If you’ve seen the pictures of meditating police officers, you might have thought that is was either a joke or a well-photoshopped masterpiece.
But the story behind these pictures is just as great as the photos themselves.
The photo was taken as officers from Canada’s Peel Regional Police in Canada visited the West End Buddhist Temple for a lecture on mindfulness meditation and Buddhist philosophy (1).
“These are wonderful officers who devoted their life to the police service in order to protect people and maintain law and order in the nation for the well-being of all citizens,” the temple wrote on Facebook.
“They are doing a stressful job. I am delighted that I was able to share some insights by giving spiritual support to help them continue their service daily with a peaceful mind.” (2)
“They were very nice and they liked it and they think it should be part of their daily practice,” explains abbot Bhante Saranapala.
Health Benefits of Meditating
Many studies today show that meditation can positively affects one’s life:
- Reduces stress
- Lowers blood pressure
- Boosts immune system
- Helps relieve symptoms of IBS
- Fights inflammation
It’s a Stressful Job!
It’s no secret that police have a tough job: between the violence they combat, the risks associated with their work, and the long hours at the office and on the road, police officers all over the world are in need of new techniques to lower their stress levels.
A recent study by Carleton University, in Ottawa, examined the question of officer wellness by surveying 4,500 officers from 25 police agencies across Canada. Their results showed that officers experience more damages to their mental and physical health while on the job than ever before (3).
Part of the problem includes understaffing, long hours, irregular shifts, complex cases, lack of career opportunities, and the ever-growing tensions with the communities they serve and protect.
These stresses have translated into higher benefit payouts, more long-term disability, and more sick days, which is beginning to cost police stations much more than they can afford.
Linda Duxbury, a professor at Carleton University’s Sprott School of Business notes that “police perform work that is often life-and-death and requires split-second decision making.”
These high-emotion moments leave a lasting impact on police staff, sometimes translating to PTSD and other mental traumas. This has lead some officers to require assistance from holistic health specialists and psychologists.
Not an Isolated Case
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police, which is famous for their officers on horseback, have started implicating a program called “Mindfulness Based Resilience Training,” to help their staff overcome the stresses of the job (4).
250 police officers and staff in Salford, Greater Manchester, England have become involved in ‘mindfulness’ sessions held at Pendleton police station, to bring peace into the force after an increase of gang-related violence (5).
In regards to this strategy Chief Superintendent Zoe Sheard said to the Daily Mail: “My view is that mental health is as important to a police officer as physical health.”
“Mindfulness is about keeping them fit for each role. There’s nothing mystical in this – it’s just practical.”
The staff in Salford have responded incredibly well to this new strategy, some even falling asleep during relaxing sessions.
A Police group in Madison, Wisconsin says that they’ve experience “better emotional control, improved health outcomes, and, importantly, reductions in implicit biases, or unconscious beliefs or stereotypes that affect people’s behavior,” since bringing in meditation to the workforce (6).
“We as a society have a moral obligation to try these things because the potential benefit is high and the downside is very low,” said Richard Davidson, a University of Wisconsin professor. “I think law enforcement is a domain in which we can have a great impact.”
Meditation is known to also reduce blood pressure, boost immune function, and fight inflammation. Meditation is now making its way into offices worldwide, to benefit other high-stress workers like doctors, paramedics, soldiers, and lawyers (7).