Teaching medical students about mind-body approaches could help boost their compassion and decrease their stress, according to a small study from the Boston University School of Medicine.
Published in the journal Medical Education Online, the study showed that medical students who underwent a mind-body class — where they not only learned about the neuroscience behind techniques like meditation and yoga, but also how to do them — had improved self-compassion, as well as slight decreases in stress and increases in empathy.
“Our study provides compelling evidence that mind-body approaches have benefits for medical students and could have a positive impact on their interaction with peers and patients,” study researcher Allison Bond, who is a third-year medical student at the university, said in a statement.
The study included 27 first- and second-year medical students who underwent the 11-week course. Researchers measured the study participants’ self-compassion, self-regulation, self-criticism and stress levels at the beginning and end of the study to measure differences in each. Participants completed essays at the end of the study, which all seemed to include common themes, including community, mindfulness, stress management and mind-body reconnection.
This isn’t the first research to suggest meditation can boost compassion. A study published last year in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience showed that people who underwent a meditation program had improved empathy and ability to read others’ emotions from their expressions.
And empathy for doctors is especially important — research shows it can affect patient stress, pain sensitivity and even patient outcomes.