A head start with mindfulness

Don’t dismiss the meditation technique as a fad: its well documented benefits for those in demanding careers make a strong case for teaching it at university, says Craig Hassed | Times Higher Education

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Mindfulness is a hot topic these days, but its potential importance to higher education has not yet been broadly recognised. It can be described as a form of meditation and a way of living. It is a mental discipline that involves not only sharpening present-moment attention but also cultivating the attitude with which we pay attention: one of curiosity, acceptance, openness and compassion.

Mindfulness is easily marginalised by hard-nosed academic disciplines, and its mischaracterisation as a mere relaxation exercise means that its utility is commonly overlooked in the training of professionals such as doctors, lawyers and chief executives. Yet mounting evidence since the turn of the millennium is becoming increasingly difficult to ignore.

The tidal wave began with studies into the effectiveness of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) in preventing the recurrence of depression. Subsequently, many further applications have been documented, including combating addictions, chronic pain and infertility.

Indeed, some see mindfulness as a panacea. The reality, though, is probably more complex. Like physical exercise, cultivating awareness is a basic human need, but not everyone will be ready to learn about it or want to do it. Mindfulness demands application and perseverance and is sometimes uncomfortable.

As well as improving their attention, mindfulness has many other benefits for future professionals. For example, a 2004 Australian study tracked the mental health of medical interns throughout their first year of working life. It found that 75 per cent had burnout by the eighth month, and 73 per cent had a diagnosable mental illness (mostly depression and/or anxiety) at least once. Furthermore, a British Medical Journal study in 2008 found that a doctor with depression makes more than six times as many medication and prescribing errors as a doctor without. Considering that medical errors are the third most common cause of death in the US, this points to a major deficiency in our training of professionals destined for demanding jobs. It can’t just be about transferring technical skills and knowledge; enhancing practitioners’ mental health and preventing errors should be seen as aligned objectives.

Read the full news story here

Workplace Mindfulness Program for Public Sector Employees

Mindfulness training appears to reduce stress and distress, but little is known about whether its appropriateness as a workplace stress management intervention for a large and distributed public sector workforce.

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This study evaluated a pilot 5-week Mindfulness at Work Program (MaWP) for acceptability, feasibility, and efficacy in relation to stress and related mental health and productivity problems for public sector employees.

The intervention thus appears to have potential merit as a workplace intervention for public sector employees across a range of outcomes. Obtaining informant observations was feasible and while qualitative analyses indicated positive changes that supported self-reported outcomes, quantitative analyses returned ambiguous results. A seven-item scale adapted from a popular self-report mindfulness scale for use by informants showed promise, but further work is needed to establish validity, reliability, and scalability of this method of assessing observable changes following mindfulness training.

Full reference: Bartlett, L. et al. (2017) Acceptability, Feasibility, and Efficacy of a Workplace Mindfulness Program for Public Sector Employees: a Pilot Randomized Controlled Trial with Informant Reports. Mindfulness. 8(639)

Role of Resilience in Mindfulness Training for First Responders

Kaplan, J.B. et al. Mindfulness | Published online: 19 April 2017

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First responders are exposed to critical incidents and chronic stressors that contribute to a higher prevalence of negative health outcomes compared to other occupations. Psychological resilience, a learnable process of positive adaptation to stress, has been identified as a protective factor against the negative impact of burnout.

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Mindfulness training can reduce depression and anxiety among nurses

Hunter, L. (2017) BMJ Evidence-based Nursing. 20(2)

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Commentary on:

Implications for practice and research:

  • Mindfulness can help relieve symptoms of depression and anxiety among nurses and may improve patient care.

  • There is a need for future quantitative studies to measure the nurse-perceived benefits of mindfulness identified in qualitative research.

  • Mixed-methods reviews can help develop a more complete and clinically relevant understanding of a given topic.

Read the full commentary here

Read the original research article here

Effects of combined physical exercise, yoga, and mindfulness meditations for stress relieve in employees

de Bruin, E. et al. (2017) Mindfulness. 8(1) pp. 204-217

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Work-related stress and associated illness and burnout is rising in western society, with now as much as almost a quarter of European and half of USA’s employees estimated to be at the point of burnout. Mindfulness meditation, yoga, and physical exercise have all shown beneficial effects for work-related stress and illness. This proof of concept study assessed the feasibility, acceptability, and preliminary effects of the newly developed Mindful2Work training, a combination of physical exercise, restorative yoga, and mindfulness meditations, delivered in six weekly group sessions plus a follow-up session.

To conclude, the newly developed Mindful2Work training seems very feasible, and acceptable, and although no control group was included, the large effects of Mindful2Work are highly promising.

Read the full article here