Article

How can mindfulness decrease stress?

Early studies also indicate that practicing mindfulness increases density and thickness in the brain, improving learning, cognition, and memory. So how mindfulness can become a handy tool for both employee and employer?

 

SUMMARY: The day has started just like any other, but you can already feel your heart racing as you walk through the office doors. Is the presentation you made up to scratch, you wonder. Will you need to stay back again after 5pm this afternoon? Wait, how many meetings were scheduled today? Oh no. Did you remember to answer that email from your boss or not?  

Whoa, slow down! You’ve only just made it to your desk and already your mind is filled with questions and anxiety about the work day ahead. But don’t worry- there’s one easy way you can stop those racing thoughts from holding you captive. And that’s to take a few minutes to yourself.  

It might sound counterintuitive to do this, but whenever you are feeling a little overwhelmed during your work day- whether it’s at the start, middle or end of the day- take a quick break to reboot your mind. In this blog post, we’re going to teach you how to do this using one easy trick- mindfulness. How? Read on. 

In this blog post you will learn: 

  • What is mindfulness? 
  • The different ways to practice mindfulness 
  • Why mindfulness should be included at work 
  • How mindfulness can help fight stress   
  • How you can implement mindfulness into your everyday life  
  • How to do a short visualization exercise

 So, what is mindfulness? 

“Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not be overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.” (1)

Usually, this is done by trying to reduce your thoughts and control your breathing. Sounds easy right? Well, in one way it is, because mindfulness is an ability that everyone can access with a little bit of insight. But to ensure you get the most out of the idea as well as the long-term benefits, it’s best to practice it on a regular basis. Even just five minutes a day will be beneficial.  

There are a number of different ways to practice mindfulness. It can be performed:  

  • sitting, standing, or moving around  
  • as short breaks inserted into everyday life  
  • or in combination with other activities, such as yoga and sports 

Bottom line: Mindfulness is the ability to stay in the moment and can be performed just about anywhere

Why should you practice mindfulness at work? 

Mindfulness is a handy tool for both employee and employer. It can help you to relax the mind, which can then offer you renewed energy. It has been proven to improve mental wellbeing and studies have also shown that when mindfulness is regularly practiced, employees feel less anxious and depressed and have fewer burnouts (2) (3). Early studies also indicate that practicing mindfulness increases density and thickness in the brain, improving learning, cognition and memory (4)(5). When mindfulness is paired with an active break, employees can also feel less stressed (2). 

The implementation of mindfulness can therefore improve the mental health of employees, which may then result in happier staff. It can even become a contributing factor to improved physiological wellbeing and quality of life. (6) Practicing mindfulness in the workplace can also have social benefits for the company. According to one study, mindfulness was shown to improve the team and organizational climate, as well as personal performance (7). 

Bottom line: Mindfulness at work has the potential to help to fight stress and anxiety.

Practice makes perfect 

As with anything in life, the more you do something the better you get at it. The same thing goes for mindfulness, and as we mentioned above, the positive effects of mindfulness is experienced if you practice it regularly. This is because the more you do it, the easier it is for you to learn how to observe your mindset, which then makes it easier to work with your worries or concerns. By observing your thoughts, you can look at them objectively, which can then help to ease your mind.

Mindfulness is therefore a useful and quick tool to help you recharge during your hectic working day. But you don’t need to limit it to when you’re just at work. It’s a great idea to use mindfulness exercises in your everyday life too! For example, you can choose to practice mindfulness while taking public transportation, at night before you go to sleep or first thing in the morning after waking up. They are all great examples of moments throughout the day you can start making mindfulness a habit. 

But how do you know when you should practice some mindfulness? One way to know when it’s time to take a quick break is when you start to take notice of the subtle signs your body is giving you. If you feel the urge for an extra cup of coffee, to check your phone, open your inbox again or you feel overwhelmed, you may need a mental break. So use that pause wisely and consider using a mindfulness exercise to help take back control.

As you gain more experience with mindfulness and start to build it into a habit, you may find that these small spaces in your everyday life can become vitally important. So spend those moments accepting that not everything can be controlled and that the situation you are in right now is okay as it is. We do not always have to move forward and achieve a lot. It is okay to take a break- and it is likely to keep you healthier in the long run!

Bottom line: Mindfulness is a great everyday tool, so consider building it into a habit to help you during moments of stress.

A short visualization exercise

Here’s a short visualization exercise to help you understand what mindfulness is all about.

  • Breathe deeply into your lungs for approximately 3 seconds
  • Hold your breath momentarily
  • Calmly exhale for approximately 3-5 seconds.
  • Repeat 3 times.
  • Now imagine you are standing in front of a forest
  • Imagine walking through the woods
  • Take note of and feel your senses on this mental walk

References

  • (1): Mindful Communications. What is Mindfulness? Mindful.org
    https://www.mindful.org/what-is-mindfulness/
  • (2): Janssen, M., Heerkens, Y., Kuijer, W., van der Heijden, B., & Engels, J. (2018). Effects of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction on employees’ mental health: A systematic review. PloS one, 13(1), e0191332. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0191332
  • (3): Hofmann, S. G., & Gómez, A. F. (2017). Mindfulness-Based Interventions for Anxiety and Depression. The Psychiatric clinics of North America, 40(4), 739–749. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.psc.2017.08.008
  • (4) Hölzel, B. K., Carmody, J., Vangel, M., Congleton, C., Yerramsetti, S. M., Gard, T., & Lazar, S. W. (2011). Mindfulness practice leads to increases in regional brain gray matter density. Psychiatry research, 191(1), 36–43. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pscychresns.2010.08.006
  • (5) Lazar, S. W., Kerr, C. E., Wasserman, R. H., Gray, J. R., Greve, D. N., Treadway, M. T., McGarvey, M., Quinn, B. T., Dusek, J. A., Benson, H., Rauch, S. L., Moore, C. I., & Fischl, B. (2005). Meditation experience is associated with increased cortical thickness. Neuroreport, 16(17), 1893–1897. https://doi.org/10.1097/01.wnr.0000186598.66243.19
  • (6): Greeson, J. M., & Chin, G. R. (2019). Mindfulness and physical disease: a concise review. Current opinion in psychology, 28, 204–210. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.copsyc.2018.12.014
  • (7): Kersemaekers W, Rupprecht S, Wittmann M, Tamdjidi C, Falke P, Donders R, Speckens A and Kohls N (2018) A Workplace Mindfulness Intervention May Be Associated With Improved Psychological Well-Being and Productivity. A Preliminary Field Study in a Company Setting. Front. Psychol. 9:195. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2018.00195

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