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Physician Health and Well-Being: Being Mindful – Being Kind

Physician Health and Well-Being: Being Mindful – Being Kind
By John A. Patterson MD, MSPH, FAAFP, ABIHM
Founding co-chair LMS Physician Wellness Program

 “Be kinder than necessary because everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle.”    

              J.M. Barrie, author of Peter Pan

     Our Stress Epidemic– Even before the recent pandemic, surveys over the last several years have shown increasing levels of anxiety, depression, chronic pain, sleep disturbance, substance abuse, addiction, loneliness and suicide. Sadly, these trends have affected Americans of all ages, including teens and youth – as well as health professionals. New polls taken during this coronavirus pandemic show even more people are anxious about the possibility of themselves or their loved ones becoming seriously ill or dying. Anxiety over personal finances, food and medication shortages, a possible long-term impact on the economy and overall uncertainty is having a negative impact on mental health and the general quality of daily life.
     Stress management– Although stress does not necessarily cause any particular disease, it can be a contributing factor in the development of conditions affecting every organ system. In addition to healthy eating and physical activity, stress management is a foundation of physical, mental, emotional, spiritual health and well-being. One of the most powerful tools of stress management is group support, social connection, friends and family. LMS is not just a business club or professional obligation. It may be supporting physician health and saving physician lives. The pandemic-related social distancing and working from home have disrupted cherished habits of social engagement and support. The interpersonal group format of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) is one reason it is the gold standard mindfulness approach to managing stress.
     The Science of Kindness at UCLA– The UCLA Bedari Kindness Institute supports rigorous interdisciplinary scientific research on the benefits of kindness to individuals, groups and societies. Combining evolutionary, biological, psychological, economic, cultural and sociological perspectives, the Kindness Institute seeks to overcome barriers to the intentional and skillful use of kindness to solve physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, interpersonal and international problems. Guided by the evidence from world-class research, the Kindness Institute also seeks to educate individuals, institutions and leaders about the practice of kindness, empathy and respect with the goal of creating kinder, more humane societies. Their mission states– ‘We don’t just want people to learn about kindness, we want people to DO kindness.’
       An example of the Kindness Institute’s mission to bridge science and spirituality is their research and education about ‘contagious kindness’– how witnessing acts of kindness can motivate observers to be kind. To foster an individual and collective culture of kindness, the Kindness Institute will provide mindfulness awareness training to students, faculty and staff and underserved Los Angeles communities.
     The Science of Kindness at Harvard– The Center for Mindfulness and Compassion at Harvard Medical School considers mindfulness and compassion to be basic human capacities that support health and well-being. The Center seeks to enhance health and well-being by integrating mindfulness and compassion into medicine, healthcare and society through research, education, public health and clinical practice. In addition to the intensive 8-week mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) course, the Center offers guidance in short practices that can be integrated through ordinary daily activity- a little bit and often.
     Hand Washing with Mindfulness/Kindness‘Contagious kindness’ begins by offering kindness to yourself as the foundation for offering kindness to others. It doesn’t take any extra time to practice mindfulness and kindness- it just takes remembering. And you can train yourself to remember by using cues such as the hand-washing we are all doing during this pandemic.
– Standing at the sink, looking at your hands- seeing your parents, grandparents and all your ancestry right there in your hands.
– Recalling the acts of kindness you have shone recently with your hands.

– Turning on the water, dispensing the soap- noticing their texture and temperature.
– Feeling yourself touching yourself, intentionally bringing kindness into this tiny self-massage.
– Drying and gazing deeply into your hands- vowing to use them in kindness toward yourself and others.
     Simple Kindness Phrases– Cultivate the self-care habit of saying some simple phrases throughout your day- during hand washing, waking up, bathing, eating, driving, walking, working, alone, being with others, going to sleep- anywhere, anytime.
For yourself- May I be safe- May I be happy- May I be well- May I be peacefully at ease.
For others – May you be safe- May you be happy- May you be well- May you be peacefully at ease.

And may we all be filled with kindness.


UCLA Bedari Kindness Institute

Center for Mindfulness and Compassion (Harvard)

Loving Kindness audio recordings (4 minute and 11 minute versions) at Dr Patterson’s Mind Body Studio web page

About the Author-

Dr Patterson is past president of the Kentucky Academy of Family Physicians (KAFP) and is a Longstanding Diplomat with the American Board of Family Medicine (ABFM). He is certified by the American Board of Integrative Holistic Medicine (ABIHM), Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and Physician Coaching Institute. He is on faculty with Saybrook College of Integrative Medicine and Health Sciences (Pasadena CA), Mindful Practice in Medicine (U of Rochester School of Medicine) and the Center for Mind Body Medicine (Washington, DC). He operates the Mind Body Studio in Lexington, where he offers mindfulness classes, coaching and integrative, mind-body medicine consultations, focusing on burnout prevention and stress-related chronic disease. He can be reached through his website at