Tag Archives: mindfulness meditation

Evidence-Based Stress Management – Mindful Attention – Part 2 of 5

Workplace stress reduces employees’ ability to concentrate and pay attention to work, but mindfulness training can enhance these skills while reducing stress.

Matthew Killingsworth

Matthew Killingsworth

Inattentiveness and distraction are both frequent and unpleasant, according to Harvard’s Matthew Killingsworth and Daniel Gilbert.
They surveyed more than 2,000 adults, who reported that 47 percent of the time, their focus was not on their current activities.
In addition, these volunteers reported being less happy when distracted.

Lee Ann Cardaciotto

Lee Ann Cardaciotto

Another way to measure distraction and attentiveness is The Philadelphia Mindfulness Scale, developed by La Salle University’s Lee Ann Cardaciotto and James Herbert, Evan Forman, Ethan Moitra, and Victoria Farrow of Drexel University.
This tool provides a baseline measure of potential need for stress management and mindfulness training, and can demonstrate impact of training.

Jon Kabat-Zinn

Jon Kabat-Zinn

Current approaches to stress management training are typically based on Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), which trains participants to focus on breathing, which slows respiration and heart rate, and triggers the “relaxation response.”

Wendy Hasenkamp

Wendy Hasenkamp

Using these frameworks, Emory’s Wendy Hasenkamp, Christine Wilson-Mendenhall, Erica Duncan, and Lawrence Barsalou investigated the neurological activity during distraction and mind-wandering experiences using fMRI scans of 14 meditators.

Participants focused on breathing and pressed a button when they realized their minds were wandering, then returned focus to the breathing.
Scans pinpointed active brain regions before, during, or after the button press.

Erica Duncan

Erica Duncan

Hasenkamp and team proposed four intervals in a cognitive cycle, based on button-pressing patterns:

  • Mind wandering (default mode activity), controlled by the medial prefrontal cortex, leading to  self-focused thoughts
  • Awareness of mind wandering (attentional subnetworks)
  • Shifting of attention (executive subnetworks)
  • Sustained attention (executive subnetworks).
Lawrence Barsalou

Lawrence Barsalou

These experienced meditators disengaged attention and deactivated medial prefrontal cortex more quickly after identifying mind-wandering, suggesting that their mindfulness practice helped them voluntarily shift from perseverative, ruminating thoughts.
They demonstrated increased connectivity between default mode and attention brain regions, enabling less default mode activity while meditating.

Britta Hölzel

Britta Hölzel

Besides reducing stress, mindfulness meditation trains attention, improves working memory, fluid intelligence, introspection, and standardized test scores, according to Britta Hölzel team at Harvard and Justus Liebig Universität Giessen.
In addition, mindfulness meditation has shown beneficial results in comprehensive treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression, and sexual dysfunction.

Fadel Zeidan

Fadel Zeidan

Hölzel’s group conducted anatomical magnetic resonance (MR) images for 16 volunteers with no previous mindfulness meditation experience before and after they participated in the 8-week training program.
Gray matter concentration increased in the meditators’ left hippocampus, posterior cingulate cortex, temporo-parietal junction, and cerebellum, areas responsible for learning and memory processes, emotion regulation, self-referential processing, and perspective taking.

Further support for mindfulness meditation’s value in reducing perceived stress and anxiety comes from Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center’s Fadel Zeidan.
His study identified brain areas activated and deactivated during meditation and participants reported that anxiety decreased by 39 percent during practice.

Norman Farb

Norman Farb

Mindfulness meditation training modifies the way people experience themselves over time and in the present moment, according to University of Toronto’s Norman Farb and six collaborators.
The team used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to examine monitoring of two self-reference processes:  Focus on enduring traits (’narrative’ focus) or momentary experience (’experiential’ focus).

They compared participants with no previous meditation experience, and volunteers who completed an 8-week mindfulness meditation training to increase attention on the present.

