The World Health Organization estimates stress costs U.S. companies at least $300 billion a year through absenteeism, turn-over and low productivity, according to the Bloomberg article “Harvard Yoga Scientists Find Proof of Meditation Benefit”. There is emerging science-based evidence that what yogi’s have known for centuries is true; mindfulness and meditation are effective skills for self awareness and well-being. Studies have shown the association between increased mindfulness and decreased levels of the stress hormone cortisol.(1) An 8 week course in mindfulness can reduce the reactivity of the amygdala and increased activity in areas of the prefrontal cortex that help regulate emotions, subsequently reducing stress.(2)
An Ancient Solution for a 21st Century Problem
Being “mindful” has other advantages, such as enhanced focus and creativity. Researchers found that, compared with the people who didn’t meditate,“those trained in meditation stayed on tasks longer and made fewer task switches, as well as reporting less negative feedback after task performance.” (3) In 2012, scientists from the University of Groningen and North Dakota State University tested the theory that mindfulness affects awareness and the filtering out of other mental processes during creative tasks. Studying a large number of volunteers, the researchers found that mindfulness practice predicted and improved “insight” problem solving, which is “seeing” and solving problems in a novel way, hence, creative thinking. (4)
Serenity Mindfulness Programs for the Engaging Workplace
As a sustainable and innovative wellness benefit, Serenity Mindfulness Programs are offered by companies who want to present a holistic approach to stress management and who “think outside the box” for solutions. Stress comes to people in many forms and there are just as many ways to address it in the workplace; promote regular exercise, improve organization and communication skills, offer quality nutrition, and support work-life balance. These strategies are valuable, but they do not address the most complex component of stress; the individual’s perception of it. There is growing research on the effects of one’s perception of stress.
Changing Our Minds About Stress
One study concluded that stress may actually be correlated with longevity—if a person doesn’t view it as a negative. (5) Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison asked almost 29,000 people to rate their level of stress over the past year as well as how much they believed this stress influenced their health — a little, a moderate amount or a lot. Over the next eight years, public death records were used to record the passing of any subjects.
The people who reported having high levels of stress and who believed stress had a large impact on their health had a whopping 43% increased risk of death. On the other hand, those that experienced a lot of stress but did not perceive its effects as negative were amongst the least likely to die as compared to all other participants in the study. Fascinating!
In order to change our perception of stress we must change the way we react to it. As Dr. Hans Selye, the endocrinologist who defined stress in the body was quoted, “It’s not stress that kills us it is our reaction to it.” Strengthening the minds’ ability to respond rather than react is one of the core facets of mindfulness. Through formal and informal practices; mindfulness develops these five facets; observing, describing, acting with awareness, non-judging of inner experience, and non-reactivity to inner experience.
- Jacobs TL1, Shaver PR, Epel ES, Zanesco AP, Aichele SR, Bridwell DA, Rosenberg EL, King BG, Maclean KA, Sahdra BK, Kemeny ME, Ferrer E, Wallace BA, Saron CD.Health Psychol. 2013 Oct;32(10):1104-9. doi: 10.1037/a0031362. Pub 2013 Mar 25. Self-reported mindfulness and cortisol during a Shamatha meditation retreat.
- Goldin, P. & Gross, J. (2010). Effects of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) on emotion regulation in social anxiety disorder. Emotion. 10, 1. 83-91.
- Levy, D., Wobbrock, J., Kaszniak, A. & Ostergren, M. (2012). The Effects of Mindfulness Meditation Training on Multitasking in a High-Stress Information Environment. Proceedings of Graphics Interface. 45-52.
- Ostafin, B. & Kassman, K. (2012). Stepping out of history: Mindfulness improves insight problem solving. Consciousness and Cognition. 21, 2. 1031 - 1036.
- Keller A1, Litzelman K, Wisk LE, Maddox T, Cheng ER, Creswell PD, Witt WP, Health Psychol. 2012 Sep;31(5):677-84. doi: 10.1037/a0026743. Epub 2011 Dec 26. Does the perception that stress affects health matter? The association with health and mortality