What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness, according to Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D., a pioneer in mindful-based stress reduction, is “paying attention in the present moment, non-judgmentally.”

Doctor Practicing Mindfulness - Boost

What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness refers to a person’s tendency to remain “purposefully and nonjudgmentally attentive to their own experience, thoughts and feelings.” Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D., a pioneer in mindful-based stress reduction, defines mindfulness as “paying attention in the present moment, non-judgmentally.” Mindfulness practices may include meditation, but they can also be as simple as selecting a daily activity to perform “mindfully.”

Mindfulness has gained popularity as a medical treatment for patients, primarily through mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR), with beneficial effects shown for pain, psoriasis, and depression, and with biochemical evidence of changes in immune function. During the past decade, it has been recommended that physicians enhance their own capacities for mindfulness when practicing medicine and interacting with patients.

Several studies have shown that MBSR reduces psychological distress or improves the well-being of physicians in training, and a recent study found that a program teaching mindful communication reduces burnout, as well as improves self-reported well-being, psychosocial orientation, and empathy among practicing physicians.

The benefits of practicing mindfulness as a physician

In an era in which many physicians suffer professional burnout, mindful practice may be the way in which physicians not only heal themselves, but heal their patients as well.

"Patient-Centered" Communication

Patient visits with high-mindfulness clinicians were more likely to be characterized by a patient-centered pattern of communication, in which both patients and clinicians engaged in more rapport building and discusssion of psychosocial issues.

Why might mindfulness have this effect? The researchers think that because mindfulness involves attentiveness, curiosity, and presence, it promotes a greater awareness of the self and others. This awareness might help clinicians be better able to attend to the experience of others, and enable them to respond to their patients with more understanding, empathy, and compassion.

Improving Self-Care

Healthcare professionals were less likely to experience signs of burnout and reported greater sense of personal accomplishment and empathy after participating in a mindfulness training program.

“Participating in an abbreviated mindfulness training course adapted for primary care clinicians was associated with reductions in indicators of job burnout, depression, anxiety, and stress. Modified mindfulness training may be a time-efficient tool to help support clinician health and well-being, which may have implications for patient care.”

Increase Patient Satisfaction

Clinicians with high-mindfulness scores displayed more positive emotional tone with patients. Patients were more likely to give high ratings on clinician communication and to report high overall satisfaction with high-mindfulness clinicians.

Improve Listening Skills

60% of physicians report that learning mindfulness skills improves their capacity to listen more attentively and respond more effectively to others at work and home.

Improved On-The-Job Performance

In a dynamic work environment, engaging in mindfulness practices positively impacts job performance and decreases turnover. Mindfulness practices offer an antidote to all of the stress, rework, and errors that occur when our attention strays.

Improved Creativity and Innovation

Studies conducted by neuroscientist Richard Davidson of the Center for Investigating Health Minds found that mindfulness activities improve “cognitive flexibility, creativity and innovation, well-being, emotional regulation and empathy.”

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