Listen on Apple Podcasts
I've created the image as requested, showcasing a plastic children's toy elephant meditating in the center of a simple, white room. The scene is ultra-simple and ultra-realistic, set against a clean white background that emphasizes the purity and tranquility of the moment.

69: How to Keep Calm Using Mindfulness (Part 1 of 2)

This week, we delve into the transformative power of mindfulness! This episode is a guide to enhancing individual well-being during the festive season.

Like this?

Join 112,000 listeners every month who get expert insights on building amazing workplace cultures!


This episode is a guide to enhancing individual well-being during the festive season.

We’re joined by Chartered Psychologist, Dr Audrey Tang, and Sean Tolram, Mindfulness Programme Manager at HSBC, who discuss the benefits of mindfulness in managing holiday stress. Learn strategies to build mental resilience, handle seasonal pressures, and improve overall well-being.

Key highlights include:

  • Understanding mindfulness and its science-backed benefits
  • Practical mindfulness exercises, including breathing techniques and body scans
  • Strategies to increase mental resilience and handle stress during the holidays, incorporating Dr. Tang’s concept of the window of tolerance
  • Sean Tolram’s experiences at HSBC, demonstrating tangible improvements in team performance and employee well-being through mindfulness.

This episode is part one of a two-part series, offering tools and insights to foster a serene and mindful holiday season. Stay tuned for the next episode, featuring a brand new special guest, as we continue exploring the journey to mental fitness.


Connect with Sean Tolram:

Connect with Dr Audrey:

Learn more about Dr Audrey’s latest book, The Leader’s Guide to Resilience 

Check Out Dr Audrey’s Award-winning Podcast!

Listen to More on Mental Health & Wellbeing

Future of Mental Health at Work: Surprising Trends from the 6th MAD World Summit

The Psychology of Happiness at Work

Building Resilient Workplaces: The Triple Defence Approach to Mental Health in Action

You’ll find all our past episodes on our website:

Support with Mental Health and Well-being

If you have been affected by any of the themes in this episode, or are currently struggling with your well-being, the following resources may be useful.

Mind website:

If you are feeling in distress or despair, including feelings of suicide, please do consider calling the Samaritans for free on 116 123 or email

Connect with your hosts

💬 Want a chat about your workplace culture?

📣 Got feedback/questions/guest suggestions? Email

👍 Like this kinda stuff? Click here to subscribe…

The Transcript

⚠️ NOTE: This is an automated transcript, so it might not always be 100% accurate!

Like this?

Join 112,000 listeners every month who get expert insights on building amazing workplace cultures!


Ep 69

[00:00:00] Dr Audrey Tang: If we feel like crying, something is clearly wrong. So first of all, cry, find that balance again, find that state of, as Martin Seligman would say, emptiness, but I would say neutrality. And from that state of neutrality, it’s a better place to then decide. Right. What can I do next?

[00:00:22] Leanne: Hello and welcome to the truth lies and workplace culture podcast brought to you by the HubSpot podcast network, the audio destination for business professionals. My name is Leanne. I’m a business psychologist.

[00:00:30] Al: My name is Al. I’m a business owner.

[00:00:32] Leanne: We are here to help you simplify the science of people and create amazing workplace cultures.

[00:00:36] Al: Yeah. Welcome. Welcome. Welcome. Merry Christmas. Happy Christmas. Happy holidays. Um, I don’t know how to say it in Croatian. Um, I used to be able to say it. Stretten something. No, but that’s good

[00:00:47] Leanne: luck. I don’t know. That is. There’s a Z with a hat and a C with an airplane. Oh.

[00:00:54] Al: Brozich. Brozich? Bochich? Bozich?

[00:00:58] Al: Bozich? We’ll find out for the next episode. How you say happy, uh, in fact, we’ll probably find out how to say it in Bosnian since we’re in Herzegovina. Um, anyway, you didn’t come here to hear about Happy Christmas in different languages. Did you hear, you came here to hear about, I’m guessing workplace culture, more specifically mindfulness, is it Leanne?

[00:01:14] Leanne: Yes, December is marching on and Christmas really is just around the corner. Christmas, now Christmas is a time for joy, laughter, togetherness. It could also bring its fair share of stress and overwhelm, but fear not because we have gathered two incredible guests who are experts in mindfulness and mental fitness.

[00:01:32] Leanne: They are here to guide us through the chaos and help us find that inner calm amid the holiday hustle

[00:01:37] Al: and bustle. Yes, this is the first part of a two part special where we’re gonna be exploring the science behind mindfulness, the truth and lies of its effectiveness and reducing stress and enhancing well being, and some practical exercises you can start incorporating into your daily routine right away.

