Mindfulness in Medicine

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Jessie Lee, second year, investigates the role of mindfulness in the field of medicine.

With the rosy tint of hindsight, doing A-levels was like swimming in the baby pool at the local branch of Total Fitness. Medical school, from its’ high expectations to its fast paced spiral curriculum is more akin to one of those highly exciting, racetrack shaped pools. You swim around and around, rather frantically at first, and are fine as long as you dodge the obstacles appropriately and stay with the flow. However, steer off course, attempt to fight the current, or resist the efforts of the helpful lifeguards and issues start to arise.

The Stresses of Medicine: So how to stay on track?

Medicine is renowned for its’ stresses, yet medical students and doctors frequently ignore their own health (Brooks et al 2011).

Why mindfulness might be of some use to you?

The Oxford Mindfulness Centre, an international centre of excellence that resides within the Department of Psychiatry, offers the following reassurance – people who have learned mindfulness discover positive changes in well-being, experience less stress, are less likely to get stuck in depression and exhaustion, and are better able to control addictive behaviour.

Great, but what is Mindfulness?

Put simply, it is an awareness of the present. Nice and vague, but in essence this just represents an enhanced perspective, and an acceptance, of situations. It comes with the realisation that happiness is not found externally (or else someone would have found it by now) but rather internally, and that ultimately it is only our own mind that can affect our own happiness. So, that late bus will only affect our happiness if we let it.

Mindfulness is an active determination to take control of your own emotions and to not allow external factors to affect your mental wellbeing. To give an example: someone who was subject to a stressor, but doesn’t practice mindfulness, might see their situation as “just their luck” and let it make them unhappy, affecting the rest of their day, etc. Someone who was mindful would just accept the situation, and not let it bother them.

Okay, but how can I become more mindful?

Typically mindfulness is achieved through meditation or contemplation. An example of this might be, as a horribly wise man once asked me, ‘If there is something you can do to change a situation, then why worry? And if there is nothing you can do to change the situation, then why worry?’ Pausing, and asking oneself this, when faced with those everyday stressors, can have a large effect on one’s happiness. And simply taking ten minutes out of your day to relax and spend some time on yourself doesn’t really sound too bad does it?

Where to look if this is something that interests you?

Bibliography:

About Mindfulness- Oxford Mindfulness Centre. Retrieved 18/03/2015 from http://oxfordmindfulness.org/about-mindfulness/

Brooks, S. K., Gerada, C., & Chalder, T. (2011). Review of literature on the mental health of doctors: are specialist services needed? Journal of Mental Health (Abingdon, England), 20(2), 146–156.

Carmody, J., & Baer, R. A. (2008). Relationships between mindfulness practice and levels of mindfulness, medical and psychological symptoms and well-being in a mindfulness-based stress reduction program. Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 31(1), 23–33.

De Vibe, M., Solhaug, I., Tyssen, R., Friborg, O., Rosenvinge, J. H., Sørlie, T., & Bjørndal, A. (2013). Mindfulness training for stress management: a randomised controlled study of medical and psychology students. BMC Medical Education, 13, 107. doi:10.1186/1472-6920-13-107

Get some Headspace- Headspace. Retrieved 18/03/2015 from https://www.headspace.com

Mindfulness in the Age of Complexity- Harvard Business Review. Retrieved 18/03/2015 from https://hbr.org/2014/03/mindfulness-in-the-age-of-complexity

Phang, C. K., Mukhtar, F., Ibrahim, N., Keng, S.-L., & Mohd. Sidik, S. (2015). Effects of a brief mindfulness-based intervention program for stress management among medical students: the Mindful-Gym randomized controlled study. Advances in Health Sciences Education. doi:10.1007/s10459-015-9591-3

Stress Reduction- University of Massachusetts Medical School’s Center for Mindfulness. Retrieved 18/03/2015 from http://www.umassmed.edu/cfm/

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