Mindfulness Trends & Stress Reduction
"Mindfulness" has become a buzz word over the past few years with companies like Apple, Nike, Target, HBO and Google among others adopting mindfulness programs to improve employee efficiency and happiness. Google has even gone so far as to create a program that extends beyond their campus called Search Inside Yourself (SIY) Leadership Institute to teach executives around the world how to bring mindfulness into their personal lives and the workplace. The reason Google and others have been willing to invest heavily in these programs is that they know something most don't. Meditation works and there are studies that prove it.
What Is Mindfulness?
Jon Kabat-Zinn is a Professor of Medicine Emeritus and studies at MIT and is the founder of Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction. He is known as the founder of modern day mindfulness. He defines mindfulness as "Paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally." He has spent his personal and professional life immersed in meditation and mindfulness techniques. Brain science and technologies are becoming more advanced and are beginning to prove his theories.
What Does The Research Show?
Sara Lazar is a brain researcher at Harvard. She and her team found that mindfulness meditation can change the physical structure of the brain. Eight weeks of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) - which included just 20 minutes of meditation per day increased cortical thickness in the hippocampus (the area of the brain that governs learning and memory, and often plays a role in emotion regulation).
They also found that cell volume decreased in the amygdala, which is responsible for fear, anxiety, and stress. This is big news for brain research and shows that how we treat our brains really matters.
How Does Stress Affect Americans?
Employer contribution to mindfulness programs is likely to stay. Between August 2016 and January 2017, Americans' overall stress level increased for the first time in 10 years, according to a new study from the American Psychological Association. And Millenials are the most stressed generation in America (as reported by the 2015 Stress in America Survey). The 3 top stressors that Americans face are: Money Stress, Work-Related Stress and Chronic Illness.
How Do I Start Meditating?
Begin simply. Start with 5 minutes per day. Many meditation coaches teach RPM. Which stands for "Rise, Pee, Meditate". What is most important is that you set aside time each day to practice in which you won't be disturbed. That means no phone, no kids, no dogs or other interruptions. Often that leaves the beginning or end of the day. Sit comfortably cross legged or in a chair with your feet grounded on the floor. Whatever is most comfortable for you and place your hands in your lap or on your knees whichever position is least distracting. Set a timer for 5 minutes. During this time practice mindfulness. So you will pay attention to the present moment on purpose. This often involves focusing on just your breath in and out. We aren't trying to change the breath, we are simply noticing the present sensations in the body. When a thought comes up just allow it to show up and then let it go. You may begin thinking about your to do list or have a regret about the past or plans for the future. This is our mind doing it's best to take control of our thoughts and we simply notice this, make a decision to let it go and get back to the present moment again. Without judgement or worry. We simply acknowledge and get back to the present. Try this for 7 days straight and if it seems easy, then add 5 more minutes. And so on.
Is There An App for That?
Of course! There are apps designed to help technology lovers begin their journey with meditation so that one can easily fold the practice into their daily life. They offer voice guided, musical and silent meditations so that the user can find the method that resonates best for them. Many keep track of sessions, have specific meditations for crises and even have a motivation element too.
Evidence for Mindfulness and Meditation reducing stress is growing daily. It can help improve improve emotional regulation, memory, learning and reduce stress. Who would want that edge with their employees?
East Wellbeing offers a 30 Minute Meditation for $15 on Wednesdays at 12:15PM. Feel free to join us for a 20 minute meditation and 10 minute discussion.