Reduce Stress and Improve Well-Being in a Workplace with Mindfulness

Reduce Stress and Improve Well-Being in a Workplace with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Becoming aware of what’s going on around you can make a huge difference, because we spend so much time wrapped up in our thoughts that we lose contact with the real world. That’s especially the case if you’re constantly bombarded by email, Facebook posts and Twitter. It’s not really conducive to a calm and productive work environment.“ – Danny Penman

 

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 burnoutmindfulness 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 and burnout.

 

In today’s Research News article “A mindfulness training program based on brief practices (M-PBI) to reduce stress in the workplace: a randomised controlled pilot study.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6060839/ ), Arredondo and colleagues recruited stressed employees and randomly assigned them to either be in a wait-list control group or to receive an 8-week mindfulness training program. The training occurred once a week for 1.5 hours and included daily practices. The participants were measured before and after training and 20 weeks later for mindfulness, perceived stress, self-compassion, decentering, burnout, and heart rate variability.

 

They found that in comparison to baseline and the wait-list control group the mindfulness trained group had significant decreases in perceived stress and the components of burnout of emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and reduced personal accomplishment, and significant increases in mindfulness, self-compassion, and decentering. These differences were enduring as they were still significant at the 20-week follow-up. They also found an increase in heart rate variability indicative of reduced stress.

 

These results are very encouraging and suggest that mindfulness training can be very beneficial in reducing workplace stress levels and burnout. It also appears to improve the overall psychological well-being of the employees improving mindfulness, self-compassion, and decentering. The ability of mindfulness training to reduce stress and burnout, and to increase self-compassion and decentering have been previously observed with different participant population. The study would have been stronger had an active control group been included. But, nevertheless the findings are suggestive that mindfulness training can be quite beneficial for stressed employees.

 

So, reduce stress and improve well-being in a workplace with mindfulness.

 

“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

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Arredondo, M., Sabaté, M., Valveny, N., Langa, M., Dosantos, R., Moreno, J., & Botella, L. (2017). A mindfulness training program based on brief practices (M-PBI) to reduce stress in the workplace: a randomised controlled pilot study. International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health, 23(1), 40–51. http://doi.org/10.1080/10773525.2017.1386607

 

Abstract

Work stress is a major contributor to absenteeism and reduced work productivity. A randomised and controlled study in employee-volunteers (with Perceived Stress Scale [PSS-14]>22) was performed to assess a mindfulness program based on brief integrated mindfulness practices (M-PBI) with the aim of reducing stress in the workplace. The PSS-14 of the employees before and after 8-weeks M-PBI program, as well as after a 20-week follow-up, was assessed (primary endpoint). The employees also carried the following questionnaires (secondary endpoints): Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire (FFMQ), Self-Compassion Scale (SCS), Experiences Questionnaire-Decentering (EQ-D), and Maslach Burnout Inventory-General Survey (MBI-GS). Heart Rate Variability (HRV) was measured during each session in a subgroup of employees (n = 10) of the interventional group randomly selected. A total of 40 employees (77.5% female median [SD] age of 36.6 [5.6] years) took part in this study: 21 and 19 in the intervention and control group, respectively. No differences in baseline characteristics were encountered between the groups. Results show a significant decrease in stress and increase in mindfulness over time in the intervention group (PSS-14 and FFMQ; p < 0.05 both). Additionally, an improvement in decentering (EQ-D), self-compassion (SCS) and burnout (MBI-GS) were also observed compared to the control group (p < 0.05 in all). HRV measurement also showed an improvement. In conclusion, a brief practices, 8-weeks M-BIP program is an effective tool to quickly reduce stress and improve well-being in a workplace.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6060839/

 

Mindful Labor Day

Image result for labor day pictures

Mindful Labor Day

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

 “Sometimes it’s important to work for that pot of gold.  But other times it’s essential to take time off and to make sure that your most important decision in the day simply consists of choosing which color to slide down on the rainbow.”  ~ Douglas Pagels

 

Labor Day is a National Holiday in the United States. It was designed to celebrate the accomplishments of the American worker, particularly organized labor. It is important to celebrate this holiday mindfully. Work is a major component of our lives, it dictates our income, contributes to our social lives, and for many people is an essential part of their self-concept and their self-worth. But rather than using the holiday to reflect on this important part of their lives, most people treat Labor Day mindlessly, as a time to vacation and party. Perhaps, though, it’s important to take at least a little time on this holiday to mindfully reflect on work.

 

To understand the importance of work we need only look at the Buddha’s Noble Eightfold Path. Two of the eight components are Right Actions and Right Livelihood. But, Right Livelihood is itself an action and it would seem that Right Livelihood should be contained in Right Actions and not a separate component. But, the Buddha included Right Livelihood as a separate component to underscore its importance for spiritual development. It’s his way of emphasizing that what one does for a living is an extremely important action. The Buddha taught that it was essential for spiritual development to only engage in work that produces greater happiness, wisdom, and well-being, and relieves suffering in ourselves and others and avoid jobs that produce harm.

 

We should take a mindful look at our occupations on Labor Day and ask whether they promote greater happiness, wisdom, and well-being, and relieves suffering or produces harm. In some case, the fact that it is Right Livelihood is obvious as with professions such as physician, social worker, peace negotiator, relief worker, therapist, etc. On the other hand, professions such as drug dealer, arms merchant, professional criminal, etc. are clearly not. But for most occupations it is much more difficult to discern whether or not they constitute Right Livelihood. This is a point for deep, mindful, exploration for Labor Day.

 

Working on an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico produces a product, energy, that is needed for the well-being of virtually everyone. Without affordable energy, every aspect of the economy would collapse. So, working on the oil rig could be seen as promoting well-being and relieving suffering. On the other hand, there is potential for great environmental harm, including oil spills that directly pollute sensitive environments, or contributing to carbon dioxide emissions that can indirectly create great harm by contributing to global warming. So should someone on the eightfold path accept or reject a job working on an oil rig? The answer cannot be given by anyone other than the individual themselves. It is imperative that this be looked at deeply and objectively to determine for themselves if they are doing more harm than good. The primary spiritual impact of Right Livelihood is on the individual engaging in the occupation. So, the decision has to be theirs. That is not to say that experts or friends can’t or shouldn’t be consulted, but that ultimately the individual must decide for themselves and be willing to accept the potential consequences. Needless to say, this should be a focus for deep mindful reflection on Labor Day.