[00:01:54] Al: Yeah,

[00:01:54] Leanne: so whether you’re planning a cozy family gathering, embarking on a holiday travel like we are, or simply want to embrace a space. Spirit of the season with more serenity. You won’t want to miss this episode. Grab yourself a cup of tea, find a comfortable spot to relax, and let’s explore how to stay calm this Christmas through transformative power of mindfulness.

[00:02:14] Al: To guide us through this, we’ve got two incredible guests. You’re going to love them.

[00:02:18] Leanne: Yes, we are. Two incredible guests that will be showing us how to keep calm this Christmas, even when Uncle Kevin, you remember Uncle Kevin, has had too many shurries and has passed out on the sofa, put the turkeys even on the table.

[00:02:29] Leanne: Again, probably. First, we are thrilled to be joined by Dr. Audrey Tang. Dr. Audrey is a charted psychologist and mental health broadcaster with an award winning podcast and community radio show at the Wellbeing Lounge. She’s also a multi award winning business author with her three books, The Lady’s Guide to Mindfulness, Resilience, and Wellbeing serving as a practical guide to building and maintaining mental.

[00:02:53] Leanne: They are also some of my personal favorites, a true psychology icon and one of the most engaging speakers you’ll ever come across. Let’s meet Dr. Audrey.

[00:03:04] Dr Audrey Tang: I’m Dr. Audrey Tang. I’m a chartered psychologist with the British Psychological Society. I’m also a business author. My area of research was on emotional labor, which is the presentation of certain behaviors and emotions that go alongside the technical aspects of your job.

[00:03:23] Dr Audrey Tang: So for example, a teacher or a nurse having to present that very positive and warm character, even though they might have had a really awful day and how stressful that can be. I deliver business training. The day job, but I also host a community radio show, a podcast, and get involved in all sorts of mental health awareness raising.

[00:03:45] Al: Our second guest is the incredible Sean Tolram. Sean is the mindfulness program manager HSBC. Yes, that HSBC, the massive bank is a teacher and a coach in mindfulness. He’s committed to helping people understand their brains and unlock their potential. His mission is to roll out and embed mindfulness globally across HSBC with a focus on creating sustainable employee led communities are going to drive a cultural change and make people basically be at their best whether they’re at work or at home.

[00:04:15] Al: Let’s go meet Sean.

[00:04:16] Sean Tolram, HSBC: I’m the head of mindfulness at HSBC Bank and we’re trying to Embed mindful ways of working across the organization so that we can help employees to build happy, healthy and successful careers.

[00:04:32] Leanne: Two awesome guests joining us on the podcast this week for part one of this special two part series.

[00:04:38] Leanne: So

[00:04:38] Al: let’s start by understanding what mindfulness really

[00:04:41] Sean Tolram, HSBC: is. So for me, um, it’s most simple term, I call it gym for the brain. It’s a way to, um, to exercise your brain, to train it so that it can work in a different way. It allows us to build mental strength and resilience. It can help us to focus our attention because in today’s world there are so many distractions, so many things that are fighting for our attention.

[00:05:07] Sean Tolram, HSBC: It can be Very easy to lose control, so to be able to focus our attention where we want it is a valuable skill to have. Also, the ability to be in the present moment.

[00:05:19] Leanne: Mindfulness is about being present. So put simply, it’s a mental discipline that enables us to become more aware of our thoughts, to be able to observe them and choose which thoughts to follow.

[00:05:30] Leanne: When practiced regularly, it can help us to improve our attention and better control stress. Mindfulness may seem like a recent fad, but as Dr. Audrey explains, it’s been around for thousands of years. In fact, it was this misconception that motivated Dr. Audrey to write her book in the first

[00:05:47] Dr Audrey Tang: place.

[00:05:48] Dr Audrey Tang: Mindfulness at the time was a bit of a buzzword, it still is. I have a little bit of an issue with buzzwords. And in a way, that’s why I wrote well being at the end of it, because that’s become a little bit of a buzzword too. And I like to unpack what it really means and actually find practical ways of using it.

[00:06:07] Dr Audrey Tang: And I was drawn in particular to mindfulness as an area of, of being able to manage burnout and manage stress. Not just because that was stress and burnout was my PhD, but my grandfather was a mindfulness teacher. He was a Buddhist teacher, uh, in Malaysia, and he wrote a book on mindfulness . And so, um, it was there, there was always a connection and there was always a, a different understanding for me where it came, comes to mindfulness.

[00:06:35] Dr Audrey Tang: And so I actually wrote that one. As a tackling of, of mindfulness being a buzzword and my very first chapter in it talks about how mindfulness has always been a practice in Buddhism, but it was only around the 80s where the mindfulness based stress research all came in, that it started getting into business literature.

