Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Can Mindfulness Help Physicians?

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There are a lot of misconceptions on what mindfulness is, which are recently being debunked as it grows in popularity:
Mindfulness is paying attention or noting whatever is happening in the moment with a gentle and open mind. It involves being present in the moment, the one you’re in right now. Mindfulness doesn’t involve chanting, bowing, sitting cross-legged, or burning incense.
Universities are teaching more about mindfulness and how it can combat the stress so prevalent in the quest for a post-secondary education. Meditation and mindfulness can not only lower stress but help us to focus and interact with others - and ourselves - in more compassionate ways. It also leads to better performance and balance in all aspects of life.

Medical centers and systems across the country are researching mindfulness and its impact on various aspects of our lives, most notably the University of Wisconsin's Center for Healthy Minds.

Okay, I may be bias there as I work for the UW. Still, there's no denying that Dr. Richard Davidson is one of the biggest names in mindfulness research. He's even a friend of the Dalai Lama!

Knowing so much now about mindfulness, how can we apply it to the medical world?

There are, in fact, several medical schools that teach mindfulness as a part of their curriculum, including Brown, Duke, and Georgetown. I wish more schools did this, as getting a base for wellness early on is integral to physician and, ultimately, patient success. This is especially important when you note that 29% of young doctors are depressed.

The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) points out that stress is at an all-time high for physicians. It affects everything from relationships to job satisfaction to even the will to live itself. Mindfulness can help to combat some of these stressful feelings by helping us to get more in touch with ourselves, to recognize emotions, and to cultivate calm and loving kindness.

That doesn't mean that there aren't barriers, but it's worth a try.

If you're interested, there are a ton of mobile apps out there to help us learn mindfulness and meditation. My favorite is Buddhify from Rohan Gunatillake, which has a specific section on pain and illness. I was recently featured in Rohan's new book, This is Happening, on how I use mindfulness to cope with difficult situations... namely, my chronic pain.

About the author:

Kirsten Schultz is a health activist and blogger. You can read more about her life living with multiple chronic illnesses on her blog, on Creaky Joints, or follow her on Twitter.  

She will also be joining us this year at ePharma as an official guest blogger sharing insights from the event. 
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