“Switch it off” and Connect
We all know how irritating and intrusive smart phones can be and how often we lecture our kids about engaging positively in conversations. Many of us recall how we used to sit around the dinner table and talk about the day with friends and family. As our relationship with technology develops, our level and quality of attention seems to be diminishing. Many of us find it hard to focus on a report at work, read a book or be mindful of the feelings of our nearest and dearest.
There is a growing body of evidence that suggest having a constant low level of partial attention has an adverse affect on our wellbeing levels. It’s apparent to most people that constantly checking Facebook statuses takes us away from having real life experiences and forces us to compare our lives with those of our friends. The vast majority of posts on Facebook report the positive experiences people enjoy, often containing an element of bragging. When people constantly compare statuses it forces them to compare own lives with those of their friends. Surrounded by this self-reported positivity some people conclude their own lives are less adequate than their peers.
Apart from social media, another great stressor is the constant flow of work emails. These constant notifications take our attention from living a healthy balanced home life and make us focus around the clock on work problems.
Switch it off and connect
In order to encourage people to spend a little more time living in the present we thought it would be a good idea to encourage people to disconnect from TV, smartphones, tablets and laptops for 30 minutes a day for 28 days.
These are the simple ground rules for the switch off:
- not during work time except during a lunch break
- not whilst driving to and from work
You can do anything else you like – play with your children, read a novel, meditate, eat with friends, practice yoga, take a walk, eat dinner… anything really, so long as it’s done with your full attention.
Breathe Australia and Breathe London are looking for organisations in Australia and the UK to encourage their employees to sign up. Initially we are inviting those in Queensland and Central London to take part but hope to expand the scheme throughout Australia and the UK
We propose to go into each company and give a quick talk on what happens to your brain when you have continuous partial attention. We briefly explore how having our attention switched on to so many different sources rewires the brain and makes it difficult to focus on the things that bring us meaning and happiness. We then teach simple techniques to help focus attention.
We also give those who sign up a reflective journal to note down what they do with their thirty minutes and record how it makes them feel.
At the start of the 28 days we ask participants to rate how satisfied they are with their lives and make a note in their journal. At the end of 28 days we get them to rate their satisfaction again and record how they felt about the process. We also ask them to obtain feedback from their partners or a close friend on what they observed during the process.
Why spend more time in the present?
Research suggests that people who spend more time living in the present and less time worrying about the future, or ruminating about the past, are happier than those who let their attention drift from the here and now.
In fact the happiest people seem to be able to shift their attention seamlessly between living in the present, reminiscing positively about the past and having constructive and optimistic thoughts about the future. This can be described as a Balanced Time Perspective (Boniwell and Zimbardo 2004) Read more about the research on time
Our 28 day course encourages people to stay present and connect in a meaningful way to the people and things they love. Spending too much time online makes us focus on other peoples’ experiences (Facebook) or other people’s problems (work emails).
The research suggests that training our minds to be more present more often increases the level of positive emotions we experience and has a long term positive impact on how satisfied we are with our lives (Fredrickson 2008) Read more about Fredrickson’s study
Why ask people about life satisfaction?
Asking people how satisfied they are with their lives is one of the most commonly used tools to assess wellbeing and has been used in many worldwide studies on wellbeing, creativity and productivity at work
We are beginning to make a clear connection between productivity in the workplace and happiness. Happier employees are more productive than their colleagues, and are more mindful of interpersonal relationships (Oswald, Proto, Sgroi 2014) Read more about happiness and flourishing workplaces and Happiness at work.
By asking participants to reflect on their wellbeing levels and record their experience in a journal it increases the likelihood that the 28 day attention training will have long lasting benefits. They will practice something new, reflect on the change and document the results. This embeds learning.
What the organisation gets from this training
- A training attention workshop for their staff
- Employees with an improved ability to focus their attention
- Happier and more engaged staff
Reaching out to the community
In Australia we are charging an introductory rate of $50 for each person signing up. Fifty percent of this will be donated to charity. We are seeking four Australian charities to buddy up with.
In the UK this is £30 per person and once again we are looking for four charities to connect with.
The next step
We’re looking for organisations, initially in Queensland and Central London, who want to advertise the scheme to their staff.
For more details contact me at Breathe Australia (for both UK and Australian enquiries).
About Breathe Australia and Breathe London
I set up Breathe in 2003 with Tom Te Whaiti. After a Corporate Finance career, in Sydney with KPMG, I left for India and studied to be a Yoga teacher. In 2007 my study of wellbeing led me to enrol in the first Masters Degree course in Positive Psychology in Europe. Since I left Australia I created a thriving wellbeing business in the UK with a team of twenty mind and body therapists. Back in the UK my personal wellbeing work has expanded to include corporate wellbeing and over the last ten years I have presented on Positive Psychology, Emotional Intelligence and Meditation to staff at the House of Commons, Amerada Hess and back at KPMG. The UK business is Breathe London www.breathe-london.com
My Masters degree dissertation was “Introducing Attention Techniques at Work”
We have now set up a Positive Psychology business in Townsville and Sydney and are hoping to make a positive impact in business, education and the wider community here, and throughout Australia. For more information check out www.breathe-australia.com
Boniwell & Zimbardo, 2004; Boyd & Zimbardo, 2005
Fredrickson, B., Cohn, M., Coffey, K. A, Pek, J., & Finkel, S. M. (2008). Open Hearts Build Lives: Positive Emotions, Induced Through Loving-Kindness Meditation, Build Consequential Personal Resources.Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 95 (5), 1045–1062.
Fredrickson, B. (2009). Positivity: Groundbreaking Research Reveals How to Embrace the Hidden Strength of Positive Emotions, Overcome Negativity, and Thrive. New York: Crown.
Oswald, Proto, Sgroi 2014
More about continuous partial attention https://breathenews.wordpress.com/positive-psychology-articles/neural-plasticity/
Posted on May 28, 2014, in Coaching, Meditation etc., positive psychology and tagged balanced time perspective, Ilona Boniwell, maggie jackson, measuring wellbeing at work, meditation training, philip zimbardo, Positive Psychology, switch it off and connect, switch it off australia, switch it off london, switch it off queensland, switch it off townsville, switch it off uk, switch it off waterloo, training attention, ztpi. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.