[00:06:57] Dr Audrey Tang: And I may be a little bit cynical here, but it always worries me when I see things suddenly come into literature, because then suddenly everybody starts using it and when big companies start using it. Yes, there are results, but other people can start using it and not really understand why they’re doing it.

[00:07:15] Dr Audrey Tang: Big companies often have the ability to speak to the people who created the causes in the first place and, and actually begin to really understand it. Disconnecting

[00:07:24] Al: the what and the why is a common theme in organizational psychology or people and culture practices. That’s why we see beanbags and ping pong tables in break rooms and mindfulness is shrouded in misunderstandings and misconceptions.

[00:07:38] Al: Here’s Audrey to help us understand a bit better.

[00:07:40] Dr Audrey Tang: When I used to deliver sessions at university, um, you ask people what mindfulness is. Oh, it’s yoga. It’s breathing. It’s meditation. And Then I asked the same question in a conference and I got the same answer. And that means that’s what a lot of organizations are thinking when they’re talking about mindfulness and yes, yoga, breathing meditation, that’s all one aspect of being able to practice mindfulness, but it’s not the whole thing.

[00:08:11] Dr Audrey Tang: Mindfulness can be informal and practical. It can be simply. In the common parlance use of the word, just be mindful about X, Y, and Z. It can be your risk assessment is mindfulness. And if that’s the case, then if you did a psychological risk assessment, if you were aware of your own well being in the workplace and the things that you need to function well, that can be part of mindfulness.

[00:08:39] Dr Audrey Tang: So, As I said, that’s one of the most common misconceptions, uh, is if I just do a little bit of deep breathing, that’s me being mindful, it, it, it’s not enough, and then mindfulness extends a lot broader than

[00:08:50] Leanne: that. So now we know what mindfulness is, let’s dive into the science. Is there an empirical case for mindfulness, or is it all woo?

[00:08:59] Leanne: I asked Dr.

[00:09:00] Dr Audrey Tang: Audrey. There is a scientific basis to deep breathing, for example, in that when we breathe, uh, when we breathe shallowly, that’s when the sympathetic nervous system kicks in, that’s when we start, um, the brain starts thinking, oh, there must be a threat because we’re getting ourselves ready to fight.

[00:09:19] Dr Audrey Tang: or flee. And if we breathe more slowly, then that helps the parasympathetic system kick in, which just relaxes the body. And as I say, it helps eventually reduce the level of cortisol and so on. So yes, there is a lot of science to deep breathing in itself. There’s been a lot of research in mindfulness. If you don’t mind, I’ve written it down, so I’m going to, so I get it right.

[00:09:39] Dr Audrey Tang: Um, in 2015, Gellis found that. 3, 000 per employee. Um, they found the 3, 000 increase in productivity per employee when they included mindfulness in their day to day practices in the workplace. Research findings also showed improved creativity, improved self reports of wellbeing, improved focus, improved relationships as well with colleagues and friendships and improved decision making.

[00:10:07] Dr Audrey Tang: So there has. There are benefits, but whether it is the mindfulness practices that have been in the company have maybe resulted in better sleep, which in turn results in better performance and so on, that link is a little bit shakier. But at the same time, it works for you and it works for your teams.

[00:10:33] Dr Audrey Tang: Great. Use it. So there has, there has been a lot of that used in terms of business and a lot of companies, big companies do use it and do find results. So that’s, yeah, in terms of that, but in terms of any sort of psychological findings, you do have to say, well, who was the sample? Who was the cohort? What were they doing?

[00:10:57] Dr Audrey Tang: And can this really be generalized? So it

[00:10:59] Leanne: depends. And the reason us psychologists love that answer is because it really does. Every finding from every study needs to be scrutinized to answer definitively. And even then, there’s the age old argument of correlation and causation. As Dr. Audrey said, is it mindfulness causing the increase in performance?

[00:11:20] Leanne: Or is it mindfulness improving sleep? Which improves performance. So while a lot of the research has been on small samples and does need to be replicated, we can use the research to make some tentative conclusions, including that mindfulness has been shown to reduce fatigue and anxiety and improve working memory and executive.

[00:11:37] Leanne: Functioning and even contribute to physical changes in the brain with increases in the thickness of what is called cortical or gray matter in regions of the brain related to attention, self awareness and emotional regulation. But yes, science aside, if it works for you and your teams, use it. HSBC has used mindfulness as a feature within their wellbeing strategy for over a decade.

[00:12:01] Leanne: I asked Sean if there was a transformation or change that really showcased for him what mindfulness can do.

