Table of content
2.1 Historical roots
2.3 Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR)
2.4 Other mindfulness meditation-based approaches
3. Application in the business context
3.1 State of research
3.2 Possible difficulties
Purpose: This work provides an overview of the practice of mindfulness with an emphasis on incorporating this valuable skill in the business context, helping employees to reduce stress as well as to promote health and well being.
Conclusions: Conscious attention to the present moment in a receptive way is known as mindfulness. A growing body of research indicates that mindfulness can be taught and cultivated to improve physical and mental health, which can also be promising in the business or economical context. Still there is the need for further research in that area. Additionally, the use of the practice of mindfulness in businesses may lead to the misuse of the technique for gain and profit, rather than for it's original purpose - to create well-being and mental health.
Implications for practice: Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction offers a program, which is adapted to today's requirements, to reduce stress and to facilitate mental health and well being. Especially in the corporate world, there is a vast potential of improvement, regarding the often times high demands of the jobs. MBSR programs can be integrated in business on a regular basis or on a retreat basis, which can advance the atmosphere and the productivity. Additionally there is a great possibility of a lower rate of sick employees.
List of tables
1 Concise content of the 8-week MBSR program
Globalization, capitalism, quickly changing working environments, instability and newer and easier ways of communication have profoundly changed the way of the working world and society. “Todays employees are working in teams, create ideas, solve problems, work with machines, advertise, support and advise customers. Their brains are always flooded with information through computers, faxes, telephone and other media - in their working environments as well as at home. On-the-job training and professional development is also as important. This means for individuals, that their mental strength has to be improved, in order to process the high levels of concentration” (Joiko et al. 2010). Changes in working environments have always had an impact on individuals, but todays needs of adaption on the quickly moving business world result more frequently in mental stress. Even „healthy“ employees feel this constant pressure and start losing their enjoyment with their profession. „The healthy balance between work and other aspects of life, like creativity and resilience are more and more decreasing“ (Tamdjidi und Kohls, 2012a).
Thanks to Jon Kabat-Zinn, who started in the mid 1970's with the development and implementation of his mindfulness-based Stress reduction program (MBSR), 17.000 patients have already found treatment for their psychological stress in Kabat-Zinns's facilities in the USA with mindfulness being the central aspect of the program. And by now, Mindfulness-based stress reduction has made its way into medical institutions all over the world (Kabat-Zinn, 2011). It became clear that “mindfulness as a therapeutic principle” “ (Michalak et al., 2012) might also be an effective method for workplace health promotion and burnout treatment. “Big players like Google have already implemented mindfulness training as a central aspect in the development of a successful leadership culture.” (Tamdjidi und Kohls, 2012b).
Mindfulness is not an attitude, but the basic ability of the human spirit and brain. Mindfulness is an inward and/ or outward directed attentiveness in the present moment, which include our senses. We can control and direct our awareness and focus on perception or thoughts. In this state we are mindful. “This mindfulness makes it possible, to see or to recognize things, which are often times hidden or blind spots for a restless or distracted mind. If we are mindfulness with our actions, we are able to see its purpose. Concentration is one aspect of mindfulness. Mindfulness is the base for all higher cognitive abilities” (Tamdjidi und Stephan, 2015a).
The effectiveness of mindfulness training has already been proven by many different scientific studies (i.e. Kristeller und Hallett, 1999; Baer, 2003; Grossmann et al., 2004; Hofmann et al., 2010, Bowen et al., 2009, Carson et al., 2006; Duncan and Bardacke, 2010, Michalak et al., 2012) in the context of medical and health science. In the context of working environments, there is still a need of viable evidence and scientific research.
The concern of this work is to gain indications and reference points, whether mindfulness methods are useful for health promotion and integration in the work place. Also if mindfulness training can help employees to perceive a increase in contentment, cooperative collaboration as well personal resilience with a pragmatic and easy integration in the company.
There is abundant research of the positive effects that mindfulness has on the quality of life, improved focus and the decrease of stress. From fortune 500 companies to elementary schools, mindfulness practices are being used everyday in practical application and controlled studies with profound outcomes. Still mindfulness meditation and everyday mindfulness practice is rarely used in personal and professional life regarding our western civilization. Out of survival in the moment people allow occupational pressure, general life stress and technological distractions to consume their precious minutes. As born out of Buddhist tradition, Mindfulness has been used for thousands of years to improve people's life quality, to lower anxiety and stress and to avoid unnecessary and consuming thoughts. It centers the mind in the present moment, where it is concentrated and more effective.
2.1 Historical roots
Eastern religious traditions are the roots of Mindfulness and mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) (Baer, 2003). It is seen as a deliberate practice, which enable humans to prevent suffering and to see things as they really are, without interference by thoughts or emotions. Jon Kabat-Zinn was one of the first people to introduce these ancient methods to the western world in the late 1970s. His research at the University of Massachusetts Medical School until the 1980s led to creation of many interventions by researchers and clinicians, testing the technique for decreasing subjective stress of adult patients in medical settings. Mindfulness-based stress reduction was the result (Stahl & Goldstein, 2010). It proved useful for helping patients cope more successfully with chronic illness and pain (Grossman, Nieman, Schmidt, & Walach, 2004). During the 1990s leading up the 2000s, MBSR was generally used in a non-medical context for the treatment of psychological disorders. Eventually it was integrated in well-established psychotherapeutic techniques, resulting in the development of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT; Segal, Williams, & Teasdale, 2002) and mindfulness-based relapse prevention (MBRP; Bowen, Chawla, & Marlatt, 2011).