Herbert Benson

Herbert Benson

Brain scans of inexperienced and experienced meditators differed significantly in tasks that required these two forms of self-awareness: the self across time and in the present moment.
These two experiences are usually integrated but can be dissociated through mindfulness attention training.
Results suggest that mindfulness training enables people to focus on the present moment without the distraction of intrusive, ruminative thoughts which can increase stress.

Manoj Bhasin

Manoj Bhasin

Mindfulness-based stress management has significant long term effects by modifying gene expression.
Harvard’s Herbert Benson, who led research on “the relaxation response” almost four decades ago, along with colleagues including Harvard’s Manoj Bhasin and Abbott Northwestern Hospital Jeffery Dusek and four others, assert that meditation evokes “a specific genomic response that counteracts the harmful genomic effects of stress.”

Jeffrey Dusek

Jeffrey Dusek

Genes associated with inflammation and stress are less active and those involved in energy metabolism, mitochondrial function, insulin secretion and telomere maintenance are activated.

Bhasin, Dusek and team measured peripheral blood transcriptome in experienced and inexperienced meditators before and after they listened to a relaxation response-inducing tape or a health education message.

Both short-term and long-term practitioners showed significant temporal gene expression changes with a greater effect among the experienced meditators.

This and other research evidence supports the effectiveness of mindfulness attention training as a stress management practice.
Mindful attention training enables people to voluntarily control body processes like respiration and heart rate, which reduces perceived stress.
The practice can induce calm thoughts that reciprocally reduce the physical expressions of stress.

Jonathan Smallwood

Jonathan Smallwood

Like other stress management techniques, this practice requires willingness and commitment to take full advantage of benefits demonstrated in lab studies.

If efforts to cultivate mindfulness falter, mind-wandering or “self-generated thoughts” can be channeled away from self-referential worries to enable creativity problem-solving and planning.

Jessica Andrews-Hanna

Jessica Andrews-Hanna

Max Planck Institute’s Jonathan Smallwood and Jessica Andrews-Hanna of University of Colorado argue that “a wandering mind helps project past and future selves.”

Thomas Suddendorf

Thomas Suddendorf

Similarly, University of Queensland’s Thomas Suddendorf and Michael Corballis of University of Auckland posit that this hindsight and foresight enables experience and memory integration into a sense of self through this “mental time travel.” 

Michael Corballis

Michael Corballis

University of California, Santa Barbara’s Benjamin Baird collaborated with Jonathan Smallwood and four colleagues to evaluate the impact of mind-wandering on a creativity task during a demanding task, rest, or an undemanding task.

Benjamin Baird

Benjamin Baird

They found that engaging in an undemanding task during an incubation period led to substantial performance improvements, suggesting the value of mind-wandering to develop creative solutions.

Although mindfulness training has been reliably associated with effective stress management, even moments of mind-wandering can be channeled to productive ends in creative problem-solving.

-*How applicable are mindfulness attention training practice for workplace stress?

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Mindful Attention (Part 2)

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Look for related posts on:

  • Vitamins and Probiotcs (Part 1)
  • Social Support (Part 3)
  • Music (Part 4)
  • Physical Exercise (Part 5)

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Decrease Stress, Increase Collaboration through Group Singing?

Björn Vickhoff

Björn Vickhoff

Helge Malmgren

Helge Malmgren

Collaborative activities including dancing and cooking, have been shown to increase inclusion, cohesiveness and oxytocin and may reduce stress.

Cross-disciplinary researchers in Sweden demonstrated the stress-reducing effect of another interactive group activity, choral singing.

Mathias Engwall

Mathias Engwall

Gunnar Nyberg

Gunnar Nyberg

University of Gothenburg ‘s Björn Vickhoff,  Helge Malmgren, Mathias Engwall, Rebecka Jörnsten with Gunnar Nyberg and Johan Snygg of Sahlgrenska University Hospital joined composer Rickard Åström, church cantor Seth-Reino Ekström and University of Newcastle,  Australia’s Michael Nilsson
to monitor heart rates, respiration, skin conductance, and finger temperature of volunteers who sang together.
Choral singing synchronized singers’ neural activities and muscular movement, and lowered heart rate, according to lead researcher Vickhoff.