 

The labor movement itself has important consequences for ourselves and others and should also be explored mindfully on Labor Day. It grew out of great labor abuses that existed where unscrupulous employers took advantage of workers, demanding much and paying little. This is an example how great harm can be produced when the wealthy and powerful, as a result of greed, do not practice Right Livelihood. The Buddha taught that there was nothing wrong with being successful and accumulating wealth provided that this was done ethically and honestly, and it promoted the overall well-being of the community. But, for a time, this was not the case. This underscores how the notion of Right Livelihood doesn’t only apply to workers, but also to employers, financiers, Wall Street executives, politicians, etc.

 

The labor movement arose to counteract the rampant abuses of workers. By organizing the workers obtained strength in numbers. This allowed them to stand up to employers and demand better pay and working conditions. It truly exemplifies our interdependence. We are not alone, but rather, are intricately connected to everyone else. This is true for work in general. It is a productive point for mindful contemplation of how our work and in fact, our entire lives are connected to the work of others. If we’re a truck driver we’re totally dependent upon the people who make the trucks, produce the fuel, build the roads, insures, maintains, and repairs the vehicles, makes and enforces the laws governing the roadways, etc. But, we are also dependent upon the work or those who produce our food, make our clothes, build our houses, educate our children, defend and protect us, etc. Our work is interdependent with the work of everyone else. This is an important point for reflection on Labor Day.

 

I recently received an award for my work career. It was a wonderful boost for my ego and made me feel very good about myself. But, with a little mindful reflection, I realized that this was not my award solely. It could never have been achieved without the involvement of a vast array of people, colleagues, students, friends, family superiors, workers, direct reports, police, government, etc. and all of the people who they are dependent upon, and so forth. It couldn’t have been achieved without virtually everyone. It was really an award for a cooperative effort. This kind of thinking made me humble. It made me know that it was not about “I.” Rather, it’s about “we.” Mindful reflection about our work can help us to see the interconnectedness we have with every other living thing.

 

A major issue for Labor Day reflection is what happens in the course of our daily work. We can learn much about ourselves by mindfully examining what transpires at work. What happens can bring us great joy or great suffering, but most of the time, it just provides momentary satisfaction or dissatisfaction. It is the smaller moments that compose the majority of our work lives but they are crucial to our happiness or unhappiness at work. Applying mindfulness and reflection to how we react and our thoughts regarding the events at work, we can gain great insight into the workings of our minds and how they can produce unsatisfactoriness and unhappiness.

 

The fact that your boss failed to mention that your performance was very good that day may make you feel unappreciated at work. But, it is likely that your boss was preoccupied with her own problems. But, looking carefully at your thought process you can begin to see how your response was based on the needs of your own ego. Many people’s feelings of self-worth, or self-hatred for that matter, are built around their work. Not being recognized by a superior may threaten a fragile self-image and produce discomfort and resentment. Work is actually a wonderful opportunity to learn about yourself.

 

You may observe a coworker engaged in petty theft and not report it. Looking deeply at this event you may be able to see that you have a strong need to be liked and you feel that reporting the unethical behavior may cause others to dislike you or see you as a threat. In this case your need for social acceptance causes you to compromise your integrity. The fact that social approval was more important to you than ethics can be a revelation regarding your inner psychological landscape. Once again, work can teach you a lot.

 

There are actually many many events that happen at work every day, small and large, that reveal the workings of your mind and emotions. Applying mindfulness, noticing and being aware of your reactions and actions at work can change your ideas about yourself and change your actions at work and these can lead to greater understanding and acceptance. This, in turn, can lead to greater satisfaction and happiness. Mindfulness is a key. If you are not in the present moment, if you are not paying attention but rather reacting without thinking or noticing, if your mind is wandering and off task, then this splendid opportunity will be lost. So, vow to be mindful at work and become better and happier with the way you make your living.

 

So, on this Labor Day, vow to be mindful and take advantage of the opportunities provided at work to learn about yourself. Grow as a person and grow spiritually by making every work day a mindful work day.

 

“When people say, “This is the way to do it,” that’s not true. There are always many ways, and the way you choose should depend on the current context. You can’t solve today’s problems with yesterday’s solutions. So when someone says, “Learn this so it’s second nature,” let a bell go off in your head, because that means mindlessness. The rules you were given were the rules that worked for the person who created them, and the more different you are from that person, the worse they’re going to work for you. When you’re mindful, rules, routines, and goals guide you; they don’t govern you.” – Ellen Langer

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

Improve Psychological Health with Mindfulness Training at Work

Improve Psychological Health with Mindfulness Training at Work

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“As an executive coach and physician, I often sing the praises of mindfulness approaches and recommend them to clients to manage stress, avoid burnout, enhance leadership capacity, and steady their minds when in the midst of making important business decisions, career transitions, and personal life changes.” – David Brendel

 

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 burnoutmindfulness 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, many businesses have incorporated mindfulness practices into the workday to help improve employee well-being, health, and productivity and reduce burnout and turnover.

 

In today’s Research News article “A Stress Reduction Program Adapted for the Work Environment: A Randomized Controlled Trial With a Follow-Up.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5954607/ ), Lacerda and colleagues recruited employees at two business locations who complained of stress and randomly assigned them to an 8-week mindfulness training or wait-list condition. At the end of the 8-weeks the wait-list group received the mindfulness training. Training occurred once a week for 60 minutes and consisted of self-awareness, empathy, stress reduction, meditation and body scan practices. The participants were measured before and after training and 8 weeks later for psychiatric symptoms, stress symptoms, depression, anxiety, processing speed, and mindfulness.

 

They found that compared to baseline and the wait-list control group, the employees who received the mindfulness training had significant reductions in non-severe psychiatric symptoms, anxiety, depression, and stress, and increases in processing speed/attention and mindfulness. These improvements were still present 8 weeks later. Hence, mindfulness training produced significant improvements in the mental health of these stressed employees.

