Be here now. Do what you are doing when you’re doing it. Be where you are when you’re there. The idea of staying present as a tool for self-management in stressful situations is one that Dr. Michael Newton has been teaching students and community groups for years. Now he wants to bring it to the health care arena of western Newfoundland.
The literature on the positive effects of mindfulness is immense; it is a growing trend in the workplace. Research has shown that mindfulness can reduce depression, stress, worry and anxiety. It can also boost working memory and focus and increase empathy, compassion and relationship satisfaction. In short, the practice of mindfulness creates a better quality of life. In health care, it can benefit both workers and patients, particularly those dealing with depression, anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD,) obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and eating disorders.
Dr. Newton has formal training in mindfulness and he has studied the research on its countless benefits. Now he wants to take it to a practical level.
“In conversation with Western Health managers and managers in other government services, I recognize there is a need for a program that would help individuals deal with the stress produced by an ever-demanding working environment,” said Dr. Newton.
Mindfulness programs are usually presented in larger communities and require a significant time commitment, often spanning eight weeks. This is not an option for most regional health authorities; Dr. Newton hopes to address this problem and deliver a mindfulness program to small, often rural populations who simply don’t have the time to pursue a longer course of mindfulness study.
“I am aware, for instance, that numerous hospitals offer mindfulness courses to their employees for them to use in their professional lives, as well as a way to introduce the concept to their patients,” said Dr. Newton.
He plans to visit hospitals in the Toronto area to learn about the mindfulness courses they are offering. He’ll then apply that knowledge to produce a web-based program that workers can complete on their own schedule. Dr. Newton runs a similar course on Workplace Mindfulness for Grenfell Campus employees, but this new program will be designed specifically for health care professionals.