Steeped in ancient traditions yet rising to light in modern day societies across the globe, mindfulness has garnered plenty of attention in recent decades. Understood to be an effective practice in helping to manage a range of human challenges, like stress, anxiety, and insomnia, mindfulness is worth taking a look at where human wellbeing has room for growth.
While many people are beginning to practice mindfulness in their private lives to improve their sense of wellness, one of the major sources of stress for most is the workplace. Unfortunately, it’s a finding that’s growing. One study found that overall employee stress levels has risen by almost 20% in the last three decades. Perhaps it’s understandable then that interest in mindfulness is growing too.
Whether you’re an employee looking for ways to mindfully move through the work day or you’re in the role of managing the wellbeing of your team, exploring mindfulness is a wonderful way to begin enhancing balance and vitality. Not only are these practices suitable for reducing stress levels amongst employees, they offer a range of additional benefits to those in the workplace – and to the workplace itself.
Some of the benefits of mindfulness on the workplace and its employees include:
- Reduced stress and anxiety
Mindfulness practices like breath awareness, progressive muscle relaxation, and diaphragmatic breathing help to initiate the body’s parasympathetic nervous system by easing the ‘fight or flight’ response. As this happens, the experience of stress and anxiety are reduced and one’s sense of peace and contentment rise in its place. Lowered stress levels are associated with a cascade of additional benefits, such as improved immunity, lowered risk of cardiovascular disease, and reduced insomnia.
- Enhanced creativity
Mindfulness shifts the way we think, as well as the possibilities we perceive. One study found that after meditating (with attention focused on the breath) participants returned to a previously unsolved creative problem with a 40% improvement on the second attempt. This was in comparison to mind wandering, which showed no improvement on second trial. Mindfulness gives us that opportunity to step back – and to re-approach without the same assumptions we once held.
- Improved communication
Our interactions with others improve when we are more mindful of the way we communicate. Mindfulness of communication enhances our capacity to listen compassionately and non-judgmentally, as well as our ability to convey ourselves with kindness and confidence. This helps to clear the clutter that all too often leads to misunderstandings, conflict, and disharmony.
- Enhanced emotional awareness
Research has also observed that mindfulness can help to increase emotional awareness, which in turn helps us to better regulate our emotional experiences. As we mindfully witness the way thoughts and emotions flow through us, we learn to pause before reacting. This further helps to improve communication while also enhancing mental and emotional wellbeing of all those in the workplace.
- Increased adaptability
The circumstances of our lives are continually changing, and the workplace is no different. Mindfulness practice increases adaptability – of both employees and employers – enhancing one’s ability to calmly navigate any changes that arise. When we are thoughtfully tuned into our inner and outer environment, we’re better able to address changes and challenges in creative and thoughtful ways. This enhances peace, ease, and self-confidence as we trust ourselves and our team to weather the storm.
- Improved focus
Studies have also highlighted that mindfulness exploration is valuable in work settings as it helps to enhance focus and attention. More specifically, it was found that mindfulness improves three qualities of attention – stability, control, and efficiency. Through mindfulness practice, we become more aware of the multitude of thoughts moving through the mind at any given moment. This leaves us in a better position to sift through them and hone in on what is most important.
- Reduced sickness
Providing employees with the tools to more mindfully manage their work lives may be of benefit in reducing sickness, and perhaps absenteeism as well. Since mindfulness is associated with reduced stress levels and therefore improved immunity and sleep quality, it can be reasoned that when adopted routinely, mindfulness could help to keep employees well and at work.
- Improved memory and executive functioning
Last but not least, research suggests that mindfulness practice can also improve working memory and enhance executive functioning. This might lead to better goal setting, better prioritization, and improved time management amongst employees. Not only does this improve flow in the workplace but it also leaves employees feeling confident in their contributions.
So in a multitude of ways, mindfulness helps to enhance personal wellbeing, which has a positive ripple effect on the organization. By exploring mindfulness exercises suitable for the workplace, both employees and the team as a whole find a greater sense of peace, confidence, and contentment. Together, we rise to help lower the trend of stress and unease in our work lives.