“How do we help our students develop resilience and a really solid toolkit, both professional and personal, to succeed in an environment that is inevitably stressful? We’ve gotten the word out that investing in self-care is important, and it’s normal.”
Cultivated through practices such as meditation, yoga or prayer, mindfulness focuses on being in the present moment in an open, non-judgmental, curious and accepting way. In recent years, corporate giants such as Google, Intel, Nike, General Mills, Target, and others have incorporated mindfulness into their employee development efforts to reduce employee stress and burnout and improve their focus, creativity, job satisfaction, and well-being.
The UW-Madison study included two studies involving a total of 215 participants over six academic semesters at UW-Madison (and the last four semesters concurrently at the University of Virginia). In the study, groups of engineering graduate students participated in an hour-long, instructor-led mindfulness training program once a week for eight weeks. This “Mindful Engineer” curriculum was based on the Healthy Minds Center’s existing training, Cultivating Well-being in the Workplace, and drew on neuroscience-based concepts described in the Center’s co-authored book, The Emotional Life of Your Brain. founder Richard Davidson, professor of psychology and psychiatry at UW-Madison.
Each weekly session builds on the content of the previous weeks; students learn about neuroplasticity in the brain and how it can be trained to change responses to emotions. They explore the six dimensions of emotional style (attention, self-awareness, flexibility, insight, social intuition, and context sensitivity) and learn strategies for creating and maintaining healthy mental and emotional habits. Graduate students also received mindfulness meditation and other contemplative practices, cognitive skills and techniques, and each session included time for meditation and cognitive exercises.
In post-training surveys, students reported significantly improved emotional well-being, more positive outlooks, fewer negative emotions, and increased mindfulness. During the same period, the control groups (who received training later) experienced flat or decreased well-being. Mindfulness study participants also reported being able to manage stress and anxiety better, deal positively with setbacks, work more effectively with colleagues, and focus on their research. “What was great was that we saw a really consistent pattern of results across all of our cohorts. conducted this study,” says Game KesebirHonorary member of the Center for Healthy Minds and author of the study.
Somewhat surprisingly, the researchers also found that engineering graduate students were open to mindfulness training and were not only highly satisfied with it, but also enjoyed the opportunity to connect with other graduate students.” There is evidence in the literature that engineers are less likely to seek treatment for mental health problems—so our team wondered if the engineers would do this,” says Wendy Croneprofessor of engineering physics and mechanical engineering and co-author of the study.
“The answer is they did, and we had great cohorts throughout the project.” The researchers say they would like to see mindfulness training integrated into the graduate student experience. In the meantime, they recommend the Healthy Minds Program, which offers podcast-style lessons as well as sitting and active meditations. And while the researchers focused on engineering graduate students, they note that adopting a mindfulness practice can be a positive step for anyone. “Small investments in self-care can reap long-term rewards.”
Source: The Nordic Page