 

It is well established that mindfulness training results in reductions in anxiety, depression, perceived stress and burnout, and improvements in cognition. The importance of this study stems from the fact that the mindfulness program only required a 1-hour commitment at work once a week to produce these improvements. This is a tolerable commitment of time for most managers and may not only improve the employees’ mental health but also lead to improvements in productivity, and reductions in turnover and health care costs. Thus, this form of training would appear to be well worth the investment.

 

So, improve psychological health with mindfulness training at work.

 

“when someone says, “Learn this so it’s second nature,” let a bell go off in your head, because that means mindlessness. The rules you were given were the rules that worked for the person who created them, and the more different you are from that person, the worse they’re going to work for you. When you’re mindful, rules, routines, and goals guide you; they don’t govern you.” – Harvard Business Review

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Lacerda, S. S., Little, S. W., & Kozasa, E. H. (2018). A Stress Reduction Program Adapted for the Work Environment: A Randomized Controlled Trial With a Follow-Up. Frontiers in Psychology, 9, 668. http://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2018.00668

 

Abstract

Objective: The aim of this study was to evaluate an in situ stress reduction program, named PROGRESS, developed to meet the specific needs of workers in a business context and to research its impact upon non-severe psychiatric symptoms, stress, anxiety, depression, processing speed/attention and mindfulness.

Methods: Participants with stress complaints were randomized into two groups: the main intervention group: group 1-G1, (n = 22); and the control group: group 2-G2, (n = 22). The protocol was divided into three distinct phases for the purpose of the study. Both groups were evaluated at time 1 (T1), before the first 8-week intervention, which only G1 received. The second evaluation was made on both groups at time 2 (T2), immediately after this first program; in order to test the program’s replicability and investigate possible follow-up effects, an identical second 8-week program was offered to G2 during time 3 (T3), while G1 was simply instructed to maintain the practice they had learned without further instruction between T2 and T3. A Confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) was conducted to investigate the construct validity of PROGRESS.

Results: Repeated measures MANOVA test, comparing G1 and G2, showed the effect of the intervention from T1 to T2 (p = 0.021) and from T2 to T3 (p = 0.031). Univariate analysis showed that participants from G1 improved levels of non-severe psychiatric symptoms, anxiety, depression, stress, processing speed/attention and mindfulness when compared with G2, from T1 to T2 (p < 0.05). After the participants in G2 received the intervention (T2 to T3), this group also showed improvement in the same variables (p < 0.05). At the end of their follow-up period (T2-T3) – during which they received no further support or instruction – G1 maintained the improvements gained during T1-T2. The two main components were stress (stress in the last 24-h, in the last week and last month) and mental health (non-severe psychiatric symptoms, depression, anxiety and mindfulness).

Conclusion: PROGRESS, an in situ mindfulness program adapted to fit within the reality of business time constraints, was effective at replicating in more than one group the reduction of stress, depression, anxiety, non-severe psychiatric symptoms, processing speed and also the improvement of attention skills, showing sustained improvement even after 8-weeks follow-up.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5954607/

 

Work Conditions Affect Mindfulness at Work

Work Conditions Affect Mindfulness at Work

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Mindfulness is being focused on the present moment. That means you’re not worrying about what’s going to happen tomorrow, or dwelling on what happened in yesterday’s meeting. This shift enables you to take a step back and make better decisions. It also enhances creativity, focus, and productivity.” – Ashley Stahl

 

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 burnoutmindfulness 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. But, employees can be mindful at work without training. It is not known, however, what factors promote mindfulness at work and which impair it. There is actually very little systematic research on the effects of the work environment on the individual’s mindfulness.

 

In today’s Research News article “How can mindfulness be promoted? Workload and recovery experiences as antecedents of daily fluctuations in mindfulness.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5969091/ ), Hülsheger and colleagues recruited adult full-time workers and measured them for quantitative workload, sleep quality, mindfulness, fatigue, and psychological detachment. They completed the measurements 3 times, during work, after work, and before going to sleep, each day for five days.

 

They found that the measurement varied considerably from day to day. With this variation they found that the higher the workload the greater the fatigue and psychological detachment and the lower the mindfulness during work and the lower the sleep quality during the subsequent night. In turn, poor sleep quality was associated with greater psychological detachment, fatigue, and workload, and the lower the mindfulness during the subsequent day’s work.

 

A path analysis to determine mediation was performed and revealed that workload was associated with fatigue which in turn was associated with lower mindfulness. In addition, the previous nights sleep quality was associated with higher levels of mindfulness on the next day. Hence, there’s a reciprocal relationship between mindfulness with sleep quality with high mindfulness associated with high sleep quality which, in turn, is associated with higher mindfulness the next day. This relationship can be disrupted by high workload which is associated with fatigue and lower subsequent mindfulness.

 

These results suggest that low workload and high sleep quality are important to high levels of mindfulness during work which, in turn leads to many benefits for the job and the employee. Keeping workload at a reasonable level should improve both sleep quality and mindfulness which should, in turn, promote better work.

 

So, maintain workloads at reasonable levels, reduce fatigue and improve mindfulness and sleep quality, resulting in the employee performing better at work.

 

“Mindfulness is not about living life in slow motion. It’s about enhancing focus and awareness both in work and in life. It’s about stripping away distractions and staying on track with individual, as well as organizational, goals.” – Rasmus Hougaard

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Ute R. Hülsheger, Alicia Walkowiak, Marie S. Thommes. How can mindfulness be promoted? Workload and recovery experiences as antecedents of daily fluctuations in mindfulness. J Occup Organ Psychol. 2018 Jun; 91(2): 261–284. Published online 2018 Mar 4. doi: 10.1111/joop.12206

 

Abstract

While previous work on mindfulness has focused predominantly on the benefits of mindfulness and of mindfulness interventions, the present article addresses the question of how natural experiences of mindfulness can be promoted in the context of work. Accordingly, this article sheds light on day‐to‐day fluctuations in workload and recovery experiences (psychological detachment and sleep quality) as antecedents of state mindfulness. Furthermore, this study extends extant research that has documented beneficial effects of mindfulness on subsequent recovery experiences by arguing that the relationship between mindfulness and recovery experiences is reciprocal rather than unidirectional. Using an experience‐sampling design across five workdays and involving three daily measurement occasions, we found that sleep quality and workload were related to subsequent levels of mindfulness. While not displaying a significant direct relationship with mindfulness, psychological detachment was indirectly related to mindfulness via sleep quality. Fatigue was identified as an important mechanism explaining these relationships. Furthermore, findings confirmed that the relationship between mindfulness and recovery experiences is reciprocal rather than unidirectional. Taken together, this study contributes to an enriched understanding of the role of mindfulness in organizations by shedding light on factors that precede the experience of mindfulness and by pointing to the existence of gain spirals associated with recovery experiences and mindfulness.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5969091/

