Stress in the workplace contributes to poor physical and mental health, and the negativity associated with stress can affect your personal relationships, as well. Stress management techniques are helpful to avoid burnout and the health issues that stress causes. Meditation and mindfulness can help create a more peaceful office environment, and also allow for a more tranquil and fulfilling personal life.
Neuroscience has shown the effects of stress on the brain. The meaning of the word “stress” is not always clear, but it typically refers to life effects that have a negative impact on a person. A recent study found significant pathophysiological changes in rats impacted by chronic stress. A healthy brain requires the proper blood flow to maintain nutrients and oxygen. Stress may impair local blood flow, restricting the nutrients needed to support neuronal function. Even mild impairments can dramatically affect brain function.1
Now that we formally recognise stress is damaging to the brain (and our overall health), we can utilise the tools of science to find a solution. As technology advances, our understanding of neural processes is exponentially increasing. It’s expected by 2020 that there will be over 6 billion smartphones in use2, and devices such as these can be powerful resources for individuals seeking apps that teach mindfulness or meditation.
Mindfulness-based stress reduction and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy have been shown to mitigate the effects of stress and irritability. Novice meditators were either given an introductory mindfulness meditation course or an audiobook with an introduction to mindfulness and meditation, all delivered using a smartphone app. Both interventions reduced stress, but the mindfulness course also alleviated other symptoms such as irritability.
CREATE AN ATMOSPHERE CONDUCIVE TO HEALING
It is possible to create an office environment that helps decrease the effects of stress. Stress is inevitable in life, but we do not have to live under the yoke of it. Mindfulness and meditation can help you learn how to handle pressure, and how to focus on a more peaceful life.
Mindfulness means to observe your own thoughts and be present in the moment without judgment and to instead feel calm acceptance. Meditation is a mental exercise that allows you to amplify the gaps between your thoughts so you can experience a silent mind. Together, they can help reduce stress, improving conditions at work and likely at home, as well.
"The most precious gift we can offer others is our presence. When mindfulness embraces those we love, they will bloom like flowers."
Thich Nhat Hanh
LIFE IS TOO SHORT TO SPEND IT STRESSING OUT
Practising meditation and mindfulness can have wonderful benefits in any workplace. You’ll not only relieve stress but also:
- Bring back the balance between the heart and brain. Research by HeartMath found that slow, deep breaths allow the brain and heart to work together, regulating stress.4
- Make better choices and decisions. Another study found that just 15 minutes of focused-breathing meditation improved decision-making skills.5 The emotional state of an organisation seems to trickle down, meaning that dysfunction in leaders may be amplified. If leaders are making better choices, the positive effects will be more like a waterfall of good vibes, instead of a trickle of negativity.
Think more creatively. Meditation techniques can help drive innovation and creativity in leaders, and new research has shown that observation skills are critical for the creative process.6 When we are more present in the moment, we are better able to observe and process what is going on.
We are not the best version of ourselves when we are stressed out. Our health suffers, our performance suffers, and even our relationships may deteriorate. Do mindfulness and meditation belong in the workplace?
The answer is a resounding yes! The responsibilities of leadership should extend to fostering an office space that allows people to be present, cultivate new thoughts and ideas, and reflect on their progress to reduce stress and increase happiness.