Flow is a mental state of focused attention so intense that it does not allow us to have cognitive bandwidth left for anything else. Informal mindfulness is the practise of weaving mindfulness into existing routines through engaging in mindful moments and bringing mindful awareness to everyday tasks. It is a tool which can be used to reduce stress and boost wellbeing both for coaching clients and wellbeing managers.
Now you just have to go onto social media to see the large number of memes and photos of people sharing the impact COVID-19 has had on their stress levels at work.
And there have also been a number of studies conducted around the world which have shown the increase in levels of stress in a corporate environment due to Covid-19. Findings have been coming out regularly which indicate the increased pressure, impacts of isolation and rising stress levels.
One study in the International Journal of environmental research and public health examined the associations between psychological distress and changes in selected health behaviours since the onset of COVID-19 in Australia. They used an online survey which was completed by 1491 adults, and showed an increase in behaviours such as drinking, smoking which indicates higher stress levels.
Another example was modelling done by the University of Sydney’s Brain and Mind Centre, which showed increased in suicide and decreases in productivity as a result of the pandemic. One Monash University study also surveyed 1,200 Australians and preliminary results showed a majority of participants registered mild levels of anxiety and depression and about 30 per cent of people showed moderate to high levels.
In light of these findings, flow and mindfulness are tools that can be rolled out in a corporate environment to help build resilience and reduce stress. The approach of exposing corporates to informal mindfulness and flow inducing activities has been proven across a number of studies to have a range of positive benefits such as an increase of grey matter in the brain, a reduction of anxiety and faster learning.
As found in a study of mindfulness in the workplace, it stated that “mindfulness reduces emotional exhaustion and improves job satisfaction” (Hülsheger, Alberts, Feinholdt, Lang, 2013).
A 2012 study split a group of human resources managers and rolled out a randomised trial. In the final test, the group that had participated in the meditation training reported less stress during the test than both of the other groups.
Another randomised controlled trial used a novel experience sampling approach to measure the effects of a mindfulness intervention on employee well-being. In comparison to the control participants, the mindful meditation group demonstrated improvements in their: work-related stress; job satisfaction; psychological distress; and job performance.
Finding flow and increases exposure to a flow state at work has also been proven to reduce stress and increase engagement. A study by Positive Psychology online outlined that: “Some of the characteristics found in many fully engaged and satisfied employees are amplified performance, greater creativity, more access to intuition, and ever-increasing ability to engage in deep learning. Identifying and then cultivating conditions that enable us to experience flow are the first step.”
The Flow Genome Project is another leading example, as an organisation which has been pulled together by researchers and experts from across the globe to better understand specific markers and scientific reasoning’s behind flow. This is explained by their commitment to ‘map the genome of Flow by 2020 and open sourcing it to everyone’.
The athletics space has also been a good testing ground to prove the effectiveness of flow and also the link between flow and mindfulness. In a study called: (A) the Effects of a Mindfulness Intervention on Sports- Anxiety, Pessimism, and flow in Competitive Cyclists – assigned cyclists an eight-week mindfulness intervention and measured the results (Scott-Hamilton, Schutte, Brown, 2016). This study displayed that “sport-specific mindfulness training increases athletes’ experience of flow,” it looked at the impact of a broad mindfulness intervention (Jackson, 2000; Kimiecik & Stein, 1992).
When talking about flow – a great place to start is with awareness around when you most experience flow in your life. This is called identifying your ‘Flow Profile’. In addition to physical flow, as I call it, there are some people who find flow through creativity. The good thing about flow, is that once you know what it looks like and what brings it on for you, it’s a tool you can use and identify in many places. Flow was an integral part of the program as a concept which could be used to help the participants teams to reduce stress levels. By understanding the conditions and learning ways to increase levels of flow, they could increase engagement and creativity in their team (Kawabata, M and Mallett, C (2011).
Informal mindfulness is an incredible way to incorporate positive mindfulness practice into a busy lifestyle in a noninvasive way, and our goal is to give employees a taste of this through our workshops.
This then leads into things such as the mindful walk intervention, which could help demonstrate the idea of informal mindfulness in a relevant, day to day setting. It could also help to get the group moving and engaged (Schreiner and Malcolm, 2008).
Overall it is clear that right now, employees are struggling with increased stress levels in the current climate. And considering just how much of our lives is committed to work it isn’t surprising that this is an arena which has been significantly impacted and needs to be a focus for creating positive change. Interventions based in mindfulness and flow have been proven across a range of studies to help reduce stress levels and have a wide range of positive impacts on our target demographic. By giving a broad introduction to the topics and providing resources, employees can begin to start introducing these practises into their daily work lives. It is important to teach theskills and give practical examples of tangible tools to deal with the pressures and stresses brought on by Covid-19.
Euda is a Coaching Software driven by key wellbeing practices and can help to deliver online programs and teachings in Positive Psychology, Wellbeing, Mental Health and more.