 

Improve Stress Related Disease Symptoms with Mindfulness in Nature

Improve Stress Related Disease Symptoms with Mindfulness in Nature

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Nature is always here and now. Your breath, your senses, anything around you. When you are being aware of the life within you and around you, you are being mindful of this present moment, and it will always calm you down. You can not do nature, you can just be there. Being is calming.” – Hanne Suorza

 

Stress is an integral part of life. People often think of stress as a bad thing. But, it is actually essential to the health of the body. In fact, we invest time and resources in stressing ourselves, e.g ridding rollercoasters, sky diving, competing in sports, etc. We say we love a challenge, but, challenges are all stressful. So, we actually love to stress ourselves. In moderation, it is healthful and provides interest and fun to life. If stress, is high or is prolonged, however, it can be problematic. It can significantly damage our physical and mental health and even reduce our longevity, leading to premature deaths. So, it is important that we develop methods to either reduce or control high or prolonged stress or reduce our responses to it.

 

Mindfulness practices have been found routinely to reduce the psychological and physiological responses to stress. It has long been reported that walking in nature elevates mood. It appears intuitively obvious that if it occurred in a beautiful natural place, it would greatly lift the spirits. But, there is little systematic research regarding these effects. It’s possible that conducting walking meditation in nature might potentiate the effects by combining two mood enhancing practices.

 

In today’s Research News article “.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5800236/  ), Corazon and colleagues recruited adult patients with stress-related diseases who had been not able to work for at least the last three months. They were randomly assigned to receive either a mindfulness nature-based therapy or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). The mindfulness nature-based therapy occurred 3 times per week for 3 hours each session for 10 weeks and consisted “of five interrelated components: (i) individual therapeutic conversations based on CBT; (ii) individual and group mindfulness exercises, such as mindful walking in the garden; (iii) individual and social gardening activities, depending on the season, which integrates training in mindful awareness; (iv) individual relaxation and reflection time in the garden; and (v) homework to practice the techniques introduced.” The Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) was a group based therapy that occurred twice per week for 1 hour each session for 10 weeks. From the government records the participants amount of sick leave from work and health care consumption were recorded over the year following completion of treatment.

They found that the participants in both the mindfulness nature-based therapy and the Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) had progressively less sick leave over the 12 months following the treatment such that 72% of the participants reported no sick leave at all during month 12. In addition, there were significant reductions (31%) in the number of visits to physicians over the follow-up period. Hence, both treatment programs resulted in significant improvements in stress-related disease impacts on work life and healthcare consumption.

 

It needs to be mentioned that since participants in both treatments improved and there was not a no-treatment comparison condition, it cannot be concluded that the treatments produced the improvements. The improvements may have been due to spontaneous recovery over the years, time. Future research needs to contain other comparison conditions. Nevertheless, the results are encouraging suggesting that CBT and mindfulness nature-based therapy may be effective treatments for stress-related diseases; easing the suffering of the individuals and reducing the load on the health care and sick leave systems.

 

“All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking” – Friedrich Nietzsche

 

“Me thinks that the moment my legs begin to move, my thoughts begin to flow” – Henry David Thoreau

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Corazon, S. S., Nyed, P. K., Sidenius, U., Poulsen, D. V., & Stigsdotter, U. K. (2018). A Long-Term Follow-Up of the Efficacy of Nature-Based Therapy for Adults Suffering from Stress-Related Illnesses on Levels of Healthcare Consumption and Sick-Leave Absence: A Randomized Controlled Trial. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 15(1), 137. http://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph15010137

 

Abstract

Stress-related illnesses are a growing health problem in the Western world; which also has economic significance for society. As a consequence; there is a growing demand for effective treatments. The study investigates the long-term efficacy of the Nacadia® nature-based therapy (NNBT) by comparing it to the efficacy of a validated cognitive behavioral therapy, called STreSS. The study is designed as a randomized controlled trial in which 84 participants are randomly allocated between the treatments. Long-term efficacy is investigated through data extracts from the national database of Statistics Denmark on the sick leave and the health-care consumption. The results show that both the NNBT and the STreSS lead to a significant decrease in number of contacts with a general practitioner in the period from twelve months prior to treatment to twelve months after treatment; and, a significant decrease in long-term sick leave from the month prior to treatment to twelve months after treatment. The positive long-term effects provide validation for the NNBT as an efficient treatment of stress-related illnesses.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5800236/

The Eightfold Path at Work

The Eightfold Path at Work

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

 “So where do we begin if we want to improve our work life for ourselves and those around us? I suggest starting with the mind. Ask yourself: what is the quality of my mind at work? What’s happening in my mind as the hours at work go by day in and day out? Is my mind working at its utmost? . . . . Through mindfulness, we can train our minds to work better.” – Tara Healey

 

The work environment as an excellent context in which to practice the Buddha’s Eightfold Path. It is filled with interpersonal interactions and clashes, task focusing, dealing with authority, frustrations, successes, self-worthiness, and emotionality. In other words, the work environment has all the ingredients to put to the test all the principles of mindfulness and the Eightfold Path for the cessation of suffering; Right View, Right Intentions, Right Speech, Right Actions, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, and Right Concentration.

 

We often think of meditation or spiritual practice as occurring in quiet places removed from the hubbub of life. This is useful to develop skills and deep understanding. Unfortunately, most people do not have the luxury of withdrawing into a solitary or monastic life. Fortunately, it is possible to practice even in the midst of the chaos of everyday life. In fact, there are wonderful opportunities to practice presented to us all the time embedded in the complexities of the modern world. In a previous essay we discussed driving an automobile as an almost perfect venue for practice. In today’s essay we’ll discuss practicing in the work environment.