[00:12:07] Sean Tolram, HSBC: Yeah. So, um, as my career progressed and I found myself managing bigger and bigger teams, I became less interested in myself and my own skills and started to think more about the people in my teams, how to motivate them, how to get the best out of them.

[00:12:21] Sean Tolram, HSBC: Then I started wondering why, um, talented people weren’t performing to the best of their ability. And I started to look at what’s causing that. And what I was finding was that it was stress mainly that people were under severe levels of stress. And that was impacting their performance. So I started to implement principles of mindfulness, even though I didn’t really know at the time what I was doing.

[00:12:47] Sean Tolram, HSBC: Implementing those principles of mindfulness, helping people to assess how they are and whether they’re in the right frame of mind to carry out certain tasks, and then giving them the autonomy to make decisions about what they do. So I started doing that within the teams that I was managing and got some really good results.

[00:13:03] Sean Tolram, HSBC: So in one team that I managed, Um, we were publishing updates to HSBC websites, and there was a few too many errors going live. But after embedding some mindfulness principles, we reduced the error rates by about 50%. So we’re able to see some tangible improvements there. Sean also

[00:13:23] Leanne: shared how mindfulness practice can help people manage major life

[00:13:27] Sean Tolram, HSBC: transitions.

[00:13:27] Sean Tolram, HSBC: One area where I find a lot of success is with our graduates, so young people coming into the workforce. It can be a really difficult transition for them. And now when you’ve been in the industry for decades, you forget what it was like when you were first starting. So I’ve been working with them to deliver various, um, sessions to help them make that transition because it can be very stressful.

[00:13:49] Sean Tolram, HSBC: You know, you, you’ve got the big change from you need to work, the regular working hours that you now have to do. Expectations from family and friends, a very competitive environment where you’re, you’re, it’s almost like sometimes I think it’s a bit like The Apprentice, you know, where you’ve got a group of people and they’re almost battling against each other to get the best roles.

[00:14:10] Sean Tolram, HSBC: So by teaching them about their brains, teaching them about the stress response, and how to recognize when they’re stressed and what they can do about it. I’ve seen really great results for them and getting really good feedback

[00:14:21] Al: in that area. So now we know what mindfulness is, we know there is some science behind it, let’s just explore how we can use mindfulness in our daily lives to build our mental fitness.

[00:14:32] Al: Well let’s be honest, our patience levels this Christmas. Dr Audrey explains that our first step is to be mindful of our window of tolerance.

[00:14:42] Dr Audrey Tang: To borrow a term from trauma research, and it is known as the window of tolerance and We all have a different window. That window is the amount of optimal stimulation or arousal that we can deal with before it becomes too much or too little.

[00:15:01] Dr Audrey Tang: And for many of us, it’s relatively. standard. It’s okay. It’s quite broad. But if we’ve been through horrible experiences, traumatic experiences, and this can include things like being schooled during the pandemic, being at university or starting a new job during the pandemic can be recent experiences as well as childhood, childhood experiences.

[00:15:28] Dr Audrey Tang: That window can shrink because if you’re always If you’ve been through a traumatic time, you can always just be looking for the next thing to happen to you. Whereas if you haven’t been through that, then you’re actually more able to cope with with what’s going on. So what I would say to people is if you notice that you are immediately irritable or you’re behaving out of character in some way, Then take a step back and ask yourself what what might be going on here so that window of tolerance can broaden.

[00:16:05] Dr Audrey Tang: It can get smaller depending on what’s been going on. But if we are reacting very, very quickly to either over or under stimulation, uh, then. We probably need to take a moment to think about what’s happening. So

[00:16:19] Leanne: what happens when our window of tolerance is closing? What if it’s Christmas Day, Uncle Kevin has had too many shurries, the turkey is burnt, the house is a mess, and I just want to cry?

[00:16:30] Leanne: What do I do, Dr.

[00:16:31] Dr Audrey Tang: Audrey? Well There’s things you can do at the point of crisis. And the first thing is just take some time to yourself. If you want to cry, cry. What we have a tendency to do is push away negative emotions. Because if we think back perhaps to growing up, often we’ll be told as children, calm down, inside voice, put your big girl pants on, grow up, all of those sorts of things which tend to impress upon us because these are our role models.

[00:16:58] Dr Audrey Tang: These are our caregivers telling us to do this. And we Negative emotions or big emotions are therefore wrong, and that can be really problematic because when we start feeling those emotions, we then that in a narrative says to us, don’t don’t feel them, just just suppress them a little bit like Elsa in Frozen, and there’s a lot to say about that particular message.

