What is mindfulness in medicine?

Mindfulness is simply paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, in a non-judgemental way during everyday activities. The practice of mindfulness has roots in the meditative practices of mainly Eastern religious traditions, although the mindfulness sessions presented here offer a more pragmatic approach for health care professionals.

Mindfulness in Medicine: Markham Stouffville, York Central medical societies partner with OMA Physician Health Program by OMA Regional Engagement Services - OMR, March 2012, reproduced with the permission of the Ontario Medical Association.

Mindfulness-based therapies in Toronto

The Centre for Mindfulness Studies in Toronto provides mindfulness-based therapies for anxiety and depression, healthy eating, ADHD and coping with cancer. For more info visit http://www.mindfulnessstudies.com/

For your listening pleasure, we have created a "Mindfulness in every day life" audio CD, an invitation to explore the value of practicing mindfulness in your life. If you would like to receive one, please contact anna.kopowska@oma.org

Two short guided practices

Stop: A mindful one minute pause to refresh and rest attention

Stop what you're doing and close your eyes.
Take a few breaths, bringing your awareness to each inhalation and exhalation.
Observe how you are feeling in the moment and consider your options on the next best step
Proceed - as you continue with full steady breaths

Mindfulness practice – relaxed attention by counting the breath cycles

No matter how busy your life is, no matter where you are, you can find one or more minutes to do this breath meditation.

Select a length of time to intentionally practice mindfulness for example consider two, five, 10, or more minutes. You may set an alarm to help you focus on the mindfulness practice rather than watching the time. Bring awareness to your body and posture. Sit upright in a chair in a position that feels comfortable and embodies a sense of relaxed attention and dignity. You may place your hands comfortably on your lap. With awareness of your body/posture continue into a period of mindfulness of the breath. Tune your focus specifically to your breath by anchoring your attention on your nostrils or belly as you breathe in and out.

Take a moment to settle into this awareness of the full cycle of your breath, your full inhalation, the point moment of transition to your exhalation, the exhalation, and then the moment of the transition to breathing in again ... With your attention centered on the rhythm of your breathing begin to count each cycle of an in-breath and out-breath up to ten cycles. Some people find it helpful to actually say to themselves:

Breathing in …breathing out …one
Breathing in …breathing out …two
and so forth for the intended minutes of practice

Inevitably you will notice that the mind often will wander away and become distracted with planning or preparing for the future or evaluating, analyzing and reviewing past events – this human nature and not a problem. Each time you notice the mind has wandered from the awareness of breathing then gently and firmly return attention to the breath, to the rhythm of the inhalation and exhalation.

If you lose track of your count return to the number you last recall or if there is time you may start again at one. Return to the breath without criticizing or judging yourself for being distracted by your thoughts, for it is natural for our minds to wander. Sometimes this practice may go smoothly at other times it may be difficult or turbulent. Regardless of the experience, the practice is to keep returning to your breath without further analyzing or judging yourself. A helpful tip: For some people just labeling or mentally noting your wandering thoughts as “thoughts” or “thinking” are helpful transitions back to the breath.

Mindfulness Exercises

Duration: 3 minutes
Recorded by Ted Bober, MSW, RSW, PHP Associate Director, Clinical Services


Duration: 5 minutes 
Recorded by Ted Bober, MSW, RSW, PHP Associate Director, Clinical Services

Duration: 10 minutes 
Recorded by Ann Davidson, BA/BSW, MSW, AOCA, RSW

Duration: 20 minutes
Recorded by Ann Davidson, BA/BSW, MSW, AOCA, RSW