Student News

Mindfulness and Medicine: Reducing Stress to Improve Health

Trisha Boonpongmanee – August 9, 2018

From a young age, I have practiced some form of meditation, whether it be sitting down in a quiet room and focusing on my breath, or slowly pacing while listening to my thoughts. Learning to calm my mind taught me not only to control my thoughts, but also to improve my attention and ability to focus. In high school, having the opportunity to learn more about mindfulness from experts made me realize that some of the people, especially patients, who could benefit the most might not have the right resources, or even the knowledge that mindfulness could help them. My goal was to educate people who are often exposed to stress, or who suffer from stress-induced conditions and to provide an accessible route for them to start practicing mindfulness.

When I spoke to the target audience, I discovered that many people had never heard of the term mindfulness before, or practiced any sort of breathing or calming exercises. In fact, on the first day, only one of the four patients I spoke to knew about mindfulness through an app, but it had never been used. Each of the patients had their own personal medical conditions, yet they all could be helped in some way by employing mindfulness techniques.

For example, many people I talked to had pain-related diseases with symptoms that flared up as a result of stress, including rheumatoid arthritis and back pain. These patients were especially interested in lowering their stress through breathing exercises as pain medicine could only do so much. Similarly, patients whose symptoms related to mental health also benefited from the stress-reduction exercises and many of them were engaged and interested during my informational presentation and the sample exercises they took part in. The few who had some experience with mindfulness, either through college courses or apps seemed to appreciate the reminder to either restart or more information and resources in order to try out a different type of exercise, such as a body scan for people who were already familiar with breathing exercises. Some patients even told me personal stories about their relationship with stress and their own well-beings, acknowledging that mindfulness could be a path to taking better care of themselves. One patient with a child who was starting college even asked me to present to her daughter, to encourage focus, especially in her first year.

Accordingly, everyone was more than willing to try a mindfulness exercise and I immediately received good feedback about how the patients felt refreshed afterwards and their (usually high) likeliness to continue practicing. Several people I spoke to took down the names of the apps and recommended books in order to further explore the different aspects of mindfulness on their own and to share with friends and family.

With the monetary support of the Workman grant through the CSGC, I was able to purchase materials and resources for the patients, as well as magnets to serve as a small reminder to take a couple moments out of the day to practice mindfulness.