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Why I wrote A Mind for Business

A Mind for Business by Andy GibsonAs many readers will know, my book, A Mind for Business, is out now published by Pearson, and I wanted to give a little background as to why I wrote it, and how it relates to our work here at Mindapples.

That’s because, in addition to the obvious commercial reasons for writing it, this book is actually rather important to me. Though my background over the past decade has been more in innovation and social change than the study of how our minds work, this subject has fascinated me more and more over the years, and has become the core of both the Mindapples campaign and the changes I now hope to see in the world.

Put simply, my argument behind this book is as follows: I believe society today is operating with a surprisingly primitive and inaccurate model of how our minds work, and this is causing us a lot of problems. (This is true of the UK in my specific experience, but I strongly suspect my argument will apply elsewhere too.)

We have quite a good understanding of our bodies these days, but our minds are still, for the most part, the province of myth and hearsay, from throwaway comments about ‘brain chemistry’ to films about using 100 per cent of our brains. These myths are often found in pub conversations and pop culture, but they also seep into our everyday language to affect every aspect of how we live and work – from job interviews to GP visits, law courts to public policy.

Some of these misconceptions – such as the economic assumption of independent, rational choices – are being challenged, but many more – the faith in eye-witness testimony for example, or the persistence of ‘left- and right- brain thinking’ – persist, influencing our choices and shaping our lives.

These beliefs interfere with our ability to work effectively and manage people properly. They prevent us from realising our strengths and forgiving ourselves our weaknesses. They prevent us from understanding each other, and affect our organisations and our relationships.

If we are going to build the society we want, we are going to need a much more accurate understanding of our minds than this. The closest term for for this in modern psychology is mentalisation – the ability to accurately assess what is happening in your mind, or in someone else’s mind, and relate that to behaviour. Our ability to understand our own mind and the minds of people around us directly affects the quality of our life and work – and more importantly, it is a skill which can be taught and learnt.

So my purpose in writing this book is to dispel the old, inaccurate views of our minds, and replace them with models that work better. By presenting an overview of the most robust, evidence-based theories of mind currently on offer, I hope to help us all understand ourselves and each other better, to work smarter, feel calmer, and get along better. The findings collected have certainly helped me, my colleagues here at Mindapples, and the participants in our training sessions, and I hope through the book they will help us collectively as a society too.

Models are never perfect of course, and they are rarely finished. We are a long way from being able to make perfect predictions about human behaviour, and perhaps we should be grateful for that. But we all need models, and we use them unavoidably and habitually to make thousands of assumptions about ourselves and others every day – and so I think we should try to make our assumptions as accurate and useful as possible.

I hope this book, like the Mindapples training that inspired it, can contribute to this ongoing process of making sense of our humanity, and help us all to harness our minds more effectively and sustainably.

A Mind for Business is out now, published by Pearson.

Announcing A Mind for Business

A Mind for Business, by Andy GibsonDear friends of Mindapples,

I’m very excited to announce the impending arrival of our new book, A Mind for Business, to be published in February 2015 by Pearson.

The book has been two years in development and is based on our successful training programmes which are now used by some of the biggest names in global business such as Bupa, L’Oreal, News International and the Wellcome Trust. Drawing on the latest insights from neuroscience and psychology, this is a practical, evidence-based guide for anyone who wants to improve their career or feel better at work.

The book covers everything you need to know about making the most of your mind at work. From decision-making to stress management, influencing skills to creativity, this is an essential guide to how our minds work and how to harness our skills effectively. We’re really grateful to all the people who have helped with the book development, and particularly to our former researcher Ruta Marcinkus, and of course my business partner Esther King, who have been at the heart of all this for many years. Thanks are also due to Owen Tozer for his excellent illustrations, and to Dr Alex Fradera, Dr Natalie Banner and Dr Sam Spedding for their insights into the content.

The book is available on Amazon and also in all good UK bookshops, so please get your copy now, spread the word, and let’s help make it a big success. We’re very proud of what we’ve achieved with this piece of work, and we really hope people will find it useful too.

Best wishes,

Andy Gibson, Head Gardener

A Gift to our Gardeners: Mindapples Impact Report 2014

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IMPACT OVERVIEW

This year we’ve grown shoots and leaves as an organisation, gaining public recognition and deepening our conversations about what public mental health means to people and organisations.

We’ve been growing mindapples amongst students, bankers, festivalgoers and funders to reach a cross-section of minds from all around the country, reaching 33,183 people through our training programmes, Moodbug mobile app and ongoing ‘5-a-day for your mind’ campaign for better public mental health.

HEADLINES (HO HO)

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CHANGING MINDS

Together with our clients and partners, we’ve harvested 31,350 applecards this year, planting 165,750 mindapples suggestions in heads across the UK. Young Minds were our biggest gardeners in 2014, using thousands of mindapple cards in their excellent work with young people all around the country.