 

There are many wonderful opportunities at work to practice Right View. The view that all things are impermanent can be practiced. Indeed, the situation at work is constantly changing and no matter how bad or good the work conditions or the daily experiences are you can be sure that they’ll change; the business cycle is constantly changing as are the people you work with and for. By recognizing this we not only practice Right View but also relax and accept what is. Work is a cooperative venture. It’s a situation that reflects how interconnected everything is including the thing we label self. Working without consideration of our superiors or co-workers and their needs and aspirations would be chaotic and very unproductive. How you work effects how they work and vice versa. In this context if you take a moment to look, it is easy to develop Right View including the transitoriness of our thoughts and emotions. At work they arise and fall away in response to the ever changing experiences occurring at work and your reactions to them. This thing called self that you think of a permanent and static actually changes moment to moment in reaction to these experiences at work. This is a tremendous learning experience with work being a wonderful laboratory to practice and develop your Right View.

 

It is hard to find a better context than working to develop the Right View on suffering and unsatisfactoriness, and their roots. While working we seem to want everything to be exactly as we want it to be, and when it isn’t we suffer. We want meetings to be short, incisive, and productive, we want technology to always be working properly, we want to always be recognized for our efforts and accomplishments, we want less dull repetition and paperwork, we want our co-workers to be cooperative rather than competitive, we want a raise, we want a promotion, we want our bosses to always make the right decisions, we want everyone to like us, etc. When these things don’t happen, we suffer. In other words, you can learn, if you are observant of what is happening during working, that your suffering is caused by your lack of acceptance of how things are at work. So, working constitutes a wonderful laboratory to practice Right View. You can learn to accept things as they are, to see things without judgment, to view the job, your bosses, and other workers just as they are, and to understand how you work has consequences, affecting yourself and others, in other words, you practice and develop Right View.

 

You can quite readily practice Right Intentions while working and this can lead to Right Actions. These intentions include the abandonment of unwholesome desires. If you work with anger, impatience, selfishness, resentment you are likely to harm others and yourself. The harm may not be major or direct, but indirect by affecting the other workers in negative ways. Perhaps your anger at an unsatisfactory work situation causes the intentional sabotage of a project. Perhaps, your selfishness causes you to refuse to help a struggling co-worker eliciting frustration or worry about the security of their job, or simply cause them to suffer. But sometimes direct harm to others can be produced by greed resulting in your undercutting or obstructing their work in order to make yourself look better and step over them for promotion. But if you practice Right Intentions with sincere intentions to create good and happiness, relieve suffering in ourselves and others, and not harm any living thing, you will work cooperatively, with courtesy, with tolerance and understanding, with kindness and good will. When co-workers are treated with respect, compassion, and helpfulness or when a co-worker’s anger or frustration are reacted to with patience, kindness, and tolerance, harm and suffering have likely been prevented. It is good to reflect on the ripples of good that may have been created with Right Actions producing positive consequences, which produce more positive consequences, producing more positive consequences, etc. well into the future.

 

Intentions are a key. They become your moral compass. They tend to lead you in the right direction even though you may at times stumble.  It is often difficult or impossible to predict all of the consequences of your actions. It is also very difficult not to create some harm. You have to consider that your competitive success may be causing others to lose their jobs, or that the manufacturing processes you’re using compromises the natural environment, or that trying to minimize costs, you use suppliers who employ people at less than a living wage. You need to try to not only have Right Intentions, but to discern how even the best of intentions can sometime produce harmful outcomes. You have to sometimes balance the good you’re doing with the harm produced by the same actions. This requires Right View. This is where working can be such a great practice as you can learn what works and what doesn’t and become better at discerning what are the wholesome Right Actions from those that produce more harm than good. But, if you form Right Intentions and aspire to create good and happiness you’ll be a better worker and will produce more harmony and good will in the work place and more importantly will be moving yourself along the eightfold path.

 

There are many opportunities to practice Right Speech while working. This can include non-verbal communications such as facial expressions, body postures, etc. But, predominantly Right Speech is verbal. A worker may have a bad habit of often reacting to a mistake with reflexive emotional expletives. This can occur in response to something as simple as dropping a part, to another worker’s dangerous actions. This can also include gestures. They do no good and create harm in myself and sometimes aggravate and harm others. Office gossip is rampant in the work environment. This often hurts others in unpredictable and sometimes unknown ways. Right speech involves refraining from gossip. At work frequently guesses and rumors are spread. Right Speech involves only speaking things that you know are absolutely true. This can promote trust and harmony in the workplace. By practicing Right Speech you can work toward alleviating the suffering produced in ourselves and others. Simply react, rather than with expletives, with words such as “be safe” or a silent recitation of the loving kindness meditation wishes for health, happiness, safety etc. Right Speech takes practice. We have years of training and daily multiple examples of wrong speech. So, be patient and practice. Slowly the effects and benefits will become apparent.

 

The notion of Right Livelihood mandates that your work not only earns you a living but also creates greater happiness, wisdom, and well-being, and relieves suffering in yourself and others. Conversely, you should not produce harm. This doesn’t discourage earning profits and accumulating wealth. It simply indicates that it must be done in the right way. It indicates that you should acquire wealth only by legal means, peacefully, without coercion or violence; you should acquire it honestly, not by trickery or deceit; and you should acquire it in ways which do not entail harm and suffering for others. Some occupations can be clearly seen as creating harm such as manufacturing, selling, or delivering weapons, cigarettes, or harmful drugs, or driving animals to slaughter. Some occupations clearly seem to create greater good and happiness, such as teacher, aid worker, nurse, etc. But, most occupations are a little more difficult to tell. Sometimes harm is produced indirectly, such as by damaging the environment, or resulting in layoffs from a competitor, or by producing goods or services that can be misused or used by others to create harm. It is not yours to judge the “rightness” of other people’s occupations. This is a personal matter where intention matters, that must be reflected upon deeply to ascertain whether your practicing Right Livelihood.

 

Once again, working presents a great context to practice Right Effort. It takes substantial effort to work mindfully. If you work automatically as most people do most of the time, there is little or no mindfulness and little or no effort. When you first get to work you have to set the intention to engage in your work in such a way as to lessen suffering in yourself and others, to work with kindness, compassion, patience, and courtesy, to drop fear, anger, hatred, selfishness, and the survival of the fittest attitude, and to bring to our interactions with others at work the intention to promote well-being and happiness. Right Effort is working the “Middle Way.” That is not trying too hard and getting stressed about working mindfully, and also not being lackadaisical, but rather to try, but relax. Don’t beat yourself up when you’re not working mindfully, but congratulate yourself when you do. The “Middle Way” is where effort should be targeted.

