Different types of mindfulness training may help you more effectively reach a cross section of your organization with stress reduction training. The must-read book for HR leaders, "Mindful Work: How Meditation Is Changing Business from the Inside Out" by David Gelles, extols the virtues of meditation and yoga on improving performance. "Studies show that mindfulness strengthens our immune systems, bolsters our concentrative powers, and rewires our brains," Gelles says. When wellness, meditation or yoga programs aren't reaching your whole organization, it can be challenging. Yet, just as individuals have different learning styles, people relax in different ways. Here are five alternatives to meditation and yoga for HR leaders who want to introduce a more diverse set of mindfulness practices in the workplace.
1. Calming Music
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), listening to calming music was one of the most effective ways to help reduce anxiety and induce a relaxation response. For employees who don't enjoy meditation or don't practice yoga, listening to calming music is an easy alternative. It's also highly customizable. One way to encourage employees to use this technique is to allow them to wear headphones while working. Another approach may be to pipe in calming music to your office or facility, as long as it's not distracting in any key way.
2. Progressive Muscle Relaxation Training
Progressive muscle relaxation training is a mindfulness practice that teaches individuals to systematically focus on different areas of their body and relax each one in turn. Often, the training starts at the top of the head and progresses through all the body parts, down to the toes. NIH found progressive muscle relaxation training to be one of the most effective strategies for relaxing. It can be particularly helpful for individuals who want something to "do" during meditation, or for those who hold a lot of tension in their bodies and need to physically relax.
3. Time in Nature
For many people, having the chance to walk in nature has been shown to reduce stress. The University of Minnesota has noted that nature can be soothing, and it can also help increase clarity of thinking. There are many ways to introduce being in nature as an option for your firm, including:
- Choosing an office that's located near a park, walking trails or other outdoor facilities
- Investing in landscaping to put a grove of trees, garden or outdoor sitting area near your office
- Decorating your office with natural images and green plants
- Encouraging teams to schedule meetings outdoors when space and personnel allow
- Scheduling team building activities outdoors
Journaling is a simple form of mindfulness that only requires dedicating a few minutes to write down one's thoughts. One of the great benefits of journaling is that it only requires basic tools like paper and a pen, or a word processing program. Individuals can dedicate a large amount of time or just a few minutes, and it can integrate naturally into the workplace, without requiring dedicated space or leaving the office. New York Magazine reports that journaling can help pull you out of a bad mood or assist in soothing frayed nerves when you're engaged in more in-depth emotional work such as processing complicated issues.
5. Tai Chi
If you're looking to introduce another active alternative to yoga that promotes mindfulness, tai chi may be a good option. As the Mayo Clinic notes, tai chi reduces stress and anxiety while also improving flexibility and balance. Tai chi is an ancient Chinese martial art that's performed as a slow series of movements with deep breathing. It combines the benefits of exercise and mindfulness. Consider sponsoring a weekly tai chi class or teach workers the basics and provide a dedicated space that allows them to practice.
By introducing different types of mindfulness, HR leaders open up the possibility for their teams to achieve a higher level of focus and stress reduction. Experimenting with a variety of approaches can help find what's right for your team and capture the benefits of mindfulness across your organization.
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