Focus On: Miranda Harwood
The Focus On series is all about sharing the diversity of meditation journeys and experiences. An opportunity to come together and share stories, practices, and insights .. to listen and learn from each other.
Meditation and mindfulness training within the corporate sector worldwide has grown rapidly in recent years, primarily seen as a way to cope with rising stress and a range of other desirable benefits being explored in early research including: improved emotional intelligence, collaboration and communication skills, focus and productivity. In recent years organizations (and HR teams) have become much more aware that employee mental health is tied to performance and engagement, with studies finding that there is a positive ROI of a mentally healthy workplace. One 2014 study by PricewaterhouseCoopers found the ROI to be 2.3 (or $2.30 per $1 spent) with improved productivity, reduced absenteeism and presenteeism, and fewer compensation claims. *This is just one study cited for general interest.
In 2016, I was invited to share meditation with the City of Greater Dandenong as part of their Mental Health Month. What was especially exciting about this initiative, was the level of support and interest from the wellness team, who had developed some unique resources and tools to engage and support their staff in bringing mindfulness to work. It was a lot of fun. I asked one of the program leader, Miranda Harwood, to share some of her own personal meditation journey and the development of the Mindfulness Month at the City of Greater Dandenong.
Name: Miranda Harwood
Role: Team Leader – Digital and Marketing, City of Greater Dandenong
1. Can you tell us a little about yourself, and your own personal meditation and mindfulness journey?
I have always had an interest in meditation and mindfulness practices. A few years ago my father passed away after a tough cancer battle which pushed me to question life and our purpose in this world. I found meditation to be a great tool to reconnect with myself rather than get caught up in the stress and craziness of life. I attended a few spiritual retreats, did a Yoga retreat in Bali and established a fairly consistent meditation practice. At this time, I also ran the first Mindfulness Month at work. I have always encouraged my children to meditation or at least just sit in their energy when they get stressed.
2. Could you share what your practice looks like, and what you have found to be some of the benefits?
I try to meditate for at least 10 minutes each morning and I do an occasional guided meditation before bed, but to be honest I am not consistent with my practice. I find when I maintain a regular practice my mind is clearer, I get less annoyed by little things and generally feel less stressed and more able to deal with what life throws at me.
I get less annoyed by little things and generally feel less stressed and more able to deal with what life throws at me
3. One of the biggest challenges to having a personal meditation practice is continuing to do the practice .. what inspires you to keep meditating and returning to your practice? Any tips?
To be totally honest I am still not consistent with my practice but I always return to it. For example, I recently turned 40 and bought a house (and it was in the lead up to Christmas) and during this time I was quite stressed as there was so much going on. I wasn’t consistently meditating, but as soon as I did things started to flow and I felt much less stressed. SO I guess my advice would be to try to have a regular practice (even if only 5 minutes a day) but don’t beat yourself up if you don’t. The beauty of meditation is that you can always return to it, anytime and anywhere – even at your desk! and sometimes it is a simple case of just coming back to focusing on your breath.
4. Can you tell us a little about the City of Greater Dandenong Mindfulness Month program .. where did the idea come from, the inspiration, any challenges, and how it has developed?
The idea of Mindfulness Month came to me after completing Mindful in May a few years ago. I shared the guided meditations with my team at work and they all really benefited. It was around this time that I joined our workplace Wellbeing Committee so suggested the idea and was given the green light to go ahead in 2016. We held it in October and it crossed over Mental Health Week.
I worked closely with one of our Health and Wellbeing officers and between the two of us, we arranged it all. There was a range of things offered to staff:
- Daily 5-minute meditations
- Mindfulness tips card through the organization
- Coloring-in sheets and pencils in meeting rooms and workspaces
- A few lunchtime meditation sessions with Quiet Mind Meditation at our various office locations
- A yoga workshop
- A kinesiology workshop presenting tips to improve wellbeing
The month was a huge success and we received really positive feedback so we ran it again in 2017 where we added a declutter workshop and a mandala drawing workshop
5. There are many impressive local and international organizations now incorporating mindfulness in the workplace .. what do you feel are some of the key benefits of sharing meditation and mindfulness training with your employees?
I think we are always so busy not only at work but juggling that with a family and a life. I also think people are looking to find happiness on the outside and then when they have achieved things are confused about why they don’t feel fulfilled. I think offering people simple tools to deal with their busy life can have a profound impact. I also think that staff who are less stressed are a lot more productive and innovative and this can have really powerful impacts not only on them but the wider organization.
I believe that we are living in a time where people are disconnected from themselves and this is leading to an increase in depression and mental health problems. I believe mindfulness practices are the best way to reconnect with yourself.
6. How was the concept introduced and received by the organization, and your team?
My team has always jumped on board with all my practices, from essential oils to naturopathy to kinesiology, and they became real advocates for the month. The month was well received by staff, however, there was a low engagement from higher up the chain.
7. What do you hope to achieve with the Mindfulness Month program?
My key intention is to provide tools to staff to deal with stress as I have found the tools so helpful in my own life and my ability to be resilient in the tough times.
I think we have a purpose in life to share our learnings with a broader audience and this was the motivation.
8. What do you think has been most well received?
I think the 5 minute daily meditations and mindfulness tips have had the broadest impact as these don’t take much time out of your day. Just knowing some breathing techniques can have a big impact.
9. Any advice that you might offer someone whose company might be considering some mindfulness training? Any challenges or key insights you might share?
You can do something that is inexpensive and not too resource intensive, with just a little bit of creativity and passion.
10. What is next for Mindfulness Month at the City of Greater Dandenong, and your own practice?
We have continued with weekly 5-minute meditation sessions and intend to increase this to 2 weekly sessions next year. My intention is to try to be as consistent as possible with my own practice.
11. 7 Random things about you?
*I use the word ‘awesomesauce‘ way too much
*My favorite color is teal and it is a fact everyone who knows me knows!
*I watch old episodes of Greys Anatomy when I fold washing to make it a more enjoyable task
*I recently bought my first house a week before I turned 40
*I still have regular catch ups with a beautiful group of girls who I went to Primary School with. Friendship fills my cup.
*I have learned during my 20 years with my husband that relationships are hard work, but putting in the effort has a profound impact on the whole family and I can say that we are very happy
*I have two daughters in high school who are the lights of my life!
Thank you Miranda
When I established Quiet Mind @ Work in 2011 there was very little awareness of the power and benefits of meditation and mindfulness in the corporate sector .. however, over the past six years, the landscape has changed dramatically. I have been invited to share meditation in the Boardroom and the warehouse shop-floor, with private and government sector clients, running service and product based businesses.
If you would like to discuss bringing meditation and mindfulness to your team please contact Sarah@quietmind.com.au