 

Mindless working is probably the norm. Most people perform their routine work activities while their minds are elsewhere, ruminating about the past, planning for the future, or off in fantasy and daydreams. This provides you with a terrific opportunity to practice Right Mindfulness. Jon Kabat-Zinn defined mindfulness as “paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally, to the unfolding of experience moment to moment.” What better opportunity to practice this than while working? Right Mindfulness while working precludes focusing on social media or engaging in other distractions that detract from our efforts. Right Mindfulness makes you acutely aware of what is happening and how you’re feeling during every moment of your work. This makes not only for a more enjoyable work, but also for much better working. Awareness of how you’re feeling and what’s producing those feelings, and how you’re reacting to them makes you better able to work effectively without emotional outbursts that are non-productive and can damage the efforts of co-workers. Right Mindfulness while working is not just part of the eightfold path it is a prerequisite for the practice of the seven other components of the path. So, working mindfully is a fundamental practice and working is a great situation for practice.

 

Right Concentration is the practice of focusing the mind solely on one object or a specific unchanging set of objects. This is developed during contemplative practice such as meditation. It is essential to effective work. Very few people have the luxury of working in quiet isolated circumstances. Most work in environments that are replete with distractions and interruptions.

Improvement in attentional ability is a consequence of practicing Right Concentration  improves focused attention on the work, reducing distractions and mind wandering. The ability to concentrate and screen out intrusive sounds, sights, speech and thoughts allow you to focus on your work, producing higher quality work while being more efficient and productive. In addition, it is thought that Right Concentration requires Right Effort, Right Intentions, and Right Mindfulness and these can also be practiced and developed while working. So, working is a wonderful situation for the practice of Right Concentration, benefiting the individual and the quality of the work.

 

Working the eightfold path is not easy. But, remember that it is a practice. Over time you’ll better and better at it, but nowhere near perfect. Frequently the discursive mind takes over or your emotions will get the better of you. But, by continuing the practice you’ll slowly progress. you’ll become a better worker and a more relaxed and happier worker. You then can leave work at the end of the day relaxed with a smile on your face rather than angry and stressed.

 

Through engaging in the eightfold path at can we achieve enlightenment? Probably not! But we can practice it and the Buddha taught that it leads there. The strength of practicing the eightfold path at work is that it occurs in the real world of our everyday life. Quiet secluded practice is wonderful and perhaps mandatory for progress in spiritual development. But for most people it only can occur during a very limited window of time. By extending the practice directly into the mainstream of our lives we can greatly enhance its impact. Keep in mind the teaching that actions that lead to greater harmony and happiness should be practiced, while those that lead to unsatisfactoriness and unhappiness should be let go.  Without doubt, practicing the eightfold path at work leads to greater harmony and happiness and as such should be included in our spiritual practice.

 

“As an executive coach and physician, I often sing the praises of mindfulness approaches and recommend them to clients to manage stress, avoid burnout, enhance leadership capacity, and steady their minds when in the midst of making important business decisions, career transitions, and personal life changes.” – David Brendel

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

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Improve Employee’s Mental Health with Mindfulness

Improve Employee’s Mental Health with Mindfulness

 

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 burnoutmindfulness 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

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

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

 

Abstract

Objectives

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.

Methods

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.

Results

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.

Conclusion

The results of this systematic review suggest that MBSR may help to improve psychological functioning in employees.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5783379/

 

Improve Employee Mental Health with Internet-Based Mindfulness Training

Improve Employee Mental Health with Internet-Based Mindfulness Training

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Mindfulness can only attain sustainable success in the business world if its benefits are optimized and its risks minimized. Participants in mindfulness practices in the workplace must engage voluntarily and proactively if their endeavors are to bear fruit.” – David Brendel

 

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 work environment. 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 physical and mental health and can result in burnout; producing fatigue, cynicism, and professional inefficacy.

 

To help overcome unhappiness, stress, and burnoutmindfulness 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. Devoting time during the busy workday can be difficult. Mindfulness training over the internet is an alternative training for people who find face-to-face training difficult and inconvenient. Online mindfulness training has shown great promise with effectiveness equivalent to face-to-face training.

 

In today’s Research News article “Effectiveness of eHealth interventions for reducing mental health conditions in employees: A systematic review and meta-analysis.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5739441/ ), Stratton and colleagues review, summarize, and perform a meta-analysis of the effectiveness of employee health mental programs implemented over the internet (E-Health Programs) to reduce symptoms of depression, anxiety, and/or stress. They identified 22 randomized controlled trials, with 11 employing Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), 6 employing stress reduction programs, and 6 employing mindfulness-based interventions.

 

They found that the Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and the stress reduction programs were significantly effective in improving depression, anxiety, and/or stress in the workers, but the effect sizes were small to moderate. On the other hand, the mindfulness-based interventions produced large significant reductions in depression, anxiety, and/or stress. The effect sizes for mindfulness-based interventions were significantly larger than those for CBT or stress reduction programs.

 

The results suggest that programs implemented over the internet and designed to improve mental health in workers are effective in improving depression, anxiety, and/or stress. The results further suggest that mindfulness-based programs are significantly more effective. Mindfulness training has been frequently demonstrated to reduce depression, anxiety, and/or stress in general or clinical populations. So, it’s ability to do so here is not surprising but suggests that it is also effective when delivered over the internet. This is important as internet delivery does not detract from workplace time, is convenient for the employees, and is relatively inexpensive for the employer to implement.

 

So, improve employee mental health with internet-based mindfulness training.

