Reprinted from the Mindfulness issue of Visions Journal, 2016, 12 (2), p. 30
smartUBC (Stress Management and Resiliency Techniques) is a mindfulness-based professional development initiative that includes courses in education, social work and nursing. Resilience, that is, the ability to respond positively to challenges, is recognized as being crucial to success in personal and professional contexts.1 The smartEducation curriculum, administered by smartUBC, is intended for professionals in education (teachers, principals, counsellors and so on). Following the evidence-based model of the original smartEducation curriculum, other UBC departments offer similar mindfulness-based programs for professionals. The latest extension of the smartUBC initiative, smartNursing, is currently being offered in the Faculty of Health and Social Development of UBC’s Okanagan campus as part of a first-year course on relational pedagogy.
Teaching and learning self-awareness and resilience
The smartUBC programs support the development of self-care techniques, sustainable practices relating to kindness, compassion and forgiveness, in order to cultivate personal and professional resilience. The programs are non-religious and non-sectarian and are delivered by smartUBC-accredited facilitators. Attention, intention and authenticity as pathways to well-being are also core foundations of the program curricula.
By emphasizing effective mindfulness strategies, which can be used in challenging situations where strong emotions and heated discussions emerge, the smartUBC courses aim to reduce participants’ stress in their professional and personal lives by fostering a greater understanding of emotional and physiological reactions. The 20-hour course consists of eight two-hour experiential sessions (practices and interactive discussions) and one four-hour silent retreat.
One of the core components of the smartUBC initiative is the conscious cultivation of silence. Silence has many benefits for both mind and body. Silence helps to settle the emotions and thoughts that are activated within us when we engage in talking and listening. As we calm our intellectual and emotional engagement, our bodies begin to relax. In sustained silence, our senses become more acute. We are able to tune in to quieter thoughts and an expanded awareness of our self and our environment.
This sort of mindfulness, and focused mindfulness activities, are important elements of the resiliency techniques taught in the smartUBC programs. Meditation, emotional awareness, self-regulation and movement are also all integral components. Weekly sessions involve guided practices, sharing circles and mindful listening, as well as brief overviews of emotion theory and pro-social behaviour (like helping and sharing). Participants are encouraged to develop sustainable daily mindful habits with the goal to improve personal, emotional, mental and physical health. For example, breathing awareness exercises, mindful walking and mindful eating can be used in the workplace in an informal manner.
The benefits of mindfulness
Supporting the mental health of professionals is important—not only for individuals but also for the wider community. Mindfulness protocols are highly regarded as a non-invasive health intervention tool with evidence-based success. The smartUBC programs provide accessible curricula that support well-being in numerous contexts.
Recently, neuroscience has offered compelling evidence that mindfulness practices in professional contexts can have many positive outcomes. Studies show that mindfulness training develops one’s concentration, attention, executive function (planning, decision-making and impulse control), emotional balance, social behaviour and compassionate action. It also promotes all aspects of well-being. The regular practice of mindfulness in the workplace has the potential to revitalize one’s purpose, improve one’s achievement and foster positive interpersonal communication and relationships. Research studies focusing on the impact of the original smartEducation curriculum suggest that practising mindfulness decreases occupational stress and compassion burnout, or apathy towards one’s fellow human beings.2,3
In our modern, hyper-connected, hyper-paced professional contexts, where burnout, competition and anxiety abound, the smartUBC programs offer an antidote to the frenetic pace of contemporary life. By encouraging the exploration of individual pathways using guided practices, the programs help participants develop practical mindfulness techniques that can be employed in everyday personal and professional situations. In this way, the mindfulness courses equip individuals to address the challenge of being mindful and non-judgemental, and of being present in the moment.
If you are interested in enrolling in a smartUBC course or in becoming a smartUBC facilitator, please visit the smartUBC website at smartubc.ca.
“This course reminded me that I can take care of myself too, and still be a hard-working, valuable and caring colleague.”
“I hoped I would learn ways to incorporate mindfulness, relaxation and meditation in my workplace. I had no idea it would help me personally.”
“It surpassed every expectation I could have had. I got more from this course than any course I have ever taken. It allowed me to learn about me and that, as a health care provider, is the most important learning you could ever do.”
“I now approach my day with greater confidence.”
About the author
Dr. Ragoonaden is Chair of the smartUBC curriculum and certification committee. Based in Kelowna, she is committed to providing educational leadership in research, teaching, curriculum design and innovation, and to mindfulness-based initiatives in the areas of education and health. Her recent work focuses on mindful teaching and learning
For more information on smartUBC certification and curriculum, contact Karen at [email protected]
For more information on smartUBC courses (smartEducation, smartNursing, smartSocial Work), contact Deena Boeck at [email protected]
Ragoonaden, K. (2015). Mindful teaching and learning: Developing a pedagogy of well-being. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books.
Taylor, C., Harrison, J., Haimovitz, K., Oberle, E., Thomson, K., Schonert-Reichl, K. & Roeser, R.W. (2016). Examining ways that a mindfulness-based intervention reduces stress in public school teachers: A mixed-methods study. Mindfulness, 7(1)115-129.
Roeser, R.W., Schonert-Reichl, K.A., Jha, A., Cullen, M., Wallace, L., Wilensky, R., Oberle, E., Thomson, K., Taylor, C. & Harrison, J. (2013). Mindfulness training and reductions in teacher stress and burnout: Results from two randomized, waitlist-control field trials. Journal of Educational Psychology, 105(3), 787-804.