Meditation and Medicine

by Rona Berg

It’s been a stressful couple of years for healthcare professionals. They take such good care of us, but the pressures they’ve been under have been extraordinary. 

According to Dr. Gail Gazelle MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and Master Certified Coach for physicians, meditation and mindfulness offer many benefits that can help physicians cope with mental and emotional stress. And if it helps them, it can certainly help the rest of us.  

“The life of a physician is chock full of stress and, sadly, we learn next to nothing in our training about how to manage it,” says Dr. Gazelle. “In addition to all the busyness of our days, we tend to have particularly busy minds, full of worries and concerns. Mindfulness provides the exact tools we need to manage all the stress, quieting the busy physician mind, and bringing calm to even the busiest and most challenging day,” she continues. Here are the benefits of mindfulness and meditation, according to Dr. Gazelle, along with her explanation of the reasons why. 

#1: Meditation builds calmness

The life of a physician is full of stress. To survive their careers, physicians need tools to build moments of calm into their day. Mindfulness teaches us how to do this in an effective and meaningful way that helps cultivate not just calmness and quiet in the mind, but gratitude and joy as well.

#2: Meditation builds focus

We learn next to nothing in medical training about how to focus. A physician’s day is typically full of distractions: abnormal lab results, patients calling with urgent problems, callbacks from a specialist. Even brief periods of meditation build the physician’s ability to hold their attention exactly where they want and need it to be. 

#3: Meditation builds positivity

The public may find it surprising just how much doctors criticize themselves. Comparing themselves to other doctors and looking at how they are coming up short, believing they are an imposter, and focusing on what’s going wrong and not what they’ve done well. With mindfulness and meditation practices, physicians build their ability to focus on all the good they do, each and every day, and learn to let go of that inner self-critic. 

#4: Mindfulness builds resilience

Doctors get worn down by all the sickness they see, all the responsibility they bear, and the very long hours they need to work. This is even more true during the pandemic. Mindfulness helps physicians build resilience to all the demands and difficulties of their careers, making them more agile, capable, and even more compassionate to their colleagues and patients.

#5: Mindfulness builds mastery over their mind

Physicians are experts in identifying and treating all kinds of diseases. But their minds are a busy place, full of worries, fears, anxieties, and more. With mindfulness, physicians learn how to work with their mind, developing the same mastery an expert surgeon has every time she or he operates on a complex case.

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