Reduce Stress at Work with Mindfulness
By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.
“I think of mindfulness as the ability not to be yanked around by your own emotions. That can have a big impact on how you are in the workplace.” – Dan Harris
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, social, and physical health. But, nearly 2/3 of employees 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. These programs attempt to increase the employees’ mindfulness at work and thereby reduce stress. It is not known, however, the amount of mindfulness training that is needed to improve employee well-being or whether the training affects moment-to-moment stress levels and the individual’s ability to cope with the stress in the actual work environment.
In today’s Research News article “Mindfulness Training Reduces Stress At Work: A Randomized Controlled Trial.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6433409/), Chin and colleagues recruited healthy adults at their workplace who had not received training in mindfulness or actively practiced mindfulness. They were provided a 4-hour mindfulness workshop and then randomly assigned to either a low- or high-dose mindfulness training. Low-dose participants received no further training while high-dose participants were provided 6 weekly instructions in mindfulness and also practiced at home for 25-minutes per day for 5 days per week with pre-recorded guided mindfulness instructions.
The participants were measured before and after training for perceived stress. They also completed momentary ecological assessments of stress, coping, and emotions. For these assessments they were prompted on their smartphones 4 times throughout the day for 3 days before and 3 days after treatment and were asked to rate on their smartphones their levels of momentary perceived stress, their ability to cope with the momentary stress, and the levels of positive or negative emotions experienced at that moment.
They found that after training, the high-dose but nor the low-dose participants had significant reductions in overall perceived stress after training. This was also true for the momentary positive emotions and perceived stress experienced including perceived stress severity, coping efficacy, and coping success, with high-dose participants having significantly greater changes in than low-dose participants after training. In addition, low-dose participants increased in their levels of negative emotions from baseline, while the high-dose participants did not.
These results are interesting and demonstrate, as has previous research, that mindfulness training reduces overall perceived stress. It is significant that the comparison condition also contained mindfulness training but at a low dose. This suggests that a small amount of mindfulness training is not sufficient to alter perceived levels of stress.
The present study also demonstrated that the effects of mindfulness training are not only on overall levels of perceived stress but also on these levels in momentary real-time work situations. They also show that during actual workplace stress mindfulness training improves the individuals’ ability to cope with the stress and experience more positive emotions and less negative emotions. This all suggests that mindfulness training doesn’t just work overall but moment-to-moment in the work environment to reduce stress levels and their impact on the worker. This should promote the overall psychological and physical health and well-being of the worker.
So, reduce stress at work with mindfulness.
“Work is a very commonplace of stress, but with a few minutes of mindfulness each day, we can improve our feelings regarding these stressors, reduce their impact on our mental health, and improve our mood as well, leaving us ready for anything ahead.” – Paul Jozsef
CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies
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Chin, B., Slutsky, J., Raye, J., & Creswell, J. D. (2019). Mindfulness Training Reduces Stress At Work: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Mindfulness, 10(4), 627–638. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-018-1022-0
Mindfulness-based interventions have been suggested as one way to improve employee well-being in the workplace. Despite these purported benefits, there have been few well-controlled randomized controlled trials (RCTs) evaluating mindfulness training in the workplace. Here we conducted a two-arm RCT at work among employees of a digital marketing firm comparing the efficacy of a high dose six-week mindfulness training to a low dose single-day mindfulness training for improving multiple measures of employee well-being assessed using ecological momentary assessment. High dose mindfulness training reduced both perceived and momentary stress, and buffered employees against worsened affect and decreased coping efficacy compared to low dose mindfulness training. These results provide well-controlled evidence that mindfulness training programs can reduce momentary stress at work, suggesting that more intensive mindfulness training doses (i.e., 6-weeks) may be necessary for improving workplace well-being outcomes. This RCT utilizes a novel experience sampling approach to measure the effects of a mindfulness intervention on employee well-being and considers potential dose-response effects of mindfulness training at work.