Michael Nilsson

Michael Nilsson

Rickard Åström

Rickard Åström

Åström opined that choral singing provides “guided breathing” that has similar stress-reducing effects as focused breathing in meditative practice.
He noted the additional social benefits of affiliation with others, and a sense of inclusion and belonging.

Seth-Reino Ekström

Seth-Reino Ekström

Vickhoff’s research team measured Heart Rate (HR) and Heart Rate Variability (HRV) measured by Respiratory Sinus Arrhythmia (RSA).

Volunteer singers performed three tasks:

  • Hum a single tone and breathe as needed
  • Sing a hymn [Härlig är is jorden”  – Lovely is the Earth] with free, unguided breathing
  • Sing a slow mantra and breathe between phrases.

The team found that these differing musical structures influenced heart rates:  Unison singing of standard song structures caused heart rate synchronization across participants.

Vickhoff explained that “…through song we can exercise a certain control over mental states,”  because singing regulates activity in the vagus nerve, which is affected by emotional experiences.
Non-verbal communication in choral singing and related emotional experiences of this collaborative effort can affect vocal timbre, so songs with long phrases achieve the same slowed breathing and heart rate that can occur during yoga and mindfulness meditation.

The research team is now investigating whether this biological synchronization can induce a shared mental perspective that strengthens collaboration.
This may have been the theory behind IBM’s company songs, and shared activities like physical exercises in Japanese workplaces.

Eduardo Salas

Eduardo Salas

Drew Rozell

Drew Rozell

Evidence for links among biological synchronization, shared mindset and collaboration is mixed or equivocal.
Naval Air Warfare Center’s  Eduardo Salas with Drew Rozell  and Brian Mullen, then of Syracuse University and Florida Maxima Corporation’s James Driskell found no significant effect of team building through shared activities and purpose on performance in their meta-analytic study.

Brian Mullen

Brian Mullen

Salas, Rozell, Mullen, and Driskell found that team building interventions focused on interpersonal relations (like Vickhoff’s “shared mind”), goal setting, or problem solving showed little impact on performance.

Susan Cohen

Susan Cohen

However, University of Southern California’s Susan Cohen and Diane Bailey, now of Stanford, concluded that group cohesiveness, social integration, and positive emotional tone were associated with group performance across a number of studies.

Diane Bailey

Diane Bailey

Cohen and Bailey’s findings in their meta-analytic study suggest that cohesiveness, social integration, and positive emotional tone should be  evaluated when considering choral singing’spotential impact on reducing stress and developing a “we mindset” for collaborative work performance.

-*Which group activities strengthen collaborative team performance?
-*Which team activities augment reduce the physical signs of stress?
-*Which shared activities are appropriate to introduce in a work setting?

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Does Workplace Co-Location Increase Collaboration and Innovation?

John Chambers

John Chambers

In 2009, Cisco CEO John Chambers asserted that “the face-to-face meeting is a dinosaur,” and he demonstrated his point in a Telepresence-enabled company meeting from Bangalore, India with his fellow executive, Marthin de Beer, in San Jose, California.

Marthin de Beer

Marthin de Beer

Marisa Mayer of Yahoo seems not to agree with Chambers’ premise.

Her highly-publicized decision to require remote workers to work on-site every day in Yahoo offices received mixed reviews from advocates of flexible work practices such as ROWE (Results-Only Work Environment).

Marissa Mayer

Marissa Mayer

Mayer argued that co-location will enable Yahoos to more effectively collaborate and innovate.

-*What is the evidence for – or against – her assertion?

Eduardo Salas

Eduardo Salas

A decade ago, in 2003, a meta-analysis of face-to-face meetings’ impact on group cohesiveness, task commitment, authority, communication noted the one benefit of virtual meetings: “status-equalizing impact of computer-supported cooperative work … enables greater participation by women, minorities and other traditionally lower status groups.

