Dr Helen Noble, Dr Clare McVeigh, Professor Joanne Reid, Dr Ian Walsh, Queen’s University Belfast
Mindfulness practice can reduce recurrent depressive episodes, increase memory, and help students cope with university life. Mindfulness has been described as being able to give uninterrupted attention in a non-judgemental manner and without criticism. Internationally, it is recognised that mindfulness training can positively impact holistic wellbeing and that paying attention to what’s happening in the present moment including your thoughts and feelings, and what’s happening around you, improves your mood and how you feel about yourself and others.
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Mindfulness is about developing non-judgmental awareness of specific objects and seeing deeply into things. A common approach is to focus on the sensations of your own breathing, noting every inhale and exhale, and patiently returning your attention to your breathing each time it wanders.
We carried out a small local study to explore the impact of mindfulness meditation on the ability to become more mindful and increase resilience to cope with stress. This cross-faculty, interprofessional, pilot study involved the Schools of Medicine and Nursing across the undergraduate-postgraduate spectrum. Medical students (n=4) struggling with OSCE performance and nursing PhD students (n=6) took part in a mindfulness-based workshop, followed by four weekly ½ hour sessions of mindfulness training which included a 15-minute meditation exercise. Participants completed the Brief Resilience Scale (BRS) and Mindfulness Attention Awareness Scale (MAAS) at baseline and post intervention. Six students took part in a focus group after completion of the study. A significant positive increase in BRS and MAAS scores signified improvements in being able to cope with stress, with enhanced awareness and attention to what is taking place in the present. Students reported a positive experience and a commitment to mindfulness practice. They felt calmer, less stressed and more able to deal with negative thoughts positively.
We believe mindfulness can induce varied positive psychological effects, including increased attention and resilience; which can impact positively on psychological symptoms including those related to workload stress and pressures. Our future work will include the development of an online intervention for students with key stakeholders including the “Geri-PARTy” lab at the McGill-affiliated Jewish General Hospital, Canada, which focuses on mindfulness research, and Farset Labs, Belfast to evaluate, design and plan for future implementation.
We would argue that mindfulness is a useful addition to medical and nursing curricula. Some 10 million Americans say they practice some form of mindfulness – they can’t all be wrong!!