Articles and Case Studies

Mindfulness – No Longer Just a Buzz Word

02 Nov 2016


The mental health of our medical profession has been an ongoing concern to beyondblue. Findings from their landmark research found that one in five medical students and one in 10 doctors had suicidal thoughts in a 12-month period.
Mindfulness is “…about paying attention with openness and curiosity to both internal experiences such as your thoughts, emotions and body sensations, and to external experiences going on around you, and accepting them in a non-judgemental way”.1

Why should I try mindfulness?

The most recent beyondblue study of doctors’ and medical students’ mental health comprised 12,252 doctors and 1,811 medical students who reported higher rates of distress when compared to the Australian population.2 Mindfulness promotes adaptive responses to stressful situations by increasing awareness of negative thoughts, emotions and physical sensations as they arise.3

This has been shown to:

  • increase work engagement and resilience in high-stress work environments (such as the intensive care unit)4
  • significantly decrease levels of depression and anxiety symptoms.5

You can also encourage your patients to experiment with mindfulness to reduce, for example:

  • pain-related distress6
  • hedonically-motivated eating7
  • fear and anxiety of recurrence in cancer survivors.8

What exercises can I try?

  • Be present during automatic everyday tasks: For example, tooth brushing. Focus on the feel of the brush in your hand and on individual teeth, the taste of the toothpaste, and any sounds. Staying present during such a mundane task should provide limited opportunities for judgement.
  • Breathe: Pay attention to one part of the breath cycle, e.g. expansion of the abdomen. When thoughts arise, let them go and keep focusing on the breath.1,9
  • Objectively observe strong emotions: Stop what you are doing and focus on the present. Ask yourself, “What is going on with me at the moment?” Label emotions, e.g. “sad” or “angry” and let them float away without becoming caught up in them or the memories they may evoke. Redirect your attention to your breathing.10
  • Scan your body: Focus on one part of the body at a time, e.g. start at your toes and work up to your head. Then scan the major parts of the body, e.g. leg, arm, torso. The aim is to observe sensations present at the time of attention, such as temperature, touch of clothing or pulse. Consciously release any tensions experienced.9

How can I fit it into my already busy schedule?

You can practise mindfulness during everyday tasks. It can also be helpful to schedule a regular time to practise mindfulness such as before bed, after your morning shower or before dinner.9

It really does not take long to incorporate mindfulness into your daily routine to make a big difference to your patients’ wellbeing as well as yours.

Where can I get more information?


  1. Dragon N. Mindfulness in Practice. Aust Nurs Midwifery J. 2015;23(3):27.
  2. beyondblue. National Mental Health Survey of Doctors and Medical Students. beyondblue Doctors' Mental Health Program. October 2013. Available at:
  3. Zeller J, Levin P. Mindfulness Interventions to Reduce Stress Among Nursing Personnel: An Occupational Health Perspective. Workplace Health Saf. 2013;61(2):85–9.
  4. Klatt M, Steinberg B, Duchemin A. Mindfulness in Motion (MIM): An Onsite Mindfulness Based Intervention (MBI) for Chronically High Stress Work Environments to Increase Resiliency and Work Engagement. J Vis Exp. 2015;101. Available at:
  5. Strauss C, Cavanagh K, Oliver A, Pettman D. Mindfulness-Based Interventions for People Diagnosed with a Current Episode of an Anxiety or Depressive Disorder: A Meta-Analysis of Randomised Controlled Trials. PLoS One. 2014;9(4). Available at:
  6. Ussher M, Spatz A, Copland C, Nicolaou A, Cargill A, Amini-Tabrizi N, et al. Immediate Effects of a Brief Mindfulness-Based Body Scan on Patients With Chronic Pain. J Behav Med. 2014;37(1):127–34.
  7. Forman E, Shaw J, Goldstein S, Butryn M, Martin L, Meiran N, et al. Mindful Decision Making and Inhibitory Control Training as Complementary Means to Decrease Snack Consumption. Appetite. 2016;103:176–83. Available at:
  8. Lengacher C, Reich R, Paterson C, Ramesar S, Park J, Alinat C, et al. Examination of Broad Symptom Improvement Resulting From Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction in Breast Cancer Survivors: A Randomized Controlled Trial. J Clin Oncol. 2016;[Epub ahead of print]. Available at:
  9. Thompson C. Everyday Mindfulness: A Guide to Using Mindfulness to Improve Your Well-being and Reduce Stress and Anxiety in Your Life.  [updated 29 April 2010; cited 8 September 2015]; Available at:
  10. Black Dog Institute. Mindfulness in Everyday Life.  [updated 7 October 2014; cited 12 July 2016]; Available at:
Doctors Health and Wellbeing, Anaesthesia, Dermatology, Emergency Medicine, General Practice, Intensive Care Medicine, Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Ophthalmology, Pathology, Psychiatry, Radiology, Sports Medicine, Surgery, Physician, Geriatric Medicine, Cardiology, Plastic And Reconstructive Surgery, Radiation Oncology, Paediatrics, Independent Medical Assessor - IME


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