Research on the Benefits of Mindfulness for Healthcare Professionals!

In 2013 HHS and St Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton received a Health Work Environment Partnership and Innovation grant from the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care to study the impact of Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) on healthcare providers. 125 healthcare professionals, including nurses, social workers, PT/OT, managers and others, were enrolled in the study. Pre and post surveys were completed to track changes in empathy and symptoms of burnout. Focus groups were conducted with participants one year later to explore the sustained impact of the program. The study by Sandra Moll, Andrea Frolic and Brenda Keys was recently published in the Journal of Hospital Administration. It found that participants experienced:

• significant increase in empathy and compassion
• significant decrease in burnout
• increased ability to listen mindfully to others
• less emotional reactivity
• enhanced skills in managing conflict
• an ability to integrate mindfulness into daily life both within and outside of work

Click here to read the full version of the study! Share with your friends!


Mindfulness FAQs

Q: What is mindfulness?

A: Our minds are often busy - when we're not reliving the past, we're planning the future. Rarely are we in the present moment. And yet, the present moment is the only time we have to live, love, learn, create and be happy. Mindfulness is simply being aware of what is happening moment to moment, without judgment. The body's sensations and the contents of the mind are all witnessed from a place of pure awareness. This awareness allows us to be more attentive to the pleasant events in our day, and helps us be more skillful in navigating times of stress and suffering. Mindfulness allows us to fully experience our lives.

Q: What are the benefits of practicing mindfulness?

A: Mindfulness practices have been studied using a variety of Western research methods, including controlled trials and fMRIs, for several decades. Evidence has shown that people who practice mindfulness experience:

  • greater ability to cope with daily stress
  • lasting decreases in physical and psychological symptoms
  • greater ability to learn and focus
  • greater energy and enthusiasm for life
  • increased professional resiliency
  • enhanced interpersonal communication and relationships

Q: How can I learn mindfulness practices?

A: Mindfulness is not a “trick” or a “fad” or a “quick fix” for our lives. Mindfulness is a kind of brain exercise. Like we need physical exercise on a regular basis to maintain health, the full benefits of mindfulness come from regular practice. HHS has partnered with the McMaster University Program for Faculty Development to offer staff/physicians/ students/faculty access to discounted mindfulness courses designed specifically for people who work in healthcare. Information on these courses can be found at

In addition, a group of professionals interested in promoting mindfulness in healthcare and education has just formed in Hamilton, called the Mindfulness Hamilton Network. Their website will contain links to resources, lectures and local classes related to mindfulness practices. Visit their website at:

Q: Where can I get support for my mindfulness practice?

A: HHS has recently launched “Mindfulness for Lunch” sessions at each of our sites to support mindfulness practice in the workplace. These drop-in sessions are generally 30 minutes long and include a 10-15 minute guided mindfulness practice as well as time for Q&A. All HHS staff, physicians and learners are welcome to attend; there is no cost or need to register. People new to meditation are welcome; no prior experience necessary. See below for information about the “Mindfulness for Lunch” session at your site:

*NEW* 2016 Mindfulness for Lunch Schedule

Q: I have tried meditation before and it has never “worked.” What am I doing wrong?

A: Mindfulness asks us to suspend our goal-oriented approach to life for a few moments, to learn to pause and reflect, and to simply meet things as they are. Letting go of the idea that the practice must have a particular outcome in order to be “successful” is part of mindfulness. It seems paradoxical – doing through non-doing?

Mindfulness requires no less than a radical rotation in consciousness. The following is a glossary of foundational attitudes that will help to  build a strong mindfulness practice.

Non-judging: Non-judging requires that we become an impartial witness to our constant stream of reactions to life. We tend to label and categorize almost everything we see. Then we react automatically to what we see, but we are seeing through our own prejudices and fears. Non-judging reminds us to just watch whatever comes up, including our tendency to judge.

Patience: Patience acknowledges that sometimes things must unfold in their own time. We give ourselves room to have our experiences without trying to rush through them to get to “better” ones. Why? Because we are having them anyway. Patience also helps us accept the mind’s tendency to wander, while reminding us that we don’t have to get caught up in its travels.

Beginner’s mind: Our beliefs prevent us from seeing things as they really are. They are based on past experiences and lead us to think that we know more than we do. Yet each moment is new and therefore contains unique possibilities. Beginner’s mind asks us to see with a clear and uncluttered mind instead of seeing only through the veil of our thoughts and opinions.

Trust: Trust means not getting caught up in the reputation and authority of others. Instead, we are invited to honor our own feelings, intuitions and
experiences. While teachers and books can provide signposts, only you can take responsibility for knowing yourself. “Read the book that is your life”. (Shinzen Young)

Non-striving: Almost everything we do is for a purpose. Although meditation requires a lot of work of a certain kind, it has no goal other than for you to be yourself. It asks you to try less and be more. The best way to achieve your goals is to back off from striving for results and instead focus on seeing and accepting things as they are, moment by moment. With patience and regular practice, movement toward your goals will happen by itself.