 

“injecting a corporate culture of mindfulness not only improves focus, but the ability to manage stress and how employees work together.” – Science Daily

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Elizabeth Stratton, Amit Lampit, Isabella Choi, Rafael A. Calvo, Samuel B. Harvey, Nicholas Glozier. Effectiveness of eHealth interventions for reducing mental health conditions in employees: A systematic review and meta-analysis. PLoS One. 2017; 12(12): e0189904. Published online 2017 Dec 21. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0189904

 

Abstract

Background

Many organisations promote eHealth applications as a feasible, low-cost method of addressing mental ill-health and stress amongst their employees. However, there are good reasons why the efficacy identified in clinical or other samples may not generalize to employees, and many Apps are being developed specifically for this group. The aim of this paper is to conduct the first comprehensive systematic review and meta-analysis evaluating the evidence for the effectiveness and examine the relative efficacy of different types of eHealth interventions for employees.

Methods

Systematic searches were conducted for relevant articles published from 1975 until November 17, 2016, of trials of eHealth mental health interventions (App or web-based) focused on the mental health of employees. The quality and bias of all identified studies was assessed. We extracted means and standard deviations from published reports, comparing the difference in effect sizes (Hedge’s g) in standardized mental health outcomes. We meta-analysed these using a random effects model, stratified by length of follow up, intervention type, and whether the intervention was universal (unselected) or targeted to selected groups e.g. “stressed”.

Results

23 controlled trials of eHealth interventions were identified which overall suggested a small positive effect at both post intervention (g = 0.24, 95% CI 0.13 to 0.35) and follow up (g = 0.23, 95% CI 0.03 to 0.42). There were differential short term effects seen between the intervention types whereby Mindfulness based interventions (g = 0.60, 95% CI 0.34 to 0.85, n = 6) showed larger effects than the Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) based (g = 0.15, 95% CI 0.02 to 0.29, n = 11) and Stress Management based (g = 0.17, 95%CI -0.01 to 0.34, n = 6) interventions. The Stress Management interventions however differed by whether delivered to universal or targeted groups with a moderately large effect size at both post-intervention (g = 0.64, 95% CI 0.54 to 0.85) and follow-up (g = 0.69, 95% CI 0.06 to 1.33) in targeted groups, but no effect in unselected groups.

Interpretation

There is reasonable evidence that eHealth interventions delivered to employees may reduce mental health and stress symptoms post intervention and still have a benefit, although reduced at follow-up. Despite the enthusiasm in the corporate world for such approaches, employers and other organisations should be aware not all such interventions are equal, many lack evidence, and achieving the best outcomes depends upon providing the right type of intervention to the correct population.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5739441/

The Noble Eightfold Path: Right Livelihood

The Noble Eightfold Path: Right Livelihood

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D/

 

“Given that almost everyone’s life includes an economic dimension, work and career need to be integrated into life as a Buddhist. Most of us spend the majority of their waking lives at work, so it’s important to assess how our work affects our mind and heart. How can work become meaningful? How can it be a support not a hindrance to spiritual practice — a place to deepen our awareness and kindness?” – Sangharakshita

 

Most people need work to earn a living to support themselves and a family. For most, this is not a choice, it is a necessity for survival. But, what we do to make that living can be a choice and the nature of the occupation chosen can have a major impact on the psychological and spiritual development of the individual. The Buddha’s notion of “Right Livelihood” emphasizes the nature and importance of this choice.

 

Unless you’re a hermit, making a living is a social endeavor. It involves an array of people and it impacts on many others. A manager of a grocery store has to hire and coordinate the activities of many employees, has to work with upper management, suppliers, government regulators including the health department, and has to interact with customers. The manager’s activity impacts a wide array of people. This will also be true for most of us in our work. So, again the choice of occupation can have far reaching effects, not only on the individual, but on a wide network of interconnected people. Positive and/or negative effects of our occupation can thereby have many direct and indirect effects on our happiness and well-being as the effects on others feedback and affect ourselves.

 

“Right Livelihood” is the fifth component of the Buddha’s Noble Eightfold Path, Right View, Right Intentions, Right Speech, Right Actions, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness and Right Concentration.” “Right Livelihood” is actually a subcategory of “Right Action”, but is so important that it like speech is singled out for its own step on the path. It’s particularly important because of its cascading impact on others. What we do and how we do it can make important contributions to the well-being of many or it may produce widespread harm. Having an occupation that produces good and doesn’t produce harm is as important to our own spiritual development as can be to the well-being of others.

 

The notion of “Right Livelihood” mandates that we should engage in an occupation that not only earns us a living but also creates greater happiness, wisdom, and well-being, and relieves suffering in ourselves and others. Conversely, we should avoid occupations that produce harm. The notion of “Right Livelihood” doesn’t discourage earning profits and accumulating wealth. It simply indicates that it must be done in the right way. It indicates that we should acquire wealth only by legal means, peacefully, without coercion or violence; we should acquire it honestly, not by trickery or deceit; and we should acquire it in ways which do not entail harm and suffering for others. This means that in performing our work we should fulfil our duties diligently and conscientiously, not wasting or misrepresenting the hours worked, or stealing, we should pay due respect and consideration to employers, employees, colleagues, and customers, and we should engage in business transactions truthfully without deceptive advertising, misrepresentations, or dishonesty.

 

In the choice of occupations to pursue there are some obvious jobs to aspire to. These are occupations that on their face create good and promote well-being. They include professions such as physician, social worker, peace negotiator, relief worker, therapist, etc. Of course, even these occupations can cause harm, as mistakes can and do happen, but the intent is to relieve suffering, and that’s what counts. Similarly, there are occupations that rather obviously create harm and should be avoided, such as drug dealer, arms merchant, professional criminal, etc.

 

Most occupations, unfortunately, are not so obviously good or harmful. Many can have harmful effects, not by immediate actions, but indirectly. For example, working as an accountant for a cigarette manufacture. Accounting is not itself harmful, but in this case would contribute to the distribution of a product that has been demonstrated to be harmful to people’s health. But, most occupations are even trickier to evaluate. Working on an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico produces a product, energy, that is needed for the well-being of virtually everyone. Without affordable energy, every aspect of the economy would collapse. So, working on the oil rig could be seen as promoting well-being and relieving suffering. On the other hand, there is potential for great environmental harm, including oil spills that directly pollute sensitive environments, or contributing to carbon dioxide emissions that can indirectly create great harm by contributing to global warming.

