What is mindfulness?
According to Hopkins Medicine, mindfulness is defined as paying attention to one’s present reality, without judgment, where one’s reality encompasses all thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations. Further to this, Dr. Ron Epstein explains that mindfulness is a conscious way of tapping into one’s feelings and experiences, understanding them and applying them to act in the best interest of one’s patients and oneself. In high-stress environments, training in mindfulness can help team members to improve their communication, avoid irrational behaviour and improve their ability to maintain focus, attentiveness and calmness. This is an especially important tool for physicians who are facing high-stress situations or are feeling worn out from the events of the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to Well Doc Alberta, mindfulness involves three collective skills:
- Focusing on a specific sensory experience
- Keeping track of the sensory events you experience
- Not interfering with the sensory experiences as they come and go
What are the benefits of mindfulness?
As explained in the University of British Columbia Medical Journal, a literature review confirmed that mindfulness is “a powerful promoter of personal and interpersonal health.” Practising mindfulness has been found to reduce:
- negative affect (e.g., anger, fear and sadness);
- emotional reactivity; and
Mindfulness has also been found to increase:
- compassion; and
- connectedness with others.
How can you practise mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a tool that you can practise anywhere, whenever you need it. There are various forms of mindfulness exercises. Examples of recommended mindfulness techniques for physicians include the following:
Stop what you are doing and close your eyes.
Take a few breaths and bring your awareness to each inhalation and exhalation.
Observe how you are feeling in the moment.
Proceed — continue with full steady breaths.
When experiencing difficult emotions, try not to suppress them; instead, observe the emotions without any judgment. Try to be aware of your emotions and experience them fully.
Take a moment when you are either standing or seated and make yourself aware of your feet, where they are located on the floor, and their balance, weight and sensation.
Take in your surroundings and sensations when completing ordinary tasks. For example, when walking, take in the experience and notice your surroundings, the sounds, what you see and what you feel.
If you would like to learn more about how to incorporate mindfulness, we encourage you to join one of our peer support sessions through the Wellness Connection.
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