Can mindfulness help officers develop empathy? 

Psychologists at Pacific University have been working on an innovative study, instructing police officers in mindfulness based stress reduction (MBSR) practices. Training the officers began in 2006. Training involved learning a combination of skills to enhance mental clarity, health, and mindful exercises that emphasised a range of motion and injury prevention. Police officers also learned practical skills to reduce stressors at work and home. An emphasis was placed on self-awareness and compassion. The impact of stress and anger on officers and their work can be significant, the research findings have been published in the journal of Mindfulness.

Increased resilience through mindfulness

The training was aimed at reducing stress in all areas of life and increasing resilience. Michael Christopher, an associate professor at the School of Professional Psychology and principal investigator, said of the initial findings,

“We found a variety of positive outcomes, including improvements in resilience, mental health, physical health, better sleep, less anger, and lower fatigue.”

Co-author of the study, Aaron Bergman described how “… the power of the present moment…allows us to greet that space and feel that freedom, even for just one breath. Whether we are greeting an armed suspect, or a crayon-covered wall, the practice is the same.”

Reducing stress and anger in only 8 weeks

Officers were asked to evaluate levels of stress before and after the mindfulness program and reported that being more aware and simple non judgement exercises such as simply noticing thoughts without judging or labelling the thought good or bad as being most effective. Officers self reported a reduction in stress and anger over the eight week program.

The research has now been developed to include the assessment of additional outcomes including outcomes such as stress hormone levels, unconscious social bias and its relationship to split-second decision-making, and mental clarity under duress.

We’ll be really interested to see how this research evolves when looking at the additional outcomes. In the meantime, if you’re interested in mindfulness and compassion in the workplace, why not take Positive Change Guru’s free wellbeing tips and tricks and compassion in the workplace assessment to see how you measure up.

We love to talk about mindfulness at work at Positive Change Guru. Check out our forthcoming events or get in touch to find out more about our suite of courses and discuss bespoke mindfulness at work sessions for your organisation.

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