Florida Maxima Corporation’s James Driskell collaborated with Paul Radtke, Naval Air Warfare Center Training Systems Division and University of Central Florida’s Eduardo Salas summarized often-conflicting findings on the impact of virtual teams  and concluded that interaction in virtual environments requires consideration of the type of task that the team is performing.
Agile software development is an example of a process that originally assumed – and required –  team member co-location.

Sandeep Joshi

Sandeep Joshi

Microsoft trainer Sandeep Joshi offered an alternate model to co-location for Agile development, and argued that some tasks in the Agile development process are suitable for remote work by distributed teams.
Because more than half of respondents to VersionOne’s 2012 State of Agile survey said they use Agile with co-located and distributed teams, or plan to do so in the future, Joshi advocates maintaining collaborative, co-located design processes to capitalize on group interaction, then “de-Agilizing” the process to enable individual coding before re-convening to evaluate the work in “rapid turns.”

Karen Sobel-Lojeski

Karen Sobel-Lojeski

Distance is not only physical, according to SUNY Stony Brook’s Karen Sobel-Lojeski. 
She conceptualizes three types of virtual distance:

  • Affinity (culture and background differences like ethnicity, educational background, past familiarity, shared vision, and commitment that affect team productivity and cohesiveness
  • Operational (type and frequency of communication)
  • Physical (geographic separation)
Richard Reilly

Richard Reilly

She collaborated with Richard Reilly of Stevens Institute of Technology on two books that explored perceived distance among co-workers, which can be reduced or increased by communication technology.

They argue that virtual distance changes the ways people learn, perform, and develop relationships with others in the workplace.

Like Joshi, they advocate analyzing the nature of the tasks and existing interpersonal relationships among team members before mandating co-location, virtual, or blended work arrangements.

Sobel-Lojeski and Reilly conclude that important workplace competencies are traversing boundaries, glocalization, and authenticity, leading to what they call “techno-dexterity” required for effective leadership in a wired world.

Among the drawbacks of co-location are increased work interruptions, which can reduce productivity and cognitive performance.

Alessandro Acquisti

Alessandro Acquisti

Carnegie Mellon University’s Alessandro Acquisti and  Eyal Pe’er  demonstrated decreased cognitive task performance after electronic interruptions and task-shifts similar to responding to a mobile phone call, text message or email.

More than 135 volunteers read a short document and answered questions about the content.
One third of the participants completed this portion of the experiment and served as the control group.

Eyal Pe'er

Eyal Pe’er

The remaining individuals were told they “might be contacted for further instructions” via instant message.

This alerted group completed a similar reading comprehension test, and half of this group actually received instant messages, whereas the other half didn’t receive the anticipated notices.

Both interrupted groups provided 20% less accurate responses than the control group, suggesting a significant cost to interruptions and task shifting.

However, when the interrupted group performed the similar task a second time, this group reduced the under-performance by 6%.
Those who were warned of an interruption that never came improved by 43 percent, and even outperformed the control test takers who were left alone.

Acquisti and Pe’er suggested that people may develop compensatory strategies to manage the performance impact of interruptions.

Gloria Mark

Gloria Mark

Likewise, University of California, Irvine’s Gloria Mark with Daniela Gudith and Ulrich Klocke of Germany’s Humboldt University reported that a typical office worker is interrupted about every 3-11 minutes and requires an average of 23-25 minutes to return to the original task.

Daniela Gudith

Daniela Gudith

Volunteers worked faster when they anticipate interruptions, particularly those who measured high on openness to experience and high on need for personal structure.
However, participants reported increased stress, higher workload, greater frustration, more time pressure and effort when they increased work speed.

Ulrich Klocke

Ulrich Klocke

These findings provide equivocal support for Mayer’s anticipated benefits from workplace co-location.
Her team may experience increased stress due to interruptions, task-shifting, and noise, in addition to any personal concerns about lengthy commutes and work-life balance.

This inference was supported in research by Harvard’s Leslie Perlow, who studied engineers working in an open-space environment.
These highly-skilled knowledge workers reported frequent interruptions and reduced productivity.

