How an app-based intervention at work helps employees, a program that may reduce postpartum depression, and more from the latest mindfulness research.
Mindfulness and Improved Job Satisfaction
An international team of scientists examined weekly data from 221 executives to see if they might benefit from
an app-based, workplace mindfulness intervention. The eight-week program included audio-guided individual mindfulness practices and activities such as attending to bodily sensations, breathing, stretching and relaxation exercises, and instruction on mindfulness for workplace challenges. At each week’s end, participants were surveyed on their job satisfaction, work engagement, emotional exhaustion, and mindfulness. Over the course of the program, participants’ self-reported mindfulness increased—and in turn, the boost in mindfulness was generally related to improved work engagement and job satisfaction, and less emotional exhaustion. Additional studies using a control group are needed to better understand these effects.
Mindfulness-Based Childbirth and Prenatal Instruction
In a pilot study, researchers at the University of Illinois tested whether a mindfulness-based childbirth preparation program would ease new parent distress better than typical prenatal instruction. They randomly assigned 30 expectant mothers in their third trimester to either two-and-a-half days of a mindfulness program or standard childbirth education. The mindfulness group was taught strategies for coping with labor pain and fear, and for parenting an infant, and were given audio of guided mindfulness practices for optional use. Both groups completed assessments of perceived stress, mood, and mindfulness before and after the program, six weeks post-birth, and one to two years later. The new moms who practiced mindfulness reported less depression over a one-year period than control group members. Those in the mindfulness group with higher anxiety and/or least amount of mindfulness before the intervention had the greatest benefits. Findings suggest that mindfulness-based prenatal instruction may help reduce maternal distress following childbirth.
Can Mindfulness Boost Motivation?
A new reason to keep your meditation distraction-free: It could boost motivation. Researchers at Carleton University in Canada conducted two studies to see if meditation enhances motivation to tackle personal goals. In the first study they randomly assigned 200 university students to either a mindfulness group, or a control group. The mindfulness group listened to 10 minutes of guided meditation instructing them to bring attention to the present moment and the physical sensations of their breath. The control group listened to 10 minutes from a podcast about the history of emojis. Both groups completed a survey assessing their level of mindfulness, motivation to complete a word puzzle, and commitment to fulfilling their personal goals. Ten minutes later they reported on their motivation again, and completed two tasks to check if they’d paid attention to their assigned recording. The mindfulness group’s goal motivation before and after meditation, and10 minutes later, was relatively unchanged. The control group was less motivated than meditators immediately after listening to the podcast, as well as 10 minutes later. Many participants in both groups reported doing something else while listening to their assigned recording, making it unclear whether either meditation or listening to the podcast affected their behaviour.
Meditating while free of digital distractions may help motivate students to pursue their personal goals.
In Study 2, 120 different students were told to turn off their cellphones, then listen to either the meditation instruction from Study 1 or the emoji podcast. This time the mindfulness group reported increased goal motivation compared to the control group, suggesting that meditating while free of digital distractions may help motivate students to pursue their goals.
Mindfulness literature has grown from a single article cited in 1966 to 2,808 in 2020. A recent publication from the journal Mindfulness traces the roots of research in the field and explores its developments over time.
Our ability to pay attention is unreliable when we’re under stress. In her new book Peak Mind, neuroscientist Amishi Jha explores cutting-edge research on elite soldiers revealing how mindfulness training protects our attentional resources, even in the most high-stress scenarios imaginable.