Expert Interview: Tara Healey

February 06 2018 / by Mari Ryan

Is mindfulness in the workplace just a passing fad? Why is it becoming so popular? Why now? In this expert interview with Tara Healey of Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, we explore why mindfulness is here to stay.


Interview with Tara Healey

Mari Ryan: Welcome, I'm Mari Ryan thanks for joining us today on this Well-being Expert Series part of our ongoing interviews with well-being experts to be able to bring you some fabulous resources and information to help you with your well-being program in your workplace.

My guest today is Tara Healy. Tara is the program director for mindfulness based learning at Harvard Pilgrim Health Care. In addition to holding a master's degree in health education and having over 20 years experience in organizational development, Tara's a long time practitioner of mindfulness meditation and is an advocate for the proven health benefits of meditation. She's been doing this for years, she was the original architect of Harvard Pilgrim’s innovative program that they've been doing for decades now it seems, adopting the principles of mindful meditation to a corporate environment. Tara welcome we are so delighted to have you here today.

Tara Healey: Thank you so much, I'm delighted to be here.

Mari Ryan: Great, well you know it's so interesting that Harvard Pilgrim, and you and your role there in a we're in an organizational development role I believe. You really pioneered this whole concept of mindfulness and mindfulness meditation in the workplace and of late you know we've had lot of interest by corporations in the concepts of mindfulness. I'm curious so why now? What's motivating organizations to want to bring mindfulness skills to their workforce into their organizations?

Tara Healey: Sure, so I think there's a few things sorry the thing that really jumps out at me why now is that the science is starting to legitimize this and you have people that are highly credible that are researching the impact of mindfulness on the body and on the brain. I think that in many ways mindfulness or meditation there's lots of misconceptions associated with history from the 60s, with you know ideas of what it is that usually are not. I mean most of the time there what I always say are misconceptions and but the science is really coming online in a way that I don't think any of us could have imagined, especially those of us that have been involved with bringing mindfulness into the workplace for a number of years. We didn't really have that legitimacy and yet it also took off in a really interesting way and I'm happy to talk a little bit about kind of how and why we started back in 2004. It wasn't popular back then it wasn't culturally popular and so it's really that has changed quite a bit. In fact, I think there are something like 4,000 peer-reviewed studies now. But in the 80s that we had like next to nothing less than 10. So it's since 2004 there's really been an explosion of research and money going toward research on the impact.

Mari Ryan: That's fabulous. It's great to have the science backing on this. So tell us what is the science saying and what from your experience having done this so early on and then early adopters of this at Harvard Pilgrim, what's the science saying and why is this so valuable to organizations and to their employees.

Tara Healey: Yeah, so one of the things that this practice offers people is a different way to relate to those things that create difficulty or strife in their life. It's not about stopping the things that happen but it's about learning to respond differently to those things that happen and to begin to understand patterns and habits of mind and thought and how quite powerful they are both in terms of leading us astray and you know leading us places that well. I mean in some of the simplest ways if you know if you're provoked by somebody at work and you lash out at them there's usually a bit of regret and often not a good outcome and makes working with others really challenging, but if we start to see provocation from another person or even work overload and how we're how we're processing that and we are able to kind of bring some sense of balance and it's not about being passive and just taking whatever comes but really learning how to skillfully manage the things that are entering our lives that are causing us some difficulty. You know how to have a conversation with a peer or a boss if there's things happening at work that that put you on overload that needs to be addressed so that that conversation is going in a direction that is positive because it's informed that your speech and your action is informed by this practice of being awake and aware and alert to what's going on within and around you.

Mari Ryan: So it sounds like it really helps us be able to respond to situations in a professional and appropriate manner instead of just reacting in those situations

Tara Healey: There's a phrase that's often used mindfulness, the more we practice the more it increases the gap between impulse and action.

Mari Ryan: So does the does the science and the research focus just on the benefits to the individual or do they actually talk about the benefits to the organization?

Tara Healey: Well both, in fact so I have good friends Chris Lyddy and Darren Good who did a really big project looking at a number of organizations that have been doing mindfulness and kind of cross-referencing what are some of the things that all of these organizations have seen. It is things like just decreased stress, increase in one's attentional capacity, increase in compassion, and these are things that are just invaluable at work.

Mari Ryan: Well, it sounds like there are a lot of benefits that an organization would reap over time, certainly happier healthier, better well-being for their workforce is going to lead to increased productivity, better decision making, better collegial interactions. So certainly consume lots and lots of benefits from that that's perfect.

Tara Healey: People can find us book by going to Harvard and on that site we have some guided meditations that are short we've got a three-minute meditation a 10-minute guided body scan and breath meditation and a 20-minute guided body scan and meditation.

Mari Ryan: Those are great resources and as I said I've got those downloaded and on my phone for any time I want to be able to so thank you for those that information and those additional resources this has been really helpful to have a perspective and from your obvious knowledge and experience and years of leading this in corporate settings as well as at Harvard Pilgrim Health Care. I want to thank you for taking the time to be here today and for sharing this important information with us thanks

Tara Healey: My pleasure.


[End of audio]

Topics: Worksite Wellness, Wellbeing, worksite wellbeing, workplace wellbeing, wellness, company leadership, ceo, c suite leadership, employee wellness, worksite well-being, mindfulness, productivity, meditation, mindfulness at work, meditation at work, Tara Healey, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care

Mari Ryan

Written by Mari Ryan

Mari Ryan is the CEO/founder of AdvancingWellness and is a recognized expert in the field of workplace well-being strategy.