Leslie Perlow

Leslie Perlow

Perlow offered these engineers a recommendation:  Pre-scheduled interruption-free “quiet time”.
She found that this intervention led to increased productivity.

Catherine Kerr

Catherine Kerr

Similarly, Catherine Kerr of Brown University suggests that the impact of frequent task-shifts in open work environments can be mitigated by mindfulness meditation as brain training to enable increased attentional focus by attending to breathing.

Workplace inclusion and diversity issues add to questions of whether co-location actually increases innovation, collaboration, and productivity.
Pew Research Center reported that working mothers were more concerned with having a flexible schedule whereas working fathers placed more importance on having a high-paying job.

When employees actually use increasingly-available flexible work options, including job-sharing, telecommuting, and compressed work weeks, they may experience adverse career impacts.

Joan Williams

Joan Williams

Jennifer Glass

Jennifer Glass

Joan Williams, founding director of the Center for Work-Life Law at the University of California, Hastings College of the Law with  University of Iowas’ Jennifer Glass, Shelley Correll of Stanford and University of Toronto’s Jennifer Berdahl reported that men who take leave from work after the birth of a child were more likely to be penalized and less likely to get promoted or receive raises.

Shelley Correll

Shelley Correll

Jennifer Berdahl

Jennifer Berdahl

In addition, they found that women using flexible work arrangements receive differing feedback from others depending on their socioeconomic statusAffluent women were encouraged to stay at home, whereas less affluent women were more likely to be counseled not to have children.

Despite John Chamber’s death-of-face-to-face meetings assessment and recent findings by Kenneth Matos and Ellen Galinsky of the Families and Work Institute, Cisco Systems executives seem aligned with Mayer’s advocacy for in-person collaboration.

Kenneth Matos

Kenneth Matos

During a recent preview of renovated office buildings featuring “Collaborative Work Spaces,” Cisco business leaders asserted that the layout is intended to increase collaboration and attract recent graduates and other “younger talent” by “projecting a hip, innovative image in the work environment.”
They noted that this arrangement is actually more costly than offices and cubicles despite accommodating more workers in the same amount of space.

Ellen Galinsky

Ellen Galinsky

Past research suggest costs to adopting computer-mediated work processes, yet these technologies have improved, become more prevalent, and workers have become more skilled in their use.
Further, virtual collaboration enables workplace participation by people who might require flexible schedules, and reduces the environmental impact, cost, and perceived stress of commuting.

-*How is your productivity affected by physical proximity to your co-workers?
-*How do you manage distractions in open office environments?

——–

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Innovators’s Personality Characteristics and Shibumi Principles Drive Innovation

Øyvind Martinsen

Øyvind Martinsen

BI Norwegian Business School’s Øyvind Martinsen identified components of creative personalities as key attributes for innovative problem solving in business organizations.

Martinsen’s study of 481 people included two groups of students in creative fields: advertising and performing artists,  and a control group of lecturers and managers.

He found that creative individuals differed from the control groups in several dimensions:

  • Have an active imagination, “associative orientation”, an “experimental attitude”
  • Value originality, are comfortable rebelling against rules, standards, and systems
  • Demonstrate high motivation to succeed
  • Become absorbed in creative work
  • Are ambitious Desire recognition, fame
  • Adapt, reimagine, rebrand, and flex to meet current demands and realities
  • Express anxiety, worry, volatile emotions  
  • Demonstrate less concern, friendliness and sensitivity to others
  • Tend to be more critical of others

Martinsen says that a less creative individuals can increase this capacity when their work environments encourage rule-bending and free thought, so organizations can modify policies and practices to convey acceptance of exploration.

Employees are often urged to take chances by innovating solutions, but sometimes these Ryan Fehr - Workplace Forgiveness Modelincubation efforts may not result in a commercial success — and organizations may not “forgive” the investment of time and money in speculative efforts.

University of Washington’s Ryan Fehr with Michele Gelfand of University of Maryland suggest that organizations should establish the conditions for innovation and for accepting that experimentation may provide “lessons learned” even when efforts cannot be brought to market.

