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Mindfulnet.org, curated by TMG partner Juliet Adams lists hundreds of studies pertaining to mindfulness with about 50 of workplace specific mindfulness research.

Research and Science

Research about mindfulness necessitates incorporating social, economic and political factors, such as how people construct meaning, what influences our perceptions, what values we develop and display toward others and the environment. In these ways, we can gain deeper insight not only into mindfulness, but into various perspectives and aspects of psychology and philosophy. Read full article by Marie Holm

The scientific research showcasing the physical and mental health benefits of practicing meditation and mindfulness is valid, reliable and measurable, as shown in the research on the following topics. These subjects – Stress, Focus, Creativity and Teamwork/Productivity – are particularly sensitve in the workplace.

Stress and mindfulness

Stress stops the normal functioning of our body that assumes there’s a physical threat at hand and channels energy into getting out of immediate danger. To do this, it shuts down non-essential systems which are taking up energy. A regular high level of stress is extremely damaging to our mental and physical well-being, leading to stomach ulcers, heart problems and illnesses.

Over 15 million absence days attributed to stress, anxiety and depression were recorded in 2013 in the UK alone. An average employee will claim between 5 (USA) and 9 days (UK) per year. In the face of this record level of absenteeism, investing in wellbeing-enhancing programs is a wise choice: investments in preventative wellbeing interventions are returned at least double through reductions in absenteeism and healthcare cost.

Meditation calms down our nervous system, activating the “rest and digest” part of our nervous system, helping with stress management. Our heart rate slows, our respiration slows and our blood pressure drops. The relaxation response is restorative, so meditation benefits our wellbeing.

Transport for London has reported that ongoing mindfulness training has led to a reduction by half in absentee rates for stress-related illness.

Brain scans studies have shown that regular mindfulness practice not only reduces the reactivity of the amygdala (the part of the brain responsible for triggering fear and threat response) and increases activity in areas of the prefrontal cortex that help regulate emotions, subsequently reducing stress, but also induced changes in the physical structure of the brain: lower density of neurons in the amygdala and greater density of neurons in areas involved in emotional control – evidence that meditation served as a realistic and maintainable stress management technique.

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Research

American Psychological Association. (2012). The Impact of Stress. http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/stress/2012/impact.aspx?item=2

Health and Safety Executive. (2012). Stress and Psychological Disorders. http://www.hse.gov.uk/statistics/index.htm

The Mental Health Foundation. (2010). The Mindfulness Report. http://www.livingmindfully.co.uk/downloads/Mindfulness_Report.pdf

Benson, H., Beary, J., & Carol, M. (1974). The relaxation response. Psychiatry. 19, 37. 37-45.6.

Goldin, P. & Gross, J. (2010). Effects of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) on emotion regulation in social anxiety disorder. Emotion. 10, 1. 83-91.

Hölzel, B., Carmody, J., Vangel, M., Congleton, C., Yerramsetti, S., Gard, T. & Lazar, S. (2011) Mindfulness practice leads to increases in regional brain gray matter density. Neuroimaging. 191. 36-43.

Mackenzie, C., Poulin, P. & Seidman-Carlson, R. (2006). A brief mindfulness-based stress reduction intervention for nurses and nurse aides. Applied Nursing Research. 19, 2. 105-10.

Focus and mindfulness

Working memory and the ability to focus on given tasks may actually predict high achievement more reliably than IQ. In several replicated studies, researchers have found that very brief periods of mindfulness training can significantly, and measurably, increases people’s working memory.

A 2012 US study examined how meditation training affected individuals’ behavior in multitasking at work. The 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.”

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Research

Moffitt, T., Arseneault, L., Belsky, D., Dickson, N., Hancox, R., Harrington, H., Caspi, A. (2011). From the Cover: A gradient of childhood self-control predicts health, wealth, and public safety. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 108, 7. 2693-2698.

Mischel, W., Shoda, Y., & Peake, P. K. (1988). The nature of adolescent competencies predicted by preschool delay of gratification. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 54, 4. 687-696.

Duckworth, A. & Seligman, M. (2005). Self-discipline outdoes IQ in predicting academic performance of adolescents. Psychological Science. 16, 12. 939-944.

Dietz, P., Striegel, H., Franke, G., Lieb, K., Simon. P. & Ulrich, R. (2013). Randomized Response Estimates for the 12-Month Prevalence of Cognitive-Enhancing Drug Use in University Students. Pharmacotherapy: The Journal of Human Pharmacology and Drug Therapy. 33, 1.

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.

MacLean, K. A., Ferrer, E., Aichele, S. R., Bridwell, D. A., Zanesco, A. P., Jacobs, T. L., Saron, C. D. (2010). Intensive Meditation Training Improves Perceptual Discrimination and Sustained Attention. Psychological Science. 21, 6. 829-839.

Jha, A. P., Stanley, E. A., Kiyonaga, A., Wong, L., & Gelfand, L. (2010). Examining the protective effects of mindfulness training on working memory capacity and affective experience. Emotion. 10, 1. 54-64.

Zeidan, F., Johnson, S. K., Diamond, B. J., David, Z., & Goolkasian, P. (2010). Mindfulness meditation improves cognition: Evidence of brief mental training. Consciousness and Cognition. 19, 2. 597-605.

Tang, Y., Lu, Q., Geng, X., Stein, E. A., Yang, Y., & Posner, M. (2010). Short-term meditation induces white matter changes in the anterior cingulate. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 107, 35. 15649-15652.

Creativity and Mindfulness

Mindfulness affects awareness and the filtering out of other mental processes during creative tasks. Researchers found that mindfulness practice predicts and improves “insight” problem solving, which is seeing and solving problems in a novel way, linking therefore mindfulness and creativity.

Practitioners also show less rigid thinking and are more likely to have new ideas by reducing the tendency to overlook novel and adaptive ways of responding due to unproductive habits and past experience.

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Research

Ostafin, B. & Kassman, K. (2012). Stepping out of history: Mindfulness improves insight problem solving. Consciousness and Cognition. 21, 2. 1031 – 1036.

Colzato, L., Ozturk, A. & Hommel, B. (2012). Meditate to create: the impact of focused-attention and open-monitoring training on convergent and divergent thinking. Front. Psychology. 3, 116.

Greenberg, J., Reiner, K. & Meiran, N. (2012). “Mind the Trap”: Mindfulness Practice Reduces Cognitive Rigidity. 7, 5

Teamwork, productivity and Mindfulness

The more mindful supervisors or leaders are, the more their subordinates feel satisfied at work and are less likely to burn out. This is due to mindful leaders behaving in a more emotionally intelligent manner in the workplace. Significant research reveals that organizations with mindful processes and leadership practices engage in more reliable safety performance, report fewer errors and have staff with lower unit-level turnover rates.

Mindfulness promotes more reliable organizational performance because stress and impulsiveness are strongly linked. The problem with impulsiveness at work is that it lowers people’s propensity to behave in a prosocial manner. Mindfulness helps people regulate their emotions more effectively and become less impulsive, leading to emotional equanimity and prosocial behavior, which is key to running a productive organization.

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Research

Karl E. Weick, Kathleen M. Sutcliffe and David Obstfeld. Organizing for High Reliability: Processes of Collective Mindfulness. Source. R.S. Sutton and B.M. Staw (eds), Research in Organizational Behavior, Volume 1 (Stanford: Jai Press, 1999), pp. 81–123.

Timothy J. Vogus, Naomi B. Rothman, Kathleen M. Sutcliffe andKarl E. Weick. The affective foundations of high-reliability organizing. (2014). DOI: 10.1002/job.1922

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