Acceptance: Acceptance simply means that you are willing to see things as they are. It doesn’t mean that you have to like everything or that you have to take a passive attitude and abandon your principles and values. You are much more likely to know what to do and have the inner conviction to act when you have a clear picture of what is actually happening, than when your vision is clouded by judgment, desire, fear or prejudice.

Letting go: Letting go means putting aside the tendency to hold onto some experiences and reject others. When we observe our mind grasping or pushing away, we remind ourselves to let go of those impulses. In this way, we can become an expert on our own attachments and aversions – we come to understand their consequences in our lives. We also come to know what happens when we do let go.

Commitment: In addition to these attitudes, you will also need to bring
motivation to your practice. A strong commitment to knowing yourself and
enough self-discipline to persevere in the process are essential to developing a strong meditation practice and a high degree of mindfulness.

Q: I don’t have time to meditate for an hour everyday. Can I still benefit from mindfulness practice?

A: There is no “correct dosage” of mindfulness practice. Studies have shown that benefits can be experienced with as little as 15-20 minutes of daily practice. When you can, it is good to meditate for longer stretches (but only as long as it is physically comfortable for you). However, you can integrate mindfulness practices throughout your day. Here are a few suggestions:

In the morning:

  • Take 5-10 minutes before you get out of bed to do a body scan from head to toe. Notice how your body is feeling today and set an intention to take care of yourself.
  • Sit next to the window with a cup of tea or coffee. Gaze out the window, listen to the sounds of the world awakening or take a slow quiet walk in your yard before starting your morning routine.

While driving:

  • Pay attention to your body as you drive. Notice any places of tension, such as hands gripping the steering wheel, shoulders raised, stomach tight, etc.
  • At each stop light take 3 deep breaths to refresh yourself.
  • Decide not to play the radio and just be with yourself. Reflect on your day and what lies ahead. How can you bring more joy and meaning to your day?
  • On the highway, experiment with riding in the slow lane.
  • Once you park your car, take in the sights and sounds and people you meet as you walk to your place of work. Take a new route to your workplace.

At work:

Many things happen in the day that we can use to bring us home to the present moment, including:

  • The telephone (take two breaths before answering)
  • Walking through a door (pause before entering a patient’s room)
  • A Code Blue: send good wishes to the patient/family and team responding to that crisis.
  • Walk intentionally, paying attention to the sensations of your body as you move through the halls.
  • While sitting at your desk, keyboard, etc., pay attention to bodily sensations. Every hour get up, stretch, breathe, drop your shoulders and try to rid yourself of excess tension.
  • Use your breaks to truly relax, rather than simply pausing. For instance, instead of having coffee to reenergize yourself, take a short walk or sit somewhere quiet and soothing and b-r-e-a-t-h-e.
  • Eat one or two lunches per week in silence or spend at least 5 minutes of your meal in silence. Use this as a time to eat slowly and be with yourself. Take a few mindful breaths before you start eating. During the meal, be aware of chewing your food. Enjoy the textures and flavors of your food. If you do have a conversation, keep the topic light and supportive.
  • At the end of the workday, acknowledge yourself for what you’ve accomplished and consciously leave tomorrow’s to-do list for tomorrow.
  • Pay attention to the walk to your car – breathing the crisp or warm air.
  • Feel the cold or warmth of your body. Take in your surroundings.
  • Consciously slow yourself down, preparing to make the transition to home.

At home:

  • Try changing out of work clothes as soon as you get home. This simple act might help you make a smoother transition.
  • Say “hello” to each of your family members or to the people/animals you live with and take a moment to look into their eyes and take in their presence. If you live alone, feel what it is like to enter the quiet of your home.
  • If possible, take 5-10 minutes to be quiet and still. Reflect on the day, focusing especially on the things you did well.
  • If you watch television at night, turn down the sound during commercials or between programs. Close your eyes, and take some mindful breaths. If you’re reading, try stopping every half-hour. Close your eyes for a minute or so, and bring your attention back to your breath. Become aware of the noises or silence of your home.
  • As you go to bed and prepare for sleep, take some deep breaths, become aware of the bed supporting you, and allow yourself a smile. Feel the muscles of your body relaxing as you sink into your bed. Let go of the day’s activities and your anticipation of the next day by focusing on your breath and body.

Thanks to: Dr. Andrea Frolic and Anna Taneburgo for their contributions to these FAQ.


Mindfulness for Lunch
Current Mindfulness Schedules:

MUMC, SPH, RJCHC & King West

NEW Mindfulness Audio

Mindfulness Audio- NEW

New Video Content!

If you want to learn more about mindfulness and how it can benefit your life, then please check out the new Mindfulness Videos

Topics Include: 

  1. What is Mindfulness? 
  2. What is Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction? 
  3. Breath Awareness Practice
  4. Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy
  5. The Neuroscience of Mindfulness

Mindfulness @ HHS


To learn more about the upcoming Mindfulness courses, programs and events, please register online through the HHS Centre for People Development, Compassion and Resilience stream: