What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is considered a therapeutic technique where an individual focuses on their awareness in the present moment. This includes acknowledging physical sensations, emotions and thoughts without judgment. It is non-striving, with an idea surrounding acceptance and letting go (Gowan, 2016). Mindfulness is often associated with a calm, centered feeling and is comparable to meditation. There are different forms of mindfulness that an individual can learn and practice, such as breathing exercises, yoga, body scans and progressive relaxation. The idea is to lose oneself in the moment and be rid of negative energy, relieving stress and anxiety symptoms. The practice of mindfulness has multiple benefits – from personal health to professional practice.
Stress and Mindfulness
The number one workforce risk issue is stress. Stress is the cause of absenteeism, presenteeism, lower productivity, labour turnover, conflict in the workplace and health costs (2016). Individuals with chronic stress are at high risk for multiple health conditions, including cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, depression, anxiety, obesity, musculoskeletal pain, fatigue and sleep disorders (2016). With all the risks associated with stress, it’s important for employees and employers to have a solution to stress. Mindfulness has proven to reduce perceived stress and increase emotional well-being in employees. Employees also reported that mindfulness resulted in improvements in burnout and professional efficacy. The results were also sustainable up to eight weeks after the end of intervention (2016). With all the benefits of being mindful, there’s incentive to starting practicing!
Ways to Practice Mindfulness
Anyone can practice mindfulness, and it can be done anywhere. The different varieties of mindfulness and flexibility of the practice allows for even the busiest of employees to have time to engage. Different levels of engagement work different for every individual, but even a little bit of mindfulness practice is better than none. Here are some examples of how to actively increase mindfulness:
- Body Scans – lay on a flat service, relax your body and note the sensations you feel throughout your entire body
- Breathing – can include just focusing on your breathing or breathing exercises, such as inhaling for four seconds, holding for four seconds, exhaling for four seconds and repeating
- Yoga – you can take a yoga class or practice on your own
- Walking – either power walking or walking slow, just noticing your surroundings as you walk
- Eating – noticing tastes and smells while you’re eating, noticing how it feels when you swallow, etc.
What Employers Should Know
The long-term and indirect effects of mindfulness in the workplace are vastly beneficial. Employees who practice being mindful are less stressed and healthier as a whole. This indirectly impacts the company:
- Less costs for employees being off work
- Higher productivity rates in employees
- Lower employee turnover rates
- Higher job satisfaction
It’s important for employers to educate their workers on the benefits of mindfulness (2016). The end result benefits everyone involved. Employers should discuss mindful exercises with their employees and give them suggestions, such as those above, to practice in and out of the workplace. Encourage mindful breaks throughout the work day, such as breathing exercises at the workstation or going for a mindful walk. There are lots of ways to implement mindfulness in the workplace.
If you’d like further education and information regarding mindfulness, check out our webinars! We have mindfulness webinars: The Benefits to the Worker and The Benefits to the Workplace, as well as Employee Resiliency Training webinars to assist employees in the workplace. For further mental health assistance, register for our February Mental Health and Return to Work Workshop! Participants will learn strategies to assist individuals with mental health concerns with returning to work and staying at work through sustainable solutions. Registration is closing soon, so register now to reserve your spot!
Gowan, N. (2016). Mindfulness: The Benefits to the Worker Webinar.