The British scholar Rhys Davids was one of the first persons to translate the term Mindfulness in 1881, which has it's origins in Buddhist traditions. Following that, many authors, philosophers and theologians attempted to find a definition, which describes the term in the best way, utilizing ancient Buddhists texts for interpretations. The Buddhist monk Nyanaponika was able to create a significant definition of Mindfulness, which was later adopted by Mindfulness-based stress reduction and Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy. Many people equate mindfulness with meditation, although it is just one technique of the mindfulness practice. There are many different definitions on the term Mindfulness, while many describe similar aspects of the practice. Mindfulness can be regarded as “a moment- to-moment awareness of one's experience without judgment. In this sense, mindfulness is a state and not a trait. While it might be promoted by certain practices or activities, such as meditation, it is not equivalent to or synonymous with them.” (American Psychological Association, APA.org, 2012). Jon Kabat-Zinn, the creator of the global renown Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR), which will be examined in the following chapter, defines it as “the awareness that arises from paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally” (Kabat- Zinn, 2015). This is also a generally accepted definition in academic literature, focusing on a conscious attention in the present moment. The famous Vietnamese Buddhist monk says, that “Mindfulness shows us what is happening in our bodies, our emotions, our minds, and in the world. Through mindfulness, we avoid harming ourselves and others.”
2.3 Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR)
Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction programs are among the most spread intervention programs based on Mindfulness. It helps participants to be less judgemental and less reactive to external stimuli. It also fosters attentional focus in the present moment Kabat-Zinn, 1990). The taught practices also support the selfawareness of the participants, helping them to gain insight into their own mental states (Segal, Williams, & Teasdale, 2002). Mindfulness-bases Stress Reduction has been shown to improve psychological well-being and mental health in a number of controlled and uncontrolled trials.
The 8 week long Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction program is used for over 45 years in the US and since 1992 also in Germany in hundreds of medical institution and health centers. It is based on the two main approaches of the Buddhist Vipassana practice, through which it already created promising results, verified with scientific research and studies - even with patients suffering from therapy resistant psycho somatic sufferings. Kabat-Zinn, the founder of MBSR, used the precious essence of the oldest Buddhist meditation technique “Vipassana” without the “baggage” of the often times offputting traditional framework (Gruber, 2002). The inner attitude of the person is of essential importance for the practice of Mindfulness. The attitude, with which one enters the practice of Mindfulness is greatly determining the long-term value for each individual. This is why patients benefit even more from the meditation, when they have previously developed certain inner attitudes, which foster the development of the practice and support inner growth and healing (Kabat- Zinn, 2011). One central element in the practice of Mindfulness during the MBSR- program are seven fundamental qualities, which are consciously taught and developed during the meditation: 1. Non judgement, 2. Patience, 3. Beginners mind,
4. Trust, 5. Non-striving, 6. Acceptance, 7. Letting go.
1. Non judgment. If we strive to handle stress in our lives in a constructive way, then the first step is to become conscious of the consequences of the nature of judgment. “Only then one can see through the filter of ones own prejudices and fears and become free of that tyranny. The objective is not to block prejudice, but to realize that it is happening.” (Kabat-Zinn, 2011).
2. Patience. “To be patient is to know, that everything has its time to unfold, when the right moment has arrived.” (Kabat-Zinn, 2011).
3. Beginners mind. To see things, occurrences and moments with the curiosity and the eyes of a child. To open ones inner world, as if one is experiencing everything for the first time.
4. Trust. “An integral part of the meditation is the development of trust in ones own inner wisdom. Not to be someone else, but to be one self. The more trust one is able to develop in the inner self and wisdom, the better one is able to see and to appreciate it in other humans.” (Kabat-Zinn, 2011).
5. Non striving. “Meditation is active doing nothing. While meditating, one learns to be oneself, in an unfamiliar way. One no longer tries to be like this or that or to be different, but just to be how one is.” (Kabat-Zinn, 2011).
6. Acceptance. Acceptance means to be free from any judgment. In the meditation context it means, that one should be conscious of every moment, to accept it without judgment and to view it holistically - to focus on context, rather than content.
7. Letting go. “The process of letting go and the development of this virtue is one of the fundamental pillars of mindfulness meditation.” (Kabat-Zinn, 2011).
Letting go means that all things, whether positively of negatively connoted, are to be viewed non judgmentally and to be accepted.
To teach and to train with these seven pillars of MBSR, a methodical-didactical structure is required. The Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction program is an eight- week experience- and training based group program with a group size up to 30 participants (Michalak et al., 2012).
Every week includes one two and a half hour long group session, which is split in three parts: The first part is a continuously practice of mindfulness through different forms of guided mindfulness meditations, free from world views. Secondly, the cognitive examination with stress based subjects in short presentations and in exchange with a group. Thirdly, ways to incorporate the knowledge into the private and corporate daily life.
The following practices of guided mindfulness meditation are provided:
1. Body Scan, Awareness of the body.
2. Meditation with awareness of the breath.
3. Hatha-Yoga, Mindfulness stretching and exercise.
4. Meditation in silence (sitting) and in motion are „the essential practical components of the MBSR-programs, which should amount a minimum of 45 minutes per day. Table 1 gives the concise content of the eight-week MBSR program taught at the Stress Reduction Clinic of the University of Massachusetts Medical School (Kabat-Zinn, 2011).