Behind the fifth door of our small business advent calendar is some good news about reducing stress and increasing wellbeing – not just for Christmas, but all year round.
Small business owners work 63 per cent more hours a week than employees and take fewer days of holiday each year – so it’s no surprise that a US study in 2012 found American entrepreneurs to be, on average, more stressed than the rest of the population. Reducing stress is likely to be at the top of many owner-managers’ Christmas wishlists.
Mindfulness – the practice of taking time out of the day-to-day stresses of life in order to focus on positive thoughts and feelings – has been shown to be one way of tackling the problem.
Researchers including Richard Davidson at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have found that dedicating time to breathing slowly and thinking positively can decrease the levels of stress hormone cortisol that the brain produces – and the best thing about it is that just five minutes a day can make you calmer.
More intense periods of meditation have been found to increase cognitive ability as well as relieving tension. Researchers at Harvard Medical School found that participants who took part in an eight-week mindfulness programme had denser grey matter in their hippocampus – the part of the brain responsible for learning – at the end of the study.
“Although the practice of meditation is associated with a sense of peacefulness and physical relaxation, practitioners have long claimed that meditation also provides cognitive and psychological benefits that persist throughout the day,” the author of the study, Sara Lazar, told Harvard Gazette.
“This study demonstrates that changes in brain structure may underlie some of these reported improvements,” she added.
Don’t forget to come back tomorrow to for more festive business news
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