Protective Factors of Self-Care: Mindfulness
Posted on May 19, 2017
Over the years, this blog has covered mindfulness from different angles. My teammate, Bettina Harmon, wrote an excellent post titled Experiment with your Mind, which puts forth some great activities, as well as information about mindfulness. I’ve discussed mindfulness regarding trauma informed care and transformation as part of the Hero’s Journey Series. If you are unfamiliar with mindfulness, I highly suggest you go back and read these posts.
Up until about a year ago, I challenged people in my self-care training that were not doing mindfulness to give it a try. In recent months, I have hardened my approach to talking about mindfulness. With all the challenges inherent in our work, I struggle to see how anyone can bring their best self to work every day without some type of mindfulness being a central part of their self-care regimen. My shift lies in the ever-expanding research on mindfulness, and even some research on us as helpers.
To summarize this research (Davis, 2012; Siegel, 2010; Rock, 2009), mindfulness improves emotional, social, and cognitive intelligence. When people practice mindfulness, they are healthier, more emotionally regulated, better connected with others, and both cognitive functioning and flexibility is improved. For helpers, mindfulness increases attributes like empathy and compassion, which have been shown to improve client outcomes. In addition, the reduction of stress and anxiety can be critical in staying healthy in a highly stressful job.
In all my research, I have found mindfulness, more than any other single factor, supports the very things that improve outcomes is helping. In most helping situations, the relationship between the helper and the client is what has the greatest impact on outcomes and client satisfaction in services. Mindfulness allows us to bring higher levels of empathy, compassion, and attunement to our professional (and personal) relationships. As I say in my trainings, if you could get these results from taking a supplement, I would be a supplement salesperson!
The good news is that mindfulness is free! It seems like there is a greater benefit if you practice for 20 minutes a day, but even just five minutes can make a big difference. Please go back to the posts listed above ands if you are not practicing mindfulness, consider including it as part of your self-care. I want to open up the comment section to anyone who wants to share their experiences with mindfulness so we can learn from each other. Breathe my friends!