I never imagined the greatest curse of my life would lead to this.
When I started my final year uni project, I had no idea what to research. I knew picking the right subject was crucial, because let’s face it, the dissertation year is tough, particularly when you’re more familiar with writing functional specs or wiki pages.
I decided to write a mindfulness course for emotional intelligence but to be honest, I had an agenda.
I knew work place stress was an issue, but I didn’t think anyone was interested in taking this on. Cynical? – maybe, but mindfulness & stress reduction have been linked since the 1980’s, yet 55% of work place illnesses are stress related and this rises every year. Additional research indicates that employees don't report stress meaning the figures may be even higher.
My uni supervisor suggested I create something authentic, so I reviewed courses related to stress, depression and emotional intelligence, using this research to create a stress management course. I had a theory that prolonged exposure to stress is the problem and that mindfulness techniques could be used to intercept the stress reaction.
I questioned myself many times per day. Does the world really need another stress reduction course and who am I to be writing it?
I had a number of transferable skills but as I began to understand the research process, I wondered if I could bring another dynamic to the table.
Researchers experiment and observe to gain knowledge and understanding but I was literally a walking and talking stress experiment. I didn’t need to observe stress, I experienced it and I knew how I managed it through mindfulness.
This was my motivation when I was excited about my research. When I was drowning in the incomprehensible, the science of the brain; academic approaches; epistemology, axioms and oncology, I decided just having a half decent research approach would get me a pass.
Somewhere in the middle I signed up 5 volunteers working with them over 3 weeks. Each committed to ½ an hour per day for 21 days, studying some key theory and experiencing a daily practice. I’ve experienced the benefits of an 8 week course and a three year academic program but not everyone has this luxury, so I wanted to create something accessible that incorporated enough mindfulness experience to have an impact.
For me, working with these people on a one to one basis was one of the highlights of the research and it really brought everything to life. For them, it brought a realisation that many of their experiences were common, and many described feeling less isolated.
The research results are confidential, but I can say that 4 out of 5 people developed the means to intercept the stress response using mindfulness and this makes me very hopeful for the future of Mind21.
If you're reading this and were part of the research group, thank you for taking part, I couldn’t have got this far without your support.