Ryan Fehr

Ryan Fehr

Their research investigated “forgiving organizations” that expand the individual practice of workplace compassion and mindfulness to an institutional level.

Michele Gelfand

Michele Gelfand

Fehr and Gelfand propose a “sensemaking” organizational model based on restorative justice, temperance, and compassion to cultivate the climate of fearless innovation and confident exploration in high-support organizations, which benefit from process and product breakthroughs and related financial rewards.

Matthew May

Matthew May

Matthew May explored a multi-faced exemplar of innovation, Shibumi,   imperfectly defined as “effortless effectiveness”, simply-expressed complexity, flawed perfection.

Baldassarre Castiglione

Baldassarre Castiglione

Shibumi shares some qualities with Baldassare Castiglione’s idea of “sprezzatura,” or making “whatever one does or says seem effortless, and almost unpremeditate,” Shibumi, says May, is typically achieved through an innovation-change management sequence of:

  • Commitment
  • Preparation
  • Struggle
  • Breakthrough
  • Transformation
Trevanian

Trevanian

Film scholar Rodney William Whitaker, who wrote under the pseudonym Trevanian, opined that “Shibumi has to do with great refinement underlying commonplace appearances,” and architect Sarah Susanka observed that “…shibumi evolves out of a process of complexity, though none of this complexity shows in the result…to meet a particular design challenge.”

Sarah Susanka

Sarah Susanka

May illustrated examples of familiar Japanese management principles including Hoshin (goal alignment) and Kaizen (continuous improvement), with less familiar principles:

  • Kata (patterns of effective behavior)
  • Genchi genbutsu (observation)
  • Hansei (reflection).

Matthew May-The Shibumi StrategyInnovation and creative problem-solving in any field can benefit from attention to Shibumi’s seven principles:

  • Austerity – Less is more
    Koko” suggests restraint, sparseness, and intentional omission, and ‘Is/isn’t analysis” provides the focus and clarity to exclude elements beyond a designated scope

    Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

    Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

    Antoine de Saint Exupery captured this principle in his view that “Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”

In another book, May offered 4 Ss of “elegant”, innovative, and austere solutions:

  • Symmetry” to help solve problems of structure, order, and aesthetics
  • Seduction” for creative engagement
  • Subtraction” for problems of economy
  • Sustainability” for a process or solution that is both repeatable and lasting
  • Simplicity
    Kanso” signals the “enoughness” of streamlined utility, based on prioritization, understatement, and order for the central purpose.
  • Naturalness
    Shizen” points to the paradox of intentional artlessness, or balancing nature’s randomness and patterns with intentional curation.
  • Subtlety
    Yugen” refers to the tension between stagnation of precision in contrast with nature’s growth.
    One example is Steve Jobs building anticipation through restrained information release.
  • Asymmetric Imperfection
    Fukinsei points to the symmetry of nature through its counterpoint:  Asymmetrical and incomplete representations that encourage the viewer’s participation to “complete the incomplete.”Gestalt Art
    Gestalt
    researchers and artists demonstrated increased visual impact when participants co-create and collaborate in the innovation effort.
  • Change Routine Thinking and Actions
    Datsuzoku suggests a break from routine, such as adopting free-spirited Carnival demeanor at the annual masked Fasching in German-speaking countries.Fasching
    Breaking patterns enables breakthrough innovation and creative resourcefulness.
  • Active Stillness, Dynamic Tranquility
    Seijaku is serenity in the midst of activity and provides context of datsuzoku, transcendence of conventional ideas and traditional usage, leading to surprise, astonishment, and freedom to create.
    “Doing nothing” in mindfulness practice can be provide unconscious incubation for eventual creative syntheses to solve complex design issues, and increase self-awareness, focus, and attention.
    Individuals who wish to become more creative even in more confining organizations have reported success by adopting mindfulness meditation based on conscious breathing.
    In addition mindfulness practice can enhance resilience to accept critique in the creative process.

-*How do you establish the individual and organizational conditions for innovations?
-*How do organizations become “forgiving”?

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