Improve Resilience with Mindfulness


By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.


“The emotional soup that follows a stressful event can whip up negative stories about yourself or others that goes on and on, beyond being useful. Mindfulness reduces this rumination and, if practiced regularly, changes your brain so that you’re more resilient to future stressful events.” – Richard Davidson


Stress is epidemic in the western workplace with almost two thirds of workers reporting high levels of stress at work. In high stress occupations, like healthcare, burnout is all too prevalent. It is estimated that over 45% of healthcare workers experience burnout. Currently, over a third of healthcare workers report that they are looking for a new job. Nearly half plan to look for a new job over the next two years and 80% expressed interest in a new position if they came across the right opportunity.


Burnout is the fatigue, cynicism, emotional exhaustion, sleep disruption, and professional inefficacy that comes with work-related stress. It not only affects the healthcare providers personally, but also the patients, as it produces a loss of empathy and compassion. Sleep disruption is an important consequence of the stress. “Poor or inadequate sleep can contribute to poor personal health and burnout and adversely affect the quality of care” (Kemper et al. 2016).

Burnout it is a threat to the healthcare providers and their patients. In fact, it is a threat to the entire healthcare system as it contributes to the shortage of doctors and nurses.


Preventing burnout has to be a priority. But, it is beyond the ability of the individual to change the environment to reduce stress and prevent burnout, so it is important that methods be found to reduce the individual’s responses to stress; to make the individual more resilient when high levels of stress occur. Contemplative practices including yoga practice have been shown to reduce the psychological and physiological responses to stress. Indeed, mindfulness has been shown to be helpful in treating and preventing burnoutincreasing resilience, and improving sleep.


So, it makes sense to investigate how mindfulness training during healthcare education may promote resilience and lower the likelihood of future burnout in healthcare workers. In today’s Research News article “Dispositional mindfulness and employment status as predictors of resilience in third year nursing students: a quantitative study.” See:

or see summary below or view the full text of the study at:

Chamberlain and colleagues recruited third-year nursing students and had them complete measures of mindfulness, resilience, compassion, and burnout. They found that for these nursing students the single best predictor of resilience was mindfulness, particularly acceptance; accepting without judging things just as they are. The next most powerful predictor was expectancy for a successful next career step. High levels of mindfulness were also associated with increased compassion and reduced fatigue in compassion.


The results are encouraging, but must be interpreted with caution. The study was correlational and nothing was manipulated, so causation cannot be determined. But the results suggest that mindfulness is very important for resilience. In particular the ability to take what comes and accept it without judgement helps to maintain the individual’s resilience. Since resilience is important for being able to cope with and bounce back from the stress of the occupation, mindfulness may be important for preventing burnout. In addition, the results suggest that mindfulness is associated with persistence of compassion, an important capacity for nurses.


These results need to be followed up with a randomized controlled trial in which these nursing students are trained in mindfulness, to determine if mindfulness is causally responsible for these important benefits. If this was confirmed it would strongly suggest that mindfulness training be included in the nursing curriculum; improving resilience and compassion, making them better nurses who are less likely to burn out.


So, improve resilience with mindfulness.


“The findings provide support for universities to develop strategies that promote mindfulness. Mindfulness training could provide a practical means of enhancing resilience, and personality characteristics like optimism, zest, and patience.” – Badri Bajaj


CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies


This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+


Study Summary

Chamberlain, D., Williams, A., Stanley, D., Mellor, P., Cross, W., & Siegloff, L. (2016). Dispositional mindfulness and employment status as predictors of resilience in third year nursing students: a quantitative study. Nursing Open,3(4), 212–221.



Background: Nursing students will graduate into stressful workplace environments and resilience is an essential acquired ability for surviving the workplace. Few studies have explored the relationship between resilience and the degree of innate dispositional mindfulness, compassion, compassion fatigue and burnout in nursing students, including those who find themselves in the position of needing to work in addition to their academic responsibilities.

Aim: This paper investigates the predictors of resilience, including dispositional mindfulness and employment status of third year nursing students from three Australian universities.

Design: Participants were 240 undergraduate, third year, nursing students. Participants completed a resilience measure (Connor–Davidson Resilience Scale, CD‐RISC), measures of dispositional mindfulness (Cognitive and Affective Mindfulness Scale Revised, CAMS‐R) and professional quality of life (The Professional Quality of Life Scale version 5, PROQOL5), such as compassion satisfaction, compassion fatigue and burnout.

Method: An observational quantitative successive independent samples survey design was employed. A stepwise linear regression was used to evaluate the extent to which predictive variables were related each to resilience.

Results: The predictive model explained 57% of the variance in resilience. Dispositional mindfulness subset acceptance made the strongest contribution, followed by the expectation of a graduate nurse transition programme acceptance, with dispositional mindfulness total score and employment greater than 20 hours per week making the smallest contribution. This was a resilient group of nursing students who rated high with dispositional mindfulness and exhibited hopeful and positive aspirations for obtaining a position in a competitive graduate nurse transition programme after graduation.


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