By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.
“Toxic emotions disrupt the workplace, and mindfulness increases your awareness of these destructive patterns, helping you recognize them before they run rampant. It’s a way of reprogramming your mind to think in healthier, less stressful, ways.” – Drew Hansen
Work is very important for our health and well-being. We spend approximately 25% of our adult lives at work. How we spend that time is immensely important for our psychological and physical health. Indeed, the work environment has even become an important part of our social lives, with friendships and leisure time activities often attached to the people we work with. But, more than half of employees in the U.S. and nearly 2/3 worldwide are unhappy at work. This is partially due to work-related stress which is epidemic in the western workplace. Almost two thirds of workers reporting high levels of stress at work. This stress can result in impaired health and can result in burnout; producing fatigue, cynicism, and professional inefficacy.
To help overcome unhappiness, stress, and burnout, mindfulness practices have been implemented in the workplace. Indeed, mindfulness practices have been shown to markedly reduce the physiological and psychological responses to stress. As a result, it has become very trendy for business to incorporate meditation into the workday to help improve employee well-being, health, and productivity. For example, Google offers “Search Inside Yourself” classes to teach mindfulness at work. But, although there is a lot of anecdotal evidence of meditation improving well-being and work performance, there is actually very little systematic research on its effectiveness.
In today’s Research News article “Effects of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction on employees’ mental health: A systematic review.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5783379/ ), Janssen and colleagues review and summarize the published research literature on the effectiveness of mindfulness programs to improve the mental health of workers. They identify 23 studies, most of which employed Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) programs.
They report that the published research demonstrates that mindfulness programs produced significant increases in workers’ mindfulness, personal accomplishment, self-compassion, sleep quality, relaxation, life satisfaction, emotion regulation, self-efficacy, and work engagement, and significant decreases in stress levels, psychological distress, depression, anxiety, burnout, emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, mood disturbance, They also found that the mindfulness programs did not produce any harmful side-effects. But, the studies were in general of only moderate research quality and there is a need for more high-quality studies.
The summary of the research provides extensive evidence that mindfulness programs produce significant improvements in workers’ mental health and well-being. It is striking how widespread the benefits are for otherwise healthy employees. These effects are important in not only preventing burnout and mental illness, but the stress reduction will tend to prevent illness and promote physical health. This may, in turn, improve employee retention and productiveness and decrease employee absences and health-care costs.
So, improve employee’s mental health with mindfulness.
“Many corporations and employees are realizing that the benefits of mindfulness practices can be dramatic. In addition to supporting overall health and well-being, mindfulness has been linked to improved cognitive functioning and lower stress levels.” – Carolyn Gregoire
CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies
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Math Janssen, Yvonne Heerkens, Wietske Kuijer, Beatrice van der Heijden, Josephine Engels. Effects of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction on employees’ mental health: A systematic review. PLoS One. 2018; 13(1): e0191332. Published online 2018 Jan 24. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0191332
The purpose of this exploratory study was to obtain greater insight into the effects of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) on the mental health of employees.
Using PsycINFO, PubMed, and CINAHL, we performed a systematic review in October 2015 of studies investigating the effects of MBSR and MBCT on various aspects of employees’ mental health. Studies with a pre-post design (i.e. without a control group) were excluded.
24 articles were identified, describing 23 studies: 22 on the effects of MBSR and 1 on the effects of MBSR in combination with some aspects of MBCT. Since no study focused exclusively on MBCT, its effects are not described in this systematic review. Of the 23 studies, 2 were of high methodological quality, 15 were of medium quality and 6 were of low quality. A meta-analysis was not performed due to the emergent and relatively uncharted nature of the topic of investigation, the exploratory character of this study, and the diversity of outcomes in the studies reviewed. Based on our analysis, the strongest outcomes were reduced levels of emotional exhaustion (a dimension of burnout), stress, psychological distress, depression, anxiety, and occupational stress. Improvements were found in terms of mindfulness, personal accomplishment (a dimension of burnout), (occupational) self-compassion, quality of sleep, and relaxation.
The results of this systematic review suggest that MBSR may help to improve psychological functioning in employees.