down and focus
  • Warming the heart – self-compassion techniques
  • Fullness – reflecting on our inbuilt negativity bias and our conditioned patterns (childhood, from ancestors, our education and so on). He explores techniques to become more aware of these triggers and how to learn and grow from them
  • Wholeness – building on from “fullness”, he teaches positive psychology and other tools to helps us feel “enoughness”, feeling good in our own skin, understanding how tuning into our body can help reveal our values and what’s meaningful 
  • Nowness – building greater presence and enjoying the energy from being in flow and fully absorbed in what we are doing 
  • Allness – in this section, he explores the interconnectedness of all things. In later parts of our program, we explore emotional contagion and the flow of ideas and influences between groups of people and our environment
  • Timelessness – In the final section, he provides fascinating ideas about time and how we relate to it

To find out more about our mindfulness at work programs contact us today

 

Our values and purpose

What is Breathe London wellbeing?

Breathe London is a community of mind and body experts working under one roof (well, two roofs!). We opened our first wellbeing clinic in 2004 in the Colombo Centre, Waterloo. And in 2017, we created another clinic in the beautiful Jubilee Hall gym in the piazza Covent Garden. 

Each centre has four beautiful treatment rooms. The rooms have a cosy feel-good vibe which comes with time. Over the years, thousands of people have come for treatments in the rooms. As a result, the rooms have a nurturing presence: a space to breathe in the heart of London. 

It's rare to have experts in psychology and therapy working alongside bodywork experts. And we feel honoured to have attracted so many brilliant experts to the business.

Since starting our business, we've added wellbeing webinars, workshops, and coaching to support the wellbeing needs of individuals and teams working from home and in our treatments rooms.

Why do you say the community of therapists?

We currently have twenty-five therapists on our timetable plus a further ten using the rooms for ad-hoc bookings with their clients or seeing clients for remote coaching/therapy. Although they work at the Breathe London therapy centres, each has a thriving wellbeing business and ideas for promoting good health.

Most of the therapists have worked with us for over ten years, and all have a wealth of experience. For example, one of the owners of Breathe, Laura, has taught Tai Chi for twenty-five years! Similarly, Brenda has over forty years of experience in massage and yoga. So on a recent therapist catch-up, we calculated that we have many hundreds of years of therapy experience between us.

Between them, the therapists provide Podiatry, Sports Massage, Aromatherapy, Acupuncture, Reflexology, Physiotherapy, Craniosacral Therapy, Tai Chi, Indian Head massage, Laser shock therapy, Structural Integration, Reiki, Psychotherapy, Counselling, Mindfulness, Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, Nutrition and Positive Psychology coaching.

Why's it called Breathe?

We came up with the name Breathe back in the early 2000s. At the time, it felt like we all needed to take a breath because of being so busy and distracted. Roll forward twenty years, and the need for space has never been more important.

In late 2019 I was running wellbeing workshops in Australia. The job meant flying from Sydney to North Queensland. And as I stared out of the window, it felt like the whole eastern seaboard of Australia was on fire. On returning to Sydney, we couldn't leave the apartment without coughing and our eyes watering.  

And then three months later, the world changed, and tens of millions of people struggled with breathing, and many millions died.

"Breathe London "is a reminder to make some space and time for the people and animals you love and to pause for a moment to remind ourselves to be grateful for this precious mind, body and life.

How long has Breathe been around?

We called it Breathe because back in 2004, it already felt that the world was so hectic and fast-paced that we forgot the important things in life.

If you put a pin on a map of London, the area around the Colombo centre would be its centre. It's a place with layers and ghosts. But, if you scratch the surface and then start to dig, the history of London and the whole country comes alive around the Colombo centre. If you close your eyes and imagine, you can almost see Thomas Cromwell scuttling around making deals for Henry 8th, Vikings and Anglo Saxons making war and making love, smoke billowing from the charred ruins of building after bombs, punks and skinheads fighting and city folks drinking chardonnay after a long week at work. 