[00:17:22] Dr Audrey Tang: But if we’re suppressing them all the time, then they’re going to come out somewhere. And actually, there’s no reason to suppress them because emotions are simply there to just give us messages. If we feel like crying, something is clearly wrong. So first we’ll cry, find that balance again, find that state of, as Martin Seligman would say, emptiness, but I would say neutrality.

[00:17:44] Dr Audrey Tang: And from that state of neutrality, it’s a better place to then decide, right, what can I do next? The reason I like the use of the term neutrality is from dialectic behavior therapy. They talk about how emotion, we’ve got an emotional mind, which can be very positive emotion, joyful, very excited, and very negative emotion.

[00:18:04] Dr Audrey Tang: But either way, both can tip us off balance. Um, Maria Konnikova calls that tilt. Uh, but there’s also the logical mind, which is reason, and this is what we ought to do, and the consequences, and all of those things. But actually, DBT, dialectic behavior therapy, says we need to bring it together and live in a place known as the wise mind.

[00:18:21] Dr Audrey Tang: So that more balanced emotion, more balanced logic brings us that wisdom from which we can move forward and make healthier decisions. So if you need to cry, cry, that’s the first thing. And with

[00:18:33] Al: Christmas not quite here, what can we actually do to prepare ourselves for this onslaught?

[00:18:38] Dr Audrey Tang: Christmas comes but once a year with all its expectations.

[00:18:42] Dr Audrey Tang: But it comes every year. And if you know your uncle’s going to have too many sherries, you can plan for that. So we need to also take some power back where we can. We’re not necessarily going to have to react the whole time. If we can predict something, we can be aware and we forward plan. It’s the same thing in the workplace.

[00:19:03] Dr Audrey Tang: We can forward plan for our Christmas as well. Absolutely. You cannot control what somebody else can do. What you have control and power with is your response to it. And if you have trapped yourself into that feeling of, well, that’s my job. I just have to put up with it. Who is telling you that? Where is that narrative come from?

[00:19:26] Dr Audrey Tang: Because no one is. Holding you down and say you have to put up with it unless they are in which case that’s a very different Conversation to have because we can go into narcissistic parents We can go into all of those other behaviors, but it’s it’s not necessarily appropriate for this particular podcast But if that’s just an inner narrative that you have in your own head, you may need to ask the question What do I think?

[00:19:48] Dr Audrey Tang: And what? What no longer serves me anymore. We could be reacting in ways that have served us well and have been strategies when we were very young. Maybe we were always solving the problem. Maybe we were always having to cover up or fix things now as adults. Perhaps that role has changed or has minimized or differed in some way.

[00:20:13] Dr Audrey Tang: And therefore, when we’re back with our families in almost, we revert back to our younger selves. Um, it’s known by Charles Cooley as the looking glass self. We react as other people almost expect us to. We might need to remind ourselves that things have changed and we’re no longer there. I have a lovely affirmation that people can use.

[00:20:34] Dr Audrey Tang: And that is, I’m a problem solver. I’m not the solution. And if we’ve learned to become the solution, if we’ve learned to be the fixer, if we are therefore a people pleaser, perhaps we might also suffer from the imposter syndrome, that’s a really nice affirmation to remind ourselves that we’re there to help, but we’re not there to be the solution for everybody.

[00:20:54] Dr Audrey Tang: And if we, if we remind ourselves of that, we might actually. also remember that we need to replenish our own energy tank to be helpful in doing that. Hold

[00:21:04] Al: on a freaking moment. We’re talking about here are affirmations. Now I was a big fan of Tony Robbins. And so I did some affirmations when I was bankrupt and had no money and no food.

[00:21:15] Al: But nowadays I’m a bit like, Oh, is it work? I can see there are two types of listening. We’ve got here. Some people are going, yeah, affirmations. Love them. Use them. Look at myself in the mirror. You’re a tiger kind of thing. But although it’s going, what a load of blocks, I think, which is the technical term.

[00:21:32] Al: So we put

[00:21:32] Dr Audrey Tang: this Dr. Audrey. I’m not okay with the spiritual. Side of it. I have written a book on mindfulness, but I use affirmations in a slightly different way for me. I use them as part of deep breathing practice in that, for example, if you breathe in and then say the affirmation in one breath that slows your breathing down.

[00:21:52] Dr Audrey Tang: So, for example, you breathe in through the nose and then you say, I’m not a I am a problem solver. I’m not the solution. So that works quite nicely, and if you do that a few times, that ritual of breathing in and then saying the affirmation, that helps to slow our, it helps engage our parasympathetic nervous system.

