by Ruth Hull, Professional Training Course Committee, SETAC Orlando World Congress

The 7th SETAC World Congress/SETAC North America 37th Annual Meeting, which will be held from 6–10 November in Orlando, Florida, features a great learning opportunity, including valuable professional training courses. However, when you think of these courses at our annual meetings, I am sure you are like me; you think of learning new procedures, models, tools or approaches that will help you do better science and ultimately improve your job performance. And the better you get at your job, the more people will want to work with you. But with all this added knowledge and success comes added responsibility, pressures and greater demands on our lives. What we don’t learn is how to handle and manage this stress, which negatively affects our job performance, our relationship with our family and friends, and ultimately our health. Traditional training courses at professional scientific meetings don’t usually teach us how to handle these challenges, which for many people can be overwhelming.

I’m writing this article to tell you about one of our professional training courses that is certainly outside the norm of what we typically offer at our annual meetings. I think it is something everyone could benefit from and make use of in their daily lives. The course is called “Mindfulness: Manage Stress, Increase Focus and Improve Overall Health,” which sounds strange, I know. But before you tune me out and go to another article, I’d like to give you a bit more background and detail so you can check it out for yourselves.

For me, the journey started in 2015 when Anderson Cooper interviewed University of Massachusetts Medical School professor Jon Kabat-Zinn for “60 Minutes.” You can watch the interview on YouTube. As Cooper says in his introduction, “Our lives are filled with distractions […], which is why there is a growing movement in America to train people to get around the stresses of daily life. It’s a practice called mindfulness.” Kabat-Zinn, a MIT-trained scientist who’s been practicing mindfulness for 48 years, defines mindfulness as awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgementally.

Anderson Cooper, who was skeptical about the process and went through the course only for his news assignment, experienced a life-changing moment. In a follow up interview, he talks about how mindfulness changed his life.

And Anderson Cooper isn’t the only high-profile person practicing mindfulness. Tim Ryan, Ohio Congressman, is only 42 years old and has served in congress since 2003. He explained in an interview with the Huffington Post that there came a point when he realized he would burn out if he didn’t make a change to how he was living his life. He started practicing mindfulness, which lead to a personal transformation. He even wrote a book about it, “A Mindful Nation: How a Simple Practice Can Help Us Reduce Stress, Improve Performance, and Recapture the American Spirit.”

Mindfulness is a practice gaining popularity. From politicians in the US and UK, to companies such as Google and entrepreneurs like Sir Richard Branson, they all support and practice mindfulness. Steve Jobs, who is known for his legendary ability to create innovative, groundbreaking products, used mindfulness to calm his mind and find inspiration. Sports teams such as the Los Angeles Lakers and Chicago Bulls basketball teams are learning mindfulness to improve focus and ultimately improve how they play. The benefits have wide-ranging application, as was noted in the October 2015 UK All-party Parliamentary report “Mindful UK Nation”.

Anyone in business can benefit from mindfulness. Sir Richard Branson has said, “Mindfulness is one way that many entrepreneurs choose to combat the toll wrought by round-the-clock emails, long working hours and other aspects of our accelerated business culture.”

Harvard Business Review recently published an article, “Why Google, Target, and General Mills are investing in Mindfulness,” which describes how mindfulness research is convincing many managers that investing in this practice will have a positive impact on employees and on the bottom line. To see some of the recent research, visit
Research Roundup, a service from Mindful.org to share how mindfulness science is growing. This is a great summary of the types of research ongoing with mindfulness. The article “5 Science-Based Benefits of Mindfulness” provides another good, short research overview.

As I mentioned at the start of this article, I learned about mindfulness in 2015, which inspired me to participated in an on-line Mindfulness Summit in October that same year. I was searching for something to help me handle stress and sleep better. I can honestly say that mindfulness has changed my life. I hope you will give it a try! Feel free to contact me if you have any questions about it. I also recomment you watch this compilation of nine short videos on mindfulness on youtube.

Participants in the mindfulness course will learn enough to start their own practice at home and at work, and learn of resources available to continue and expand their meditation practice after the course.

Also, don’t forget to check out all the professional training courses offered at the 7th SETAC World Congress/SETAC North America 37th Annual Meeting, which were briefly described here!