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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Employees’ use of mindfulness in managing occupational stress : a qualitative study Treleaven, David Allan

Abstract

Research has shown Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) to be an effective stress management intervention (Baer, 2003). Several studies (e.g., Cohen-Katz et al., 2004; Shapiro et al., 1998, 2005a) have examined the effects of MBSR on health care professionals, yet research has not clarified processes underlying the use of mindfulness in the workplace. To address the absence of empirical accounts in this domain, this qualitative study explored how employees who regularly practice meditation use mindfulness to manage occupational stress. Grounded theory methodology (Strauss & Corbin, 1998), a well-validated framework for data analysis and interpretation, was used to develop a conceptual description of mindfulness processes. Semi-structured, face-to-face interviews were conducted in Vancouver, Canada, with 10 female and 2 male employees between the ages of 26 to 58 years ( M = 42). The constant comparative method from grounded theory was used to continually test and refine emerging categories (i.e., themes). Procedures such as coding (i.e., a process used to identify concepts) and continual memoing (i.e., a written record of methodological decisions and hypotheses) were also employed to ensure a rigorous analytical process. The use of mindfulness in the workplace was associated with: (a) a heightened awareness of physical, cognitive, or emotional responses to occupational stressors; (b) a shift in awareness to internal processes (e.g., bodily sensations); and (c) a sustained attention to these internal processes. The types of stressors that precipitated a shift in awareness and specific internal processes the employees attended to distinguished the categories. Implications for research include: (a) the contribution of an initial framework of processes underlying the use of mindfulness to be tested and incorporated into future research; (b) findings that show particular stressors to significantly influence the use of mindfulness in the workplace; and (c) findings that emphasize the importance of practitioners' awareness of potential negative impacts caused by the use of mindfulness.

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