[00:22:12] Dr Audrey Tang: However, affirmations are positive statements. that we say to ourself. Maybe they give us confidence. It might be the fake it till you make it. It might be things that we need to remind ourselves of, and there’s a school of thought where if you say these enough times, you begin to prime your mind to think in that particular way.

[00:22:33] Dr Audrey Tang: And there is some truth to that. The mind is, um, there’s a neuroplasticity of the mind, which means that we do focus on it. on what we think about, what we tell ourselves, what, what goes in. I have slightly different affirmations, uh, and I totally understand. And so if you will indulge me, I will give you the exercise that I would use.

[00:22:57] Dr Audrey Tang: Even when, even when my clients are, because I don’t know whether, I, I deliver to large groups. I don’t know whether people hate them or not. Some of them will love them, some of them won’t, but this is what I’ll ask them to do. I’m going to ask you to follow this ball whilst I do it. So if you breathe in through the nose, and then as you breathe out, let’s try an affirmation such as, I can face any challenges that come my way.

[00:23:17] Dr Audrey Tang: That’s a more classic one, breathing in through the nose. And again, out through the mouth, I can face any challenges that come my way. And we do this a few times. And. I know some people will love it, and we do a few different affirmations, and some people absolutely hate it. However, for the people who absolutely hate it, the question I would like to ask you is, where was your mind going?

[00:23:38] Dr Audrey Tang: If you hated it, that’s absolutely fine, but where was your mind taking you? Was it taking you to a judgment or a critical thought? Oh, that’s so awful. She’s awful. Why am I doing this? Critical thoughts and judgments aren’t necessarily helpful. But what that will do is that will give us an insight to what our brain is doing, or it might be, were you thinking about that work email that you have to send, or that dissertation you have to write.

[00:24:05] Dr Audrey Tang: If you can thought catch, even if you don’t like the affirmation itself, if you can catch what you were thinking at that particular time, you’ve already gained an insight into where your thoughts are going. If you know where your thoughts are going, what is then happening is you know where your energy is going.

[00:24:20] Dr Audrey Tang: And if it’s going into something that you cannot actually physically, practically solve or do anything about, that’s where a lot of wasted energy can go. We only have 24 hours in a day. Of those 24 hours, we have about six really good energetic hours. Before we exhaust ourselves, we do have quite a limited store of energy.

[00:24:41] Dr Audrey Tang: So if you become aware of that, that can be really helpful. But for those who love affirmations, you’ve just enjoyed the affirmations and that’s wonderful. You’ve gone straight into it. And that’s great because what that also means for you is that by being able to calm our mind, At the point of crisis, not only does it provide a bit of a buffer, so we can actually withstand a lot more, we can be a lot more tolerant of what’s going on around us, but we can also reduce our cortisol level, the stress hormone, a lot faster, because that deep breathing and the use of affirmations has been found to be useful for that particular.

[00:25:15] Dr Audrey Tang: Mindfulness

[00:25:16] Leanne: is a practice and it’s that it’s most effective when we can integrate it seamlessly into our day to day life. I asked Sean, is there anything we can do for just a few minutes a day that will make a difference?

[00:25:27] Sean Tolram, HSBC: So I like to make mindfulness very accessible for anyone, whoever they are, um, however much time they have, whatever their beliefs.

[00:25:36] Sean Tolram, HSBC: So, um, if, if a couple of minutes a week works for you, then that’s a great place to start. And you can, there are various techniques that you can use. There’s breathing techniques, there’s body scans, there’s all sorts of things. We can do one right now, Leanne. So if you just place your attention on your shoulders.

[00:25:54] Sean Tolram, HSBC: And just notice how, how they are, you know, are they tense? Are they relaxed? How are they? And if, if they are a bit tense, do you want to do anything about it? Do you feel like relaxing them? You don’t have to, cause there’s no judgment, but it’s just that awareness and noticing, okay, some, maybe something’s going on and maybe I want to make a decision about it.

[00:26:14] Sean Tolram, HSBC: And we’ve just done a mindfulness practice together. So it can be as simple as that. Um, what we normally recommend for people who want to really get started and investigate this is, um, starting with about 10 minutes a day. For most people, the morning works well because you’ve got a bit of time. So as you get up out of bed and your feet hit the floor, maybe that’s a trigger to do 10 minutes of mindfulness.

[00:26:36] Sean Tolram, HSBC: And, um, you, there, there’s many apps out there that you can use, or you can just sit and connect with your breath. Or you can do, you know, the exercise we just did with your shoulders, but you can expand that to the whole body, various things you can do, just Google it, get on YouTube, find a 10 minute practice, and then just, just have that awareness of how it’s.

