Practicing mindfulness in clinical practice

There's been a lot of talk over the years about the value of integrating mindfulness into medicine.

Michelle Trotter-Mathison, PhD LP LLC
Michelle Trotter-Mathison, PhD LP LLC
24th Aug 2021 • 3m read

There's been a lot of talk over the years about the value of integrating mindfulness into medicine. It supposedly has the power to prevent burnout and improve work satisfaction. But does it actually work? In this video, we take a look at the place of mindfulness in medicine and why a small dose of presence during your day might just mean the difference between a long, happy career, or a doctor ready to ditch the profession for good.

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Video transcript

We spend much of our time not being mentally present in the moment. For example, while you're in an exam room with a patient, you might find yourself thinking about all the documentation that is waiting for you. Or maybe when you're at home playing board games with your family, you find yourself thinking about all the household chores that need to be completed.

The antidote to being distracted from the moment is mindfulness. Mindfulness is defined as intentionally paying attention to the present moment without judgment. As more people seek solace from this busy world, mindfulness has become a part of our popular culture. There are both formal and informal ways to practice mindfulness.

The formal practice requires that you dedicate time to sit and meditate, without interruptions or distractions. The informal practice involves implementing mindfulness into your everyday life. For example, if you are washing the dishes, feel the warm water on your hands and listen to the sound of the dishes clinking.

The formal practice of mindfulness meditation can help to strengthen your mindfulness muscle, so you're better able to be mindful in your daily life. It allows you to see opportunities for mindfulness in daily life. This will eventually help you be more present in the moment. In exercise, you must train and workout muscle groups in order to increase your strength and mobility.

Similarly, in order to build your mindfulness muscle, you must diligently practice it. The simplest way to start practicing formal meditation is to dedicate 10 minutes each day to sit and quiet the mind. Begin by focusing on the breath. Invite yourself to return to the breath, each time your attention wanders away. Here are some guidelines for a basic mindfulness meditation practice session.

First, start by finding an upright body posture, so the breath can flow freely. Consider sitting on a chair or on the floor with a meditation cushion supporting your posture. Next, gently close your eyes and start to observe the sensation of your breath. Notice how the breath feels going in and out of your nose. Listen to the sound of your breath, and feel how your belly will rhythmically rise and fall.

Allow your mind to focus on the sensation of the breath, and when your mind wanders, simply bring it back to the sensation of the breath. It is normal for our minds to wander. That is what minds do. You might find that your mind wanders 50 times during your 10 minute session. That is okay. The power of meditation lies in the act of simply returning to the breath each time the mind wanders. This builds our capacity for focused attention, so we are more likely to be mindful in our daily lives, and more present with our families and patients.