How can mindfulness be relevant in healthcare?

Mindfulness has been around for over two thousand years, but it is only more recently that we are really realising it's benefits in the western world. The research in Mindfulness and benefits in healthcare has increased dramatically in the last ten years, with promising results showing mindfulness can improve patient engagement, and recovery rates.

Mindfulness also helps improve wellbeing in healthcare workers reducing burnout, stress and anxiety, and improving general wellbeing. This in turn helps with patient care.

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Mindfulness In Healthcare

Various occupations benefit from a mindfulness programme, without specific adaptation. Two occupations I have worked a lot with is in Occupational Therapy and Physiotherapy. I run regular training sessions for Healthcare Professionals teaching how to apply mindfulness in their clinical work. These have proved very popular with clinicians telling me how they have benefited, and more than that, how using mindfulness in the great work they already do has benefitted their patients.

Various good quality studies have found that mindfulness can significantly help with chronic pain in various conditions. On top of reducing chronic pain, patients experience ‘positive side-effects’ such as improved wellbeing with less stress and anxiety, and improved functioning.

Jon-Kabat Zinn was quoted saying “Mindfulness interventions would be clinically appropriate to foster the inner work necessary for patients to heal”. He would know. He was almost single handily responsible for bringing mindfulness over to the western world. Adapting it for our culture and helping thousands of people heal in the process.

So how can we implement mindfulness as a health professional?

The first obvious way is to be present in your work. We will talk more about this later.

The not so obvious way is in the language that you use as a clinician. Think about when you give a patient some instructions to perform a rehabilitation exercise. Mindfulness is in the words you use.

Imagine you are giving an exercise in something simple like calf raises to improve a weakness. One way you could do this is simply instruct them to stand with their feet shoulder width apart, rise up onto their toes, and then slowly come back down again and repeat.

And in that example the patient will do it, and their attention could be anywhere.

Or you could instruct them like the following:

“Feel the pump in the muscles. Bring your awareness to the changing sensations. Notice how the lower legs feel towards the end of the movement”.

In this example the patient will be in the body. This is mindfulness. They feel the exercise because they are attending to it.

Mindfulness is really brain training. And it is the best kind, developing our ability to be present, build emotional intelligence, reduce anxiety and worry, and increase our empathy and compassion for ourselves and others.

In neuroimaging studies they have actually found that mindfulness changes our brain on a biological basis. Parts of our brain responsible for memory, stress, emotional regulation and executive function have all been shown to produce measurable changes after a mindfulness course.

I teach healthcare professionals to implement mindfulness in their careers in real practical ways.

Chris Finn, lead Trainer for Poole Mindfulness & Psychology

Chris is a Clinical Lecturer in Psychology and an accredited Senior Psychotherapist and Supervisor. Chris has worked in senior positions in the NHS and has worked with thousands of patients and healthcare professionals in his clinical career. He now specialises in helping other healthcare professionals enhance their existing skillset.

Chris Finn