Mindfulness is a form of meditation that focuses on nonjudgmental present moment awareness. The study by David S. Ludwig MD, PhD and Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD titled “Mindfulness in Medicine” suggests that the practice of mindfulness is not only beneficial for patients who may experience chronic illness, pain and substance abuse, but also to the physician’s ability to be more compassionate and make the better clinical decisions that may prevent medical error. Medical students selected at random to participate in mindfulness-based, stress reduction training showed decreased stress levels and increased empathy compared to those that did not participate in the study. The study analyzed cases where patients with cancer, type 2 diabetes, psoriasis, sleeping disorders, ADHD, obesity and other conditions showed a positive increase in mood, perception and acceptance of pain, overall stress reduction, physical functioning, overall well-being, and ability to cope better with everyday life.
Another study titled “The Neuroscience of Mindfulness” by et al Yi-Yuang Tang aimed to analyze the effects of mindfulness on the brain and reveal specific neural pathways involved during mindfulness meditation. MRI data suggests that mindfulness meditation might lead to increased cortical thickness and increased activity within the white matter: Eight different brain regions were shown to be involved in mindfulness meditation: the frontopolar cortex, involved in meta-awareness; the sensory cortices and insula, involved in body awareness; the hippocampus, involved in memory; the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), mid-cingulate cortex and orbitofrontal cortex, areas involved in emotion; and the superior longitudinal fasciculus and corpus callosum, areas involved in communication within and between cerebral hemispheres.
Both of these studies suggest that cultivating present moment awareness through the practice of mindfulness can have major positive benefits with regard to the quality of life of patients and physicians alike.
Ludwig DS1, Kabat-Zinn J. (2008) Mindfulness in medicine. JAMA 300(11):1350-2.
Tang YY, Hölzel BK, Posner MI. (2015) The neuroscience of mindfulness meditation. Nat Rev Neurosci 16(4):213-25.