Mindapples trees have sprung up in hospitals, research centres, trade union branches, investment banks, youth groups, local councils and schools, with universities remaining the most consistent mind-gardeners, followed by employers in financial services and local government.

TRAINING MINDS

We’ve trained 2806 people this year on how to manage their minds in healthier and more proactive ways. In ten bit-sized modules, our training cover every aspect of smart, sustainable mental performance, from understanding personality to the secrets of motivation.

We’ve got all sorts of people talking about their minds – from student nurses to senior leaders in investment banks – and delivered training to field leaders in biomedical research, banking, technology, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals and journalism, amongst others.

Handle Pressure was our most popular module this year, helping businesses tackle the rising stress levels in UK workplaces in which mental illness now accounts for 70 million sick days a year.

We’ve had fantastic feedback on our training across a whole range of workplaces:

  • “It really helped me understand when and how I work best” (corporate participant, financial services)
  • “It’s really improved my relationship with my manager, and helped me enjoy my work” (corporate participant, financial services)
  • “It’s like being in a TED talk.” (public sector participant)
  • “Mindapples has sorted out my golf swing!” (corporate participant, financial services)

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GROWING CONVERSATIONS

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We’ve seen a growing interest in our work from the public health and policy community this year. Mindapples trees are now being used by Public Health England to promote mental health and wellbeing in local communities, and the UK’s Chief Medical Officer cited Andy, Mindapples’ Head Gardener, in the acknowledgements of her recent report on public mental health. It just goes to show the strides we’re taking towards more open conversations about the health of our minds. Hooray!

Thank you to everyone who’s shared their mindapples with us this year or begun a fresh conversation about healthy minds. Here are a few golden apples we wanted to share:

GOLDENAPPLES

2014 HIGHLIGHTS

SHARE YOUR MOOD, BUG YOUR FRIENDS

MOODBUG

Mindapples’ first mobile app, Moodbug, was released in June and has been growing in popularity, showing it is possible to use digital tools to create more open conversations about our minds.

Funded by Innovation Labs and designed in workshops with young people, the app aims to be fun and simple to use, and makes it easy to share your moods in more meaningful ways with people you care about. Moodbug was a finalist in the UK App & Mobile Awards 2014.

Download it free for iPhone now at www.moodbug.me.

A MIND FOR BUSINESS

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Our Head Gardener Andy Gibson’s new book, A Mind for Business, will be published by Pearson in February 2015, sharing our training content with general audiences for the first time.

Pearson will be making it their Book of the Month and promoting it across the UK, so look out for it in all good bookshops. Very exciting!

Pre-order your copy now at http://mindap.pl/mindforbusiness.

PUTTING OUR TRAINING TO THE TEST

trainingmindWe’ve launched two pilot training programmes this year, in collaboration with a research team at the University of York, to trial our content with users of mental health services via NSUN, and nursing and social care students at London South Bank University.

Both pilots have shown fantastic initial responses, with the University of York finding statistically significant improvements in participants’ knowledge about mental effectiveness and ability to deal with stress.

Here’s a slice of the feedback we’ve had so far:

  • “It was informative as well as interactive, and I liked that it used scientific studies to illustrate key concepts. I found it inspiring.”
  • “Awesome like a crunchy apple”
  • “I’ve learnt more in the last 90 minutes here than I have in twenty years of therapy and personal development.”

HELP US GROW

If you believe in what we’re doing, there are a few ways you can help.

  1. Run a mindapples event near you using our trees and toolkits, and spread more positive conversations about public mental health. mindapples.org/shop
  2. Hire us into your organisation to teach your colleagues how to get the best from their minds and promote mentally healthy working. mindapples.org/business
  3. Help us reach more people by funding us to run more campaigns, free events and training programmes for people who need us. mindapples.org/about/project

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Thanks for all your support in 2014, and here’s to more growth and healthier minds in 2015.

The Mindapples Gardeners

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Love at a distance with Moodbug

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http://moodbug.me/

“I could never do a long-distance relationship” your sixth form self once stated. Now at university you find yourself planning your weekend activities around your significant other’s visit and hopelessly pining after them whilst watching Netflix in bed after a day of lectures. Well you’re not alone, nearly a third of people who claim they are in long-distance relationships are at university.

With assignments and revision, lectures, socials, living, cleaning and uni life in general, it can be difficult to make time for your beau and let’s face it, those phone calls until 5am aren’t doing your sleep patterns any favours, (yes I’m talking to those of you who get up at one in the afternoon).

With our new app Moodbug you can click a button to ‘nudge’ your lover and the app will ask them how they are feeling. You don’t even have to spend those 10 seconds typing and sending a message, just click the button and the app does the rest. I think we can all agree “How are you feeling?” is much nicer to receive than “U OK? “. When your sweetheart has time they can update their mood and let you know how they are feeling and what’s going on.

And that’s not all, oh no, there’s more. You can send virtual gifts to your beloved, these range from a virtual high-five to virtual cocktail and let me tell you receiving a surprise virtual hug from my better half makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside even if my train is delayed by two hours and I’m stuck outside in the cold. They say it’s the littlest things that make a big difference and when I see my screen glow with a notification from Moodbug I instantly smile, just knowing the one I love is thinking about me.

Download here -http://moodbug.me/

Phobia of cockroaches ? Serious game could help

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Cockroaches; if the mere mention of this word sets your body a quiver and your sweat glands into overdrive then you may have Katsaridaphobia – what the National Geographic calls the fear of cockroaches. But Imagine if you could play a game on your phone that could help you overcome your fear without a living cockroach in site. Tell me more you scream? Well I am about to do just that. Botella et al 2011 wanted to test serious gaming and phobias in their study and created a game named simply “Cockroach Game”.

The term “Serious Game” was first mentioned in 1970 by Clark Abt, obviously Clark didn’t know his Xbox from his PlayStation (because they didn’t exist) however he believed SG shouldn’t be for pure fun but serve an educational purpose. Serious gaming should serve to teach you something useful instead of just letting you mindlessly blast zombies and squealing with delight as your screen is splattered with zombie goo (unless of course there is a zombie apocalypse).

Over recent years there has been increased research into SG and health issues. Boland 2007 combined SG and mobile phones to teach obese children about healthy eating and physical exercise. Since 2007 mobile phone sales have continued to rise and you would be hard pressed now to find someone who doesn’t own one considering there are 6.8 billion mobile phone subscriptions worldwide. Fogg 2007 even stated “mobile phones will soon become the most important platform for changing human behaviour.“ and it looks like he may have been right.

Botella et al 2011 believed that because SG can change behaviour it may be useful to overcome phobias. Although there are a lot of games out there that incorporate fear inducing stimuli if the games are to be used in a clinical setting as part of therapy they need to meet strict conditions and thus Botella et al decided to create their own. The main objective of the game was to help the user to become familiar with the cockroach and so less scared to interact with it.

The Cockroach Game is a puzzle game in which there are two scenarios and two levels of difficulty. Firstly there is the screen option which shows the users different pictures of cockroaches on things such as shoes and hands. Now for the hardcore stuff, the second option is the camera option, this allows the user to see virtual cockroaches on real surfaces like their own hands or clothes. Think you could handle that? To complete the puzzle the user must kill the cockroach after interacting with it (this was a Spanish study and in Spanish culture killing a cockroach is the norm as they are considered dirty). But these are just virtual so no cockroaches were harmed in the making of this game. The user can also increase the size or amount of cockroaches and the new insects will appear in random places on the screen. Once the puzzle is complete the user will get a virtual “trophy”, woohoo.

In the study a 25 year old woman who had a huge fear of cockroaches was given the game to try before having Augmented Reality treatment. The results shows that by using the game the woman’s fear and avoidance of cockroaches reduced and she wanted to use the game during her AR treatment.

So would you play one of these games on your phone? It could be used for spiders, mice, wasps a whole range of phobias and having them so accessible could be extremely helpful.

Changing Minds

Feed your head

Today is World Mental Health Day 2014, a day when people all around the world work to raise awareness of the importance of mental health and preventing mental illness.

For those of us working to popularise mental health though, the focus of World Mental Health Day can be frustratingly negative, dominated by discussions of mental illness and defined more by the differences between us than the things that unite us. We need to talk about the problems, but we have to make the topic relevant for people first.

World Mental Health Day should be a chance to celebrate our minds and discuss what we need as a society. We should be debating the structural issues affecting everyone’s minds – from the stress levels in our workplaces to the facilities in our communities – and asking how our institutions and our society need to change to improve mental health for everyone.

Good mental health is a universal topic, and one of our most basic human needs. Mental health issues cost the UK £105bn per year according to recent Government figures, and affect people from all backgrounds. James Morris MP, Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Mental Health, once told me he believes mental health to be the single biggest policy challenge of the next thirty years. And yet we still have no official public mental health campaign in the UK.

The case for taking care of our minds is obvious though. So how can we tap into our natural desire to be healthy and successful, and use it to put mental health at the heart of our public consciousness?

STATE OF MIND

In 2013, Mindapples and the mental health charity, Mind, conducted a survey of national attitudes and behaviours around our minds. The results showed some surprising trends in public attitudes.

We certainly know our minds are important. 84 per cent of people we surveyed believed their mental health to be as important as their physical health. Yet we seem to do surprisingly little to look after ourselves. Despite saying their mental health is important, 52 per cent of our respondents said they had never thought about it before. We know our minds matter, but turning that into positive actions seems to be more of a struggle.

One problem is that the term ‘mental health’ has become so associated with illness. Many years of campaigning in this have shown us just how entrenched these associations have become. Whilst physical health is something to be proud of having, mental health is often seen as something to be avoided, only relevant for sick people rather than a universal goal. So we have no positive image to move towards, and we struggle to take action. Perhaps this is why 72 per cent of our respondents felt mental health and wellbeing issues were not discussed openly enough in society.

Another problem is that we know so little about our minds. We are bombarded with information about plaque on our teeth, germs on our hands and salt in our food, yet we are taught almost nothing about our minds. We don’t learn the concepts, and we don’t know what’s normal. The result is that our minds can feel shadowy and mysterious, something over which we have little control. So we tune out the messages, ignore our minds and focus on easier things like watching our waistlines or cutting down on sugar, and hope the experts will fix us if something goes wrong.

There is a growing public interest in the mind though, from neuroscience stories in the media to the growth of popular psychology. In fact, 72 per cent of our survey respondents said they would like to know more about looking after their mental health and wellbeing. When it comes to engaging people in thinking more about the health of their minds, we are pushing at an open door.

WE ALL HAVE MENTAL HEALTH

What we do really does make a difference. When it comes to mental health, we have a huge untapped opportunity to improve the health of our nation.

Basic physiological factors like sleep and hydration can have a big impact, whilst making time for “breathers” and “restorers” in our daily lives can help us maintain our mental wellbeing and prevent problems before they occur. Some Department of Health studies suggest that as much as 50 per cent of mental health issues are preventable. The message is clear: we need to take better care of ourselves.

Too often, though, these issues have got lost in discussions of softer subjects like happiness and wellbeing, making people reluctant to invest and taking the attention away from the basic ingredients of good mental health. We talk about reducing stigma, promoting wellbeing, increasing happiness – and mental health continues to miss out.

Mental health is far too important to be dismissed as a fad or a luxury. It is every bit as essential as watching our diet and washing our hands, and it needs to be treated in those terms. We need to encourage people to look after their minds, minimise the factors that can make people ill, get people help early, and help people recover quickly. As the Chief Medical Officer put it in her recent report, “This is ‘low-hanging fruit’; we must not ignore it, or focus instead on ‘well-being’”.

It’s time for a change. We all have mental health, and looking after our minds is a normal part of having a successful life. So, this World Mental Health Day, let’s work towards a general public understanding of what our minds need to thrive, and ask how we can improve our society to fit the needs of our minds, rather than the other way around.

TAKE ACTION

Here are three things you can do today to promote mental health:

  1. Talk about your mind. That doesn’t just mean talking about problems with your mind: talk about how you are feeling, how the world is affecting you mentally, and what your mind needs to thrive. The more we talk to each other, the more normal it becomes and the more we start to learn about ourselves and each other. Mindapples even has a free iPhone app, Moodbug, to make it easy to share your moods with people you trust. moodbug.me
  2. Learn about your mind. The more we know about something, the more we can do about it and the less daunting it feels. So take time to learn about your mind, from books like Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow and Daniel & Jason Freeman’s Use Your Head, and websites like Mindhacks and Farnham Street. Here’s one of our introductory talks on the subject to get you started: http://mindap.pl/mindcognac
  3. Practise your mindapples. Sleep, water, nutrition, exercise and day-to-day general breathers and restorers can help keep your mind fresh and health through the day, so make time for your mind and help others do the same. You can share the 5-a-day for your mind and see what other people do here at mindapples.org

[An edited version of this post has also been published on Huffington Post.]

Fresh from the mind orchard Mindapples present….Moodbug!

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Leaving for university can be an emotional cocktail. A blend of excitement and freedom with a large dash of fear and as many a student will know, too many cocktails physical or emotional will leaving you feeling a little worse for wear.
Moodbug is a simple app available for iPhones that lets you share your mood with a personalized list of people from your phone contacts. From your family and friends back home to your new uni roommates you can share how you feel with whomever you choose. So whether you’ve just found a t-shirt stuffed at the bottom of your bag that smells like home and has turned you into a blubbering mess or you got a better mark in that assignment than you were expecting, a quick tap of the fingers and you can share what’s going on and how you feel.
With the whole living on your own/fending for yourself situation life can get more than a little hectic.A phone call or even a text can seem impossible however Moodbug allows you to view your friends and families moods in seconds and keep updated with their lives. It’s like a Facebook for feelings. Moodbug also allows you to send and receive free e-gifts to celebrate those highs and comfort those lows. So when you’ve got a long night of studying ahead receiving an e-hamburger from your mum might be just the thing you need.

The app is available free from the App Store at http://mindap.pl/moodbug

Read more at http://moodbug.me/