Updated: Jul 18, 2021
I was talking to a DVM friend of mine recently and he said, “The amazing thing is that we have research to show us that mindfulness works!”
He is so right - we have decades of research across multiple professional communities that show the impact of mindfulness. What is even more exciting is the recent research about the impact of mindfulness specifically in veterinary medicine. This blog post will explore the overall research on the impact of mindfulness and our next post will specifically focus on some findings in vet med.
Much of the research on mindfulness in the western world began in the 1970s when Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn piloted a mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) program in a Stress Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Memorial Medical Center. The research findings from this program included participants experiencing long-lasting improvements regarding their physical and psychological symptoms. At this point Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) is offered at over 200 medical institutions nationally and abroad (Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, 2021; UMass Memorial Health, 2021).
Photo of Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn
Since this time, mindfulness research has been explored in fields such as neuroscience, psychology, education, and business. According to the Greater Good Science Center (2017), the following findings are consistent across the literature:
Engaging in mindfulness can support focus and attention.
Mindfulness helps us counter habituation, where we stop paying attention to new information in our environment. Mindfulness can also help improve our ability to solve problems. The overall improved attention from mindfulness can last for five years after initial training.
Engaging in mindfulness can reduce anxiety and depression.
Mindfulness can help us build increased resilience to stress and also reduce our emotional reactivity. We can also use mindfulness to lessen our inflammatory response to psychological stressors.
Engaging in mindfulness can impact our brain structure.
Mindfulness practices can help dampen activity in the amygdala and strengthen our prefrontal cortex. This helps us better regulate our emotions and respond, as opposed to reacting to stressors.
Photo from canva.com
While these findings are promising, some research has shown that it isn’t about how long you engage in mindfulness practices, but rather your consistency in engaging in mindfulness. For example, practicing mindfulness just a few minutes a day or a few times a week can be as impactful as practicing for 45 minute stretches of time inconsistently. Engaging in these practices regularly is what matters most.
In our next blog post, I will explore a study in veterinary medicine on the impact of mindful breathing before surgery.
For now, I invite you to see if you can take a moment to simply notice your breath. Try to follow one breath as you slowly inhale and then exhale. Feel your breath move through you.
Thank you for reading this blog post! Feel free to reach out with your ideas, questions, and comments. I am excited to be part of the growing movement to support veterinary wellness!
Greater Good Science Center - UC Berkeley. (2017) The state of mindfulness science. https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/the_state_of_mindfulness_science
Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction. (2021). About Jon Kabat-Zinn. Retrieved June 6, 2021.
UMass Memorial Health. (2021). Center for Mindfulness. Retrieved June 6, 2021. https://www.ummhealth.org/center-mindfulness
Peace Within offers Mindful Vet Med - customized, audio-based mindfulness meditations designed specifically for veterinary professionals. The meditations are 5 minutes or less and support your daily well-being routines.