As the nurturing of our mental health becomes a more spoken-about issue in today’s society, some have turned to the practice of mindfulness as a way of finding peace in a hectic world. However, most of us are completely unaware of this process and how it can be such a benefit in day-to-day life.
Studies show the average person spends one-third of their lives working. Therefore it’s important that each member of staff is in the right mindset to effectively do their job to the best of their ability. Listed below are a number of ways in which stress can negatively affect a staff member’s performance in the workplace, and underneath we have added how the practice of mindfulness will counteract this:
1) Motivation: When we’re stressed, we may become disinterested in our work. As stress can leave us feeling overwhelmed or as if we have ‘too much on our mind’, our focus may not be fully on the tasks set out for us. This results in us feeling a lack of motivation, causing poorly produced work and possible bad time management.
Mindfulness has been shown to improve three qualities of attention: stability, control and efficiency. The human mind is estimated to wander roughly half of our waking hours, but mindfulness can stabilize attention in the present. This means that from practicing mindfulness, our increased focus on the job in hand means that we will have more motivation to carry out the task.
2) Focus: Stress affects our ability to remember things we already know, making it difficult to process new information. It furthermore affects our decision-making abilities, creating an erratic thought process. This causes us to be more easily distracted and prone to make costly mistakes on the job.
Recent studies have found that mindfulness positively alters the part of the brain responsible for self-regulation, which allows us to manage our time better to successfully meet deadlines. A study also found that those trained in meditation stayed on tasks longer and made fewer task switches, as well as reporting less negative emotion after task performance.
3) Health: Stress causes many physical health problems, from headaches, weight loss/gain and high blood pressure. There are also the mental health problems of stress to consider, such as depression, anxiety and insomnia. If somebody isn’t feeling well, they’re not going to do their best work- and may take more sick days than somebody who isn’t feeling the effects of stress.
A number of studies have proved that mindfulness can lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, as well as reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke. Mindfulness also reduces stress levels which lead to less physical and mental stress-related illnesses, therefore there is a reduced chance of an employee taking a day off sick.
4) Relationships: The negative feelings created from stress may cause us to become more sensitive to criticism in the workplace, leading us becoming defensive when handling criticism. Stress also causes us to have a lowered self-esteem, which may result in paranoia about job security and resentment toward co-workers who seem to have everything under control. This means that not only will relationships between co-workers be affected, an individual may also begin to dislike their manager or supervisor, and in the case of a customer service- based role, may negatively interact with customers or clients.
Mindfulness meditation increases the grey matter in our hippocampus, which is the region of the brain that is associated with self-awareness, compassion, and introspection. This allows us to become better listeners, by fully absorbing a person’s meaning and intent. Furthermore, mindfulness may help build and activate the parts of our brain that prevents us from lashing out and being defensive in the face of criticism, which allows us to calmly absorb the information, take advice and learn from our mistakes.