[00:26:57] Sean Tolram, HSBC: Effected you and what benefits you’re seeing think of it, as we were saying before, as a skill to be developed. So just doing one isn’t going to make a profound difference. It actually, for some people, it won’t go well. Or they’ll think that it hasn’t gone well, because if you have a busy mind, it can be very difficult to focus on your breath.

[00:27:20] Sean Tolram, HSBC: And the key is to not see that as a bad thing, because with mindfulness, there’s no good and bad. It’s that’s information that tells you something. Okay. I got up and I had a really busy mind. It was so busy that I couldn’t focus on my breath. So what’s that telling me? Then you can start to investigate. Um, which starts to get you out of that autopilot because you’re noticing how you are, and you’re then able to make decisions based on how you want to respond to that.

[00:27:46] Al: Mindfulness is not about lying in a dark room and meditating. Sean says you can actually do it anywhere and that actually it can be more effective if you do it, especially in the workplace.

[00:27:56] Sean Tolram, HSBC: It’s a common misconception that you have to go away. into a dark room somewhere and do half an hour of meditation.

[00:28:04] Sean Tolram, HSBC: Um, now for many people that works wonders, but mindfulness can be done anytime, any place. So you could do it when you’re stuck in traffic and you’re sitting there swearing to yourself. You could do it when someone jumps in front of you in the coffee queue. You can do it when you’re in a meeting and someone says something that has triggered you.

[00:28:22] Sean Tolram, HSBC: And you feel that instinctive reaction to snap back, because your brain has sensed danger, it’s put you into fight or flight mode, and you’re having the same reactions as if you’re trying to fight off a wild animal. Except, when you’re in the boardroom, you can’t start a fight, you can’t kill someone. So, it’s, it’s being able to recognize that, okay, that’s what my primitive brain is telling me to do, but I’m gonna make a decision and just pause, take a breath and use a different part of my brain so that I can respond in a different way.

[00:28:54] Sean Tolram, HSBC: So yeah, for me, it’s something that I do very much in the moment when I need it, but that comes with practice. It’s the practice that’s important because like everything, the more you practice, the easier and more automatic it becomes. So eventually you hardwire, um, that, that practice in your brain, and it becomes just part of who you are and the way that you go about your

[00:29:19] Al: life.

[00:29:20] Al: You might not be able to start a fight in the boardroom, but you probably certainly can have a go at it. in the living room with your relatives. This may sound a little optimistic if your home life is super, super stressful and even more stressful than your work life. You might be dreading the holiday season.

[00:29:37] Al: So how can you control yourself in the moment when we’ve actually been triggered? Sean offers some fantastic

[00:29:44] Sean Tolram, HSBC: advice. It’s definitely not easy because we’re going against our natural instincts. We’ve been designed to defend our territory, to snap back when we feel danger. So, and, you know, this has come from thousands, millions of years of evolution.

[00:29:58] Sean Tolram, HSBC: This is how we ended up here. So we’re now saying, okay, you need to try and resist those instinctive reactions that are within your DNA and do something different. And, you know, I had one the other day where someone sent an email to me. Sort of, sort of complaining about something that I’d done, and copying in lots of people.

[00:30:18] Sean Tolram, HSBC: I’m sure many of us have been there. Um, and straight away I started typing back, and you know, trying to justify what I did, and, and It wasn’t in, when I read it back, it wasn’t in the way that I would normally speak. Luckily, I was able to stop myself before I hit send and I just deleted it. But again, it’s something that comes with practice.

[00:30:41] Sean Tolram, HSBC: And if you find that you aren’t able to do it, if it doesn’t work, don’t beat yourself up because it’s a very difficult skill that we’re trying to learn here. And. In order to do it, like, when you’re in the moment to answer your question, breathing really helps. If, if you can work on creating a habit where you recognize where you’ve been triggered, when that happens You’re able to just pause and breathe a couple of times before you respond.

[00:31:14] Sean Tolram, HSBC: So it’s being able to create that gap so that you’re not responding so that you’re not reacting rather in instantly. And you’re able to pause and respond, but that takes practice and it takes many failed attempts. And each time you might find that you get better and better and you’re, you’re able to create that gap a bit more easily.

[00:31:38] Sean Tolram, HSBC: So it’s just being conscious and being aware really, um, and trying as much as possible to take that pause when you’ve been triggered. But there’s, there’s, yeah, there’s no easy, easy solution or techniques. It’s a very, very difficult thing

[00:31:51] Leanne: to do. Be kind to yourself, listener, and to others. There is a chance that some of your actions and behaviors are triggering to other people.

[00:32:01] Leanne: Mindfulness at its core is about being present and choosing where to focus your attention. As Dr. Audrey explains, choosing to focus on just one thing or person in that moment is a powerful way to practice mindfulness.

