Mindfulness — the act of paying attention only to the present moment — is gaining worldwide attention as a method for coping with stress and improving health and wellbeing. Now, through a partnership with the Mind the Moment program at Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, Community Wellness at MIT Medical is offering customized mindfulness classes for departments, labs, and work teams.
Some people who choose to participate in a mindfulness program are initially skeptical, acknowledges Tara Healey, founder of the Harvard Pilgrim program. “Mindfulness and meditation have a bit of a PR problem. People make incorrect assumptions about it and about the people that practice it.”
At MIT, however, reaction has been positive among the more than 125 employees, graduate students, and postdocs who have chosen to participate in the program on campus. More than 96 percent responding to surveys said that taking the class was a good use of time, and the percentage who said they respond well to stress increased from 15.9 percent before taking the course to 39.3 percent afterward.
“Mindfulness is an essential part of both mental and physical well-being,” says Media Lab Director Joi Ito, whose request led to the first-ever Mind the Moment class at MIT last year. “The practice of mindfulness is surprisingly easy with the appropriate coaching and the development of a routine. I’m extremely happy that MIT Medical has begun to provide these services.”
Harvard Pilgrim first developed the Mind the Moment program in 2006 and has since partnered with more than 50 institutions to offer mindfulness classes in the workplace. At MIT, in addition to the Media Lab, the program has already been offered at the David H. Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research, MIT Lincoln Laboratory, and MIT Medical.
Different techniques meet differing needs
The practice of mindfulness is not entirely new to MIT or MIT Medical — some clinicians and mental health providers at the Institute have been offering mindfulness-based care for years. For example, Community Wellness has offered eight-week mindfulness-based stress reduction courses for the past five years. The difference between these courses and the Mind the Moment program, says MIT Medical’s Lauren Mayhew, is that the new program is portable and offered within specific departments.
“Mind the Moment uses a lot of different techniques to cultivate mindfulness,” says Mayhew, who helped launch the program on campus. “This is great, because different approaches may resonate with different people.”
Throughout each four- to six-week course, participants might practice sitting meditation, walking meditation, body-scan meditation (bringing awareness to each body part sequentially), mindful eating, and mindful listening, Mayhew explains. There will also be discussions about the benefits of mindfulness and ways to integrate it into daily life.
"It’s easy to forget to be fully present in our hectic lives at MIT,” Ito says, “but it’s also easy to be mindful and fully present with a little practice.”
To discuss designing a custom program for your team or department, including pricing information, contact Lauren Mayhew at firstname.lastname@example.org or 617-258-6965. More information about the program is available at: http://medweb.mit.edu/mindful.