Mindfulness is the awareness that emerges through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, with compassion, and open-hearted curiosity .
Through cultivating mindful awareness, we discover how to live in the present moment rather than brooding about the past or worrying about the future.

Mindfulness, in my opinion, may just be one of the most important skills that can be taught to nurses (and other caregivers).
It is an easily taught skill that can help to strengthen resilience, improve concentration, decrease likelihood of errors, improve clinical performance, nurture empathy and lessen the effects of chronic stress.

As well as benefits to caregivers, there is now a growing body of evidence to show its effects when taught as part of our patients care planning, including:

  • long-lasting physical and psychological stress reduction
  • positive changes in well-being
  • a decreased propensity to become stuck in states of depression and exhaustion.
  • improved ability to control addictive behaviour.

I have been practicing Zazen, (a particular form of meditation closely related to mindfulness practice) now for many years with varying degrees of consistency.
When I am engaged in a regular practice I can attest to some very real and deep experience of the benefits mentioned above.
The trick is to commit to making it a regular part of your daily routine, and this can be very difficult for shift-workers immersed in the hectic warp and woof of hospital life.

One of my own New Years resolutions (I know, I know)  is to work on doing just this, improving the consistency of my own practice…and I will let you know how this is progressing over the year.

Mindfulness is not about sitting in the full-lotus position in a cloud of sandalwood incense under the tutelage of some exotic mystic. It is a set of simple skills that anyone can practice at any time.
As with any skill, lets say playing the guitar, you can become more proficient and more intimate with it as you do it over and over again.
And just as with learning to play the guitar, I can attest to the real likelihood of feeling awkward, incompetent and questioning your ability to make any progress (or elicit any benefit)  at all when you first begin.

Here is a short introductory video in which Professor of Clinical Psychology at the University of Oxford, Mark Williams, talks about mindfulness.

If you cannot see the player above: here is a link to the video

And in this second video Professor Williams looks at some of the clinical benefits to our patients when treating depression with Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT).
In patients with three or more previous episodes of depression, MBCT has been found to reduce the recurrence rate over 12 months by 40–50% compared with usual care.

Studies have found MBCT to be as effective as reducing recurrence as antidepressants ( The University of Oxford has a good repository of journal articles related to mindfulness here)
Over in the UK, the Government’s National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has recommended MBCT for those with three or more episodes of depression in their Guidelines for Management of Depression.

If you cannot see the player above: here is a link to the video

If you are interested in developing your own mindfulness practice, there are plenty of excellent books on the topic. Professor Williams has published his own 8 week plan “for finding peace in a frantic world” based on MBCT.

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