Heightened Sense of Balance for the Building Industry

Construction work-related injuries and fatalities decline with mindfulness programs
Image: Anekcahap Mapko | Dreamstime.com

I get it. Whilst contemplating the notion of mindfulness, you might conjure up images of sitting like a pretzel, taking up residence at an ashram in a remote location, or burning incense and chanting “Om” for an indefinite period.

Turns out, mindfulness is a simple, practical, and effective way to enhance overall physical and mental wellbeing; it also offers social, environmental, and workplace benefits. This age-old tool has been practiced since its inception (founded in Buddhist roots some 2,600 years ago), to the wellness construct it has evolved into modern-day.

According to the Mayo Clinic, “Mindfulness is a type of meditation in which you focus on being intensely aware of what you’re sensing and feeling in the moment, without interpretation or judgment. Practicing mindfulness involves breathing methods, guided imagery, and other practices to relax the body and mind and help reduce stress.”

A growing number of companies around the globe are taking note (Google/Alphabet, Nike, Apple, Aetna, General Mills, Intel, Goldman Sachs) and are successfully employing mindfulness programs.

Empirical studies are powerful. Positive Psychology lists some of the benefits, “higher brain functioning, increased immune function, lowered blood pressure, lowered heart rate, increased awareness, increased attention and focus, increased clarity in thinking and perception, lowered anxiety levels, the experience of being calm and internally still and experience of feeling connected.”

Mindfulness Studies adds to the list, “Stress reduction, reduced rumination, decreased negative affect (e.g. depression, anxiety), less emotional reactivity/more effective emotion regulation, more cognitive flexibility and improved working memory.”

Why should this be of importance to Colorado Builder’s readership? In addition to increasing job performance, lowering levels of work-related stress and providing greater job satisfaction, mindfulness can improve on-the-job safety.

RELATED: Confronting a lethal stigma—addressing mental health in the construction industry

According to the Occupational Safety and Hazard Administration, “About 20 percent (1,061) of worker fatalities in private industry in 2019 were in construction–accounting for one in five worker deaths for the year.”

Based on the National Science Foundation (datasets in the NSF-PAR), “Construction sites feature numerous moving parts, including heavy machinery, building materials, and various quantities of construction professionals trying to get the job done on time and on budget. Therefore, workers are under pressure to execute their work under hectic and immensely demanding conditions that can create inattentiveness. Improving mindfulness can help enhance the situational awareness of construction workers and improve safety. Thus, measuring mindfulness may help identify at-risk workers who may need additional support or training to prevent accidents.”

How do we do it? Here are some simple tips from the Mayo Clinic on how to be a bit more mindful:

  • “Pay attention. It’s hard to slow down and notice things in a busy world. Try to take the time to experience your environment with all your senses–touch, sound, sight, smell and taste.
  • Live in the moment. Try to intentionally bring an open, accepting and discerning attention to everything you do. Find joy in simple pleasures.
  • Accept yourself. Treat yourself the way you would treat a good friend.
  • Focus on your breathing. When you have negative thoughts, try to sit down, take a deep breath and close your eyes. Focus on your breath as it moves in and out of your body. Sitting and breathing for even just a minute can help.”

You can also try more structured mindfulness techniques, such as body-scan meditation, sitting meditation and walking meditation. There are also mindful elements to other forms of exercise, gardening, singing, and creating. Do what works for you.

The bottom line is it just takes one focused breath each day, which is found to be more effective when practiced in nature.

It is safe to say, mindfulness matters.

Valarie Johnson

Valarie is Editor-in-Chief of Colorado Builder and has a 25-year, award-winning career as a publisher, editor and writer for local, regional, national and international publications. Valarie is a Colorado native and enjoys hiking, traveling, meditating, kayaking, yoga, reading and spending time with her husband and family. She can be reached at [email protected] or (303) 502-2523.

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