In recent years, it has been possible to observe a rela craze around mindfulness and other completavice approches. Beyond a simple fashion, we will see how to pratice of mindfulness can have real impacts in the helping relationship.
Mindfulness VS absent consciousness
First, it is important to understand what it is about when we talk about mindfulness. To do this, let’s take a detour to its opposite: absent consciousness, also known as “autopilot”. Ellen Langer, professor of psychology at Harvard, looked at it through various research. She teaches us that this concept refers to being sucked into our thoughts, but in a non-deliberate way, thus being in a state of reaction rather than choice. And what comes to interest us as professionals of the helping relationship is undoubtedly the impacts of this absent consciousness: self-image and other pejorative ones, prejudices, thoughts in terms of categories, weak self-control, learned helplessness … ( Langer, 2015) The good news is that mindfulness is on the other end of the spectrum and has been proven to work with different populations for many years. It refers to paying special and intentional attention to what is happening in the here and now without going through the filter of judgment. (Kabat-Zinn, 2003) It is therefore a way of being in life that can seem an ideal difficult to achieve in a society and in work contexts where stressors and speed are the lot of everyday life. However, by looking at what mindfulness has in terms of mechanisms and benefits as well as concrete ways to practice it, it will be possible to see that it is not really complicated. Difficult perhaps, but so simple.
What mindfulness allows
Various mechanisms are at work when one commits to living a life with more awareness. Over time, research has brought to light several benefits induced by mindfulness meditation (we will come back to the concept of meditation). Davis and Hayes (2011) have looked more closely at the implications for those involved in helping relationships. They first highlighted a greater empathy among professionals who practice mindfulness. The latter are better able to be present to the suffering of those receiving help, without letting themselves be overwhelmed by it. Effects are also observed on the capacity for compassion. Meditators primarily experience greater self-compassion, that is, the ability to be gentle and kind to themselves despite sometimes difficult intervention contexts. Skills in the intervention process are also rated as improved. Indeed, caregivers are more able to pay attention to the therapeutic process, have a better capacity to tolerate silences, are more attentive to themselves and to those being cared for. They also have a greater sense of professional identity / competence. Finally, there is a decrease in stress and anxiety as well as an improvement in overall well-being. Professionals observe fewer thoughts of the “ruminating” type, negative affects (irritability, negativity, etc.), fatigue and symptoms associated with depression.
To see the full article by Davis and Hayes: https://www.habitualroots.com/uploads/1/2/1/3/121341739/whatarethebenefitsofmindfulness_1.pdf
Formal and informal ways of integrating it into everyday life
There are two ways to practice mindfulness. Routes that we will name here, but which could be more detailed in a future post. On the one hand, there are formal practices, the most telling image would undoubtedly be that of a meditator on his cushion. Let us first situate what is meant here by meditation. In short, it is a mental training as sport is a physical training. And when we add to it the notion of mindfulness as seen above, it becomes the training to pay attention, in a particular and intentional way, to what is happening in the here and now without going through the filter of judgment. (Kabat-Zinn, 2003) This attention can be focused on the breath, the body, the thoughts, the emotions or on other anchors still.
On the other hand, there is a variety of informal practices that allow you to take a step back at various times in the day. And the latter can be really diversified. At the level of the senses: eating food in full awareness, taking the time to smell the scent of your shampoo, stop and become aware of the sound of the wind in the leaves of a tree, etc. From a more bodily point of view: perform a walking meditation, ask yourself the question “how am I?” and feel the response in the body or take the time to straighten our posture when we are slumped. Then of course there is the breath. It is rather easy to take a moment to breathe consciously a few times a day, even if it means setting up a reminder. These examples are not intended to be exhaustive, but constitute avenues for adding presence everywhere in everyday life.
So beyond an apparent fashion, mindfulness offers a really interesting avenue for stakeholders who want a more satisfying professional life. And since mindfulness does not categorize, it is quite certain that the benefits will be transposed into their daily lives in a more global way.