Mindfulness is one of those terms you hear around lately and most people will fall into one of two categories: the sceptics who doubt mindful practices have any impact, or the believers who need to explain to everyone immediately just how beneficial they have found it. Within our One Stop Social team, we have a mixture of zen yoga masters, to those who frantically rely on mindfulness colouring books; and we all agree on how it can be applied to the world of social care. In such stressful situations, finding a mindful way to go about social care might just be the way we innovate the sector.
First off, let’s get our definitions straight. Mindfulness is the term given to “the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us”. That may sound a bit vague, but looking at mindfulness simply, it does what it says on the tin: it’s the practices involved in filling your mind with an uncluttered thought. It takes many shapes but is not some hugely exotic and obscure ideology; it’s a natural state that is enhanced by a series of techniques, for example meditation. Mindfulness meditation is a popular form of meditation where a way of breathing and yoga can help reduce stress.
Mindfulness may have been first developed by Buddhists around 2000 years ago, but it is becoming increasingly popular in modern society as a way to relax, and the evidence is everywhere. Neuroscientists are developing research to prove the scientific benefit of mindful practices, to help convince the resisting sceptics. A google search on mindfulness produces over 5 million results. Global leaders received guidance in meditation from actress Goldie Hawn at the 2014 World Economic Forum.
Mindfulness is definitely taking over.
When looking at how this could be applied to the social care sector, mindfulness could be beneficial in two ways. Firstly, as in any profession, social care workers suffer from stress at work and mindfulness has been proven to improve the wellbeing of employees. Self-care is incredibly important for care workers, as if they are in emotional or psychological turmoil, it becomes harder to care for others truly effectively; which is where mindful practices come in. Care workers have testified to the improvement they noticed after starting mindful breathing techniques; due to the fast-changing nature of their work, as it gave them a way to readjust and not feel overwhelmed. Learning to pay attention to the moment, which is what mindfulness is all about, can help care workers to focus on the pressures of each situation individually, rather than all at once. The British Mindfulness Institute are promoting the inclusion of mindful practices for health and social care professionals with their own Mindfulness Training Programme, which can only bring more and more options for synergy within the sector.
Taking a different approach to mindfulness and social care analyses how these practices can help those in care, and here is where the potential truly lies. Two thirds of people living in care homes have dementia, which can be very stress inducing for both the family and patient. Adapting mindfulness techniques for people suffering from dementia is being recognised as a way for patients to clear their minds and help focus their memories on singular thoughts. It helps people stop worrying about their forgetfulness or confusion and be in the moment. In recent years, funding and structural support for mindfulness is beginning to be more common, with £3937 from the Accessibility Fund 2016 going to the Oxford Dementia Programme to help introduce mindful practices to more care homes.
We are not saying mindfulness can cure all your stresses or fix a trauma in your life, however the evidence is hard to deny that bringing mindfulness into your life will help promote better mental health and wellbeing. If we can find a way to encourage this in care homes across the UK then we could find a way to care for both those vulnerable members of society, like dementia patients; and the brilliant care workers who face challenging situations daily.