My brother Chris is a London author, historian, and organiser of historical walks. Over the years, he's inspired me to look deeper into the richness of what lies just beneath the surface here. 

Why the Colombo centre and Jubilee Hall gym?

From the outside, the Colombo centre looked like a 1960s factory. It still does! It's an ugly duckling that's grown up to be an ugly duck. But it's real. It's got, heart. It's a place where the locals still come for a cup of tea and a chat. And it's a unique wellbeing centre in central London with tennis courts, football, therapies, community wellbeing programs, judo clubs, badminton and much more.

We've been wellbeing partners with Jubilee Hall gym since 2004, and in 2017 they invited us to develop and manage another wellbeing space in their beautiful and historic gym in Covent Garden. It's a great space in the piazza Covent Garden, filled with light and greenery.

What's the idea behind Breathe?

In addition to creating beautiful spaces and a community of wellbeing experts, our business is about personal wellbeing and encompass community and global wellbeing.

I often tweet about climate change, the food industry, inequality, racism, and deforestation. I feel very blessed to work with the Australian Institute of Marine Science and NQ Dry Tropics teams in North Queensland. These teams are working with passion, hope and optimism to save the barrier reef and protect the rainforest. 

I could never see the point of simply focusing on the individual. We are a web of connections. Consumer choices are intertwined with personal, community and global wellbeing. When I eat a diet of highly processed food with high meat content, rely on UBER eats to deliver heavily packaged items, and spend all my free time screen surfing, I'm damaging our precious world and my body and mind.

And when I turn a blind eye to inequality in my community and don't help others, I'm hurting myself. Study after study has pointed out that the more unequal and unfair a community, the greater the stress levels of "the have's" and "have nots". Inequality and unfairness build mistrust, fear and lead to walls of ghettoised worlds.  

Why is fairness so important? Right livelihood?

When we set Breathe up, I felt that therapists were often underpaid and undervalued. For example, if you walk into many wellbeing centres for a massage, the therapist often gets a small cut of the money you pay over.

Therefore, we decided to set our room hire charges at a rate that would allow the therapist to prosper. This means that when clients see their therapist, they know that the therapist is receiving a proper living wage for what they do. In addition, we try to champion self-care for the therapists at Breathe and make sure that financially they are fairly rewarded.

A large proportion of the money therapists pay to us as room hire is paid to Jubilee Hall gym and Coin Street community builders. Both are not for profit organisations committed to community wellbeing. And these funds are used for community wellbeing projects.

I like the idea that people working in the city come into a community centre which they wouldn't usually come into, for treatments. And that most of the money that they pay for therapies ends up with the therapists and funds good causes in our community. 

It's a virtuous circle of wellbeing connecting Londoners. 

Is Breathe more mind or more body therapies?

There is a clear link between exercise, gut health, getting enough sleep, healthy diets, mindset and emotional agility, mindfulness, physical wellbeing and having sufficient relaxation time.  

When we started our business in 2004, there was still some scepticism about the relationship between mental and physical wellbeing. However, the traditional western medicine approach of fixing problems has evolved into a much more nuanced approach where there is a greater understanding of the positive lifestyle changes that can be made to promote wellbeing.

We wanted to create a wellbeing business that brought the worlds of Psychotherapy, physiotherapy, Chinese Medicine, Bodywork, Movement Therapies and Relaxation Therapies under one roof. Nowadays, it is much more common for mental wellbeing experts to prescribe sunshine, changes to diet, exercise and talking therapies over anti-depressants. And physiotherapists are much more likely to suggest a course of Mindfulness and Cognitive Behaviour Therapy to some clients with muscle tension and repetitive strain injuries. 

Our treatments and joining us

Contact us today if you want to find out more about our programs, therapies, or a therapist and want to join us.

Andy Roberts at Breathe London