 

So should someone on the eightfold path accept or reject a job working on an oil rig? The answer cannot be given by anyone other than the individual themselves. It is imperative that the individual look deeply and objectively at what they’re doing and determine for themselves if they are doing more harm than good. On the eightfold path, the primary spiritual impact of “Right Livelihood” is on the individual engaging in the occupation. So, the decision has to be theirs. That is not to say that experts or friends can’t or shouldn’t be consulted, but that ultimately the individual must decide for themselves and be willing to accept the potential consequences.

 

Is it “Right Livelihood” to raise cattle, or chickens for consumption, to be a butcher, or sell animal products? At the surface this might seem simple as it involves the destruction of sentient beings which should be avoided. But, like everything, it’s sometimes not so simple. Firstly, killing out in self-defense is regrettable and should be avoided however possible, but if necessary is not a problem. In fact, there is a long history of lethal self-defense techniques being taught and practiced at some Buddhist monasteries. Killing and eating meat might be seen as self-defense and when other foods are not available for sustenance it’s defensible. In fact, the Buddha and his followers occasionally ate meat and taught that once killed animal products should not be wasted. But, in general, for most people in affluent situations, being involved in the raising, slaughtering, and distribution of animals would not be considered “Right Livelihood.” It may well have negative consequences on the individual and others.

 

In my own career, before I started on the eightfold path, I engaged in research projects using animals. At the time, it seemed to be a noble endeavor, increasing scientific knowledge for the good. But, I believe that I was harmed by this. I now look back with deep regret and guilt that I was responsible for the deaths of literally hundreds of animals. It doesn’t matter that they were lab rats. They were beings who should not have been used and harmed for my own selfish reasons to advance my scientific career. I remember those days long ago vividly and feel terrible that I could have created so much harm. It is something that will haunt me for the rest of my life. I paid and am paying the consequences on violating “Right Livelihood.”

 

We spend so much of our lives at work, that the choice of the wrong occupation can be a major impediment to our spiritual growth. Conversely, the choice of the right occupation can be a major asset. It can create greater happiness, wisdom, and well-being, and relieve suffering in ourselves and others. This is a major step on our spiritual path. So, engage in “Right Livelihood” and move forward toward enlightenment.

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

“A lay follower should not engage in five types of business. Which five? Business in weapons, business in human beings, business in meat, business in intoxicants, and business in poison.” – Buddha

 

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Work Better with Mindfulness

Work Better with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“mindfulness—the objective observation of whatever is occurring—is a core capability at the foundation of a successful, fulfilling career, and of optimal performance in anything that we do. When you apply mindfulness to work, you give those efforts meaning and become more engaged, more attuned.” –  George Pitagorsky

 

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 work environment. 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 burnoutmindfulness 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 “Being While Doing: An Inductive Model of Mindfulness at Work.” See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5318448/, Lyddy and Good hypothesize that much of work behavior is simply “Doing,” often mindlessly, while mindfulness training produces a state they label “Being while Doing.” Further they hypothesized that “Being while Doing” Would produce better performance and more positive feelings about work than just “Doing.” They conducted structured interviews of working professionals who also engaged in mindfulness practice. The interviews explored “how individuals experienced their own workplace functioning while mindful and not mindful.”

 

They analyzed the transcripts of the interviews and described that individuals can be mindful at work, yet remaining mindful in the work environment can be very difficult. They describe two major patterns that the workers’ reports indicated, entanglement and disentanglement. Entanglement involves mindless “Doing” without “Being” while disentanglement involves “Being” while “Doing.”

 

The participants reported that entanglement resulted in poorer work performance which they felt poorly and regretful about. E.g.

Usually my non-mindfulness is … taking the action that I shouldn’t have taken, rather than not having taken an action that I should have taken. … The boss said something about something he wanted differently. And he said ‘I’m not trying to get on your case or anything.’ And I said ‘yes you were!’ I should not have said that! … He was right … It was not real cool. … These words just flew out of my mouth that I shouldn’t have spoken.”

On the other hand, they reported that entanglement resulted in better work performance and a state of good feeling satisfaction. E.g.

Meeting with [a client], … I’m criticizing myself, … ‘you’re not being helpful with this client.’ … I was aware, … I recognized that. … It helped me then to be confident. … I proposed a concrete intervention that I think she felt was helpful, whereas before I had been … timid and passive. … Being aware that I was feeling this insecurity … helped me to take the risk. … [Mindfulness supported this by] … being aware of [my insecurity] in the moment.”

 

These results suggest that, although difficult, “Being while Doing” at work is possible and enhances job performance by making the individual more aware of their own state and reactions, allowing for course corrections. It is difficult to remain in this state as the work environment presents a myriad of distractions promoting mindless “Doing.” The participants reported that more meditation practice was one way to promote being able to stay in or transition to “Being while Doing.”

 

So, work better with mindfulness.

 

“Mindfulness is, above all, about being aware and awake rather than operating unconsciously. When you’re consciously present at work, you’re aware of two aspects of your moment-to-moment experience—what’s going on around you and what’s going on within you. To be mindful at work means to be consciously present in what you’re doing, while you’re doing it, as well as managing your mental and emotional state.” – Shamash Alidina

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Lyddy, C. J., & Good, D. J. (2016). Being While Doing: An Inductive Model of Mindfulness at Work. Frontiers in Psychology, 7, 2060. http://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2016.02060

 

Abstract

Mindfulness at work has drawn growing interest as empirical evidence increasingly supports its positive workplace impacts. Yet theory also suggests that mindfulness is a cognitive mode of “Being” that may be incompatible with the cognitive mode of “Doing” that undergirds workplace functioning. Therefore, mindfulness at work has been theorized as “being while doing,” but little is known regarding how people experience these two modes in combination, nor the influences or outcomes of this interaction. Drawing on a sample of 39 semi-structured interviews, this study explores how professionals experience being mindful at work. The relationship between Being and Doing modes demonstrated changing compatibility across individuals and experience, with two basic types of experiences and three types of transitions. We labeled experiences when informants were unable to activate Being mode while engaging Doing mode as Entanglement, and those when informants reported simultaneous co-activation of Being and Doing modes as Disentanglement. This combination was a valuable resource for offsetting important limitations of the typical reliance on the Doing cognitive mode. Overall our results have yielded an inductive model of mindfulness at work, with the core experience, outcomes, and antecedent factors unified into one system that may inform future research and practice.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5318448/