[00:32:16] Dr Audrey Tang: Let’s let’s just give the example of what we might do when somebody asks or you ask somebody How are you you might be?

[00:32:25] Dr Audrey Tang: Oh, yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Okay. You’re you’re you’re good. Are you so how was work? Yeah, that’s We call it multitasking. Actually, it’s a thumping. If we’ve got our phone out and we’re trying to write that email at the same time as listening to the person we just asked the question to. The second thing is we become really good at what we practice.

[00:32:41] Dr Audrey Tang: And if we’re practicing being distracted or multitasking, it’s not multitasking. It’s attention splitting. Then All of those things that we’re trying to do, all of those cognitive tasks that we’re trying to do, have a conversation, write an email, listen to the TV at the same time. That only gets part our attention, so we learn to focus.

[00:33:05] Dr Audrey Tang: Even if we just focus for the minute that we’re doing that task, or the minute that we’re having that conversation, what we’ll actually find is we’ll get better at that moment, so we don’t need to redo it. And actually, the people we’re interacting with feel better as well. So there are extra benefits of just focusing a tiny bit more.

[00:33:27] Al: What fantastic advice. By focusing on that person, that conversation, we can also make the person we’re interacting with feel a little bit

[00:33:36] Leanne: better. Yeah. It reminds me of that famous Charles Dickens quote speaking at Christmas. No, not but hump. No,

[00:33:45] Al: you shall have a Christmas. Tiny Tim. Well, I’m only going for the Muppets.

[00:33:51] Al: I’ve not actually read the Dickens one. I just had the Muppets one. Merry Christmas. Everyone Merry

[00:33:57] Leanne: Christmas. Yeah, yeah, yeah. No, the one I was thinking of Al Charles Dickens said that no one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of others.

[00:34:05] Al: Oh, nice. And on that note, it is the end of the episode and part one of this special series.

[00:34:12] Al: Two part series. We’re back next week with Dr. Audrey and Sean Tolram, a third surprise special guest to talk more about staying mentally well. Are we, are we, do we, do we disclose it now or leave it till next week?

[00:34:24] Leanne: I think we should. I think people might be inclined to To subscribe and tune in next week, we will also be joined, Dr.

[00:34:31] Leanne: Audrey will be back, Sean Tolran will be back. We will also be joined by the awesome Stuart Sandiman, BBC Radio One DJ and host of the Decompression Sessions. He is also a Sunday Times bestseller for his book, Breathe In, Breathe Out, and the founder of BreathePod, which we will tell you more about next week.

[00:34:49] Leanne: So

[00:34:50] Al: hopefully that has helped a little bit more to come next week. If you’re not subscribed, click subscribe. Join 50, 000 other people who listen to our pod each month and hopefully it helps them a little bit. Um, and, um, yeah, I think that’s it really. If you want to continue the discussion, then you know we’re always on LinkedIn.

[00:35:06] Al: Always search for Leanne or me. If you, if you message me, I’ll be honest, I won’t, I won’t reply for about three weeks because I never check in, but Leanne’s on every single day. You probably have a proper discussion with him.

[00:35:15] Leanne: I am. Thank you very much to our awesome guests, Dr. Audrey and Sean Toliver from HSBC.

[00:35:21] Leanne: We’ll be back next week. We’ll see you then.

[00:35:23] Leanne: Bye bye.

[00:35:32] Leanne: For his book, Breathe In, Breathe Out. Breathe, breathe.

[00:35:36] Al: Breathe, breathe

[00:35:37] Leanne: in, breathe out. You

[00:35:39] Leanne: slay. You slay.

[00:35:41] Al: Careful Gov, he’s got a shooter.

[00:35:45] Leanne: They are also some of my personal favourites, a true psychology icon. And

[00:35:52] Al: with Christmas still not quite here, depending when you listen to this Christmas, just not quite.

[00:36:03] Al: That’s why I fucked it. Face

[00:36:08] Al: Mindfulness is not about lying in a dark room and meditating and saying, mm, it should be ohm, shouldn’t it? ,

[00:36:18] Leanne: do that bit again.

[00:36:20] Al: Mm.

[00:36:28] Al: This is not, we don’t do this for us. Well, we do it for us because we’re egotistical, but we do it and we like you’re. I, I, I sometimes go to sleep listening to listen to that podcast. I probably shouldn’t admit that. Um, but I might do all that bit again.

Like this?

Join 112,000 listeners every month who get expert insights on building amazing workplace cultures!


💬 Want a chat about your workplace culture?

📣 Got feedback/questions/guest suggestions? Email

👍 Like this kinda stuff? Click here to subscribe…