Mindfulness is a word we’re hearing quite a lot these days, but what does it really mean? Mindfulness is the art of staying in the moment and cultivating more acceptance. Sound a bit too airy-fairy or even too difficult to do? Well actually, chances are you already use this skill a lot in your job. Your mindfulness – your ability to accept and meet each patient exactly where they are at – helps them to be mindful. When we give our full attention to someone, when we are really listening, and noticing all the feelings and thoughts that come into play – theirs and ours – we are being mindful. And we all know just how lovely it is to be really listened to and appreciated.
The Mental Health Foundation describes mindfulness as, ‘…a mind-body approach to life that helps people to relate differently to experiences. It involves paying attention to thoughts, feelings and body sensations in a way that can increase our awareness, manage difficult experiences, and make wise choices.’
One HCA converted an old smoking room into a multi-sensory retreat room with soothing sights, smells and sensations.
According to psychotherapist David Richo, the five keys to mindful relationships are: Attention, Acceptance, Appreciation, Affection and Allowing. Richo says that by giving and receiving these five A’s, relationships become deeper and more meaningful, and they become a ground for personal transformation. Many patients (and staff) have access to these and other important qualities through their spiritual beliefs and practices – from going to a church or mosque, to appreciating the beauty and tranquillity of nature.
There are so many ways HCAs can help support patients’ recovery through mindfulness. Learning what makes each patient feel calm, safe and good is essential here, and that’s what the Mindfulness Star is all about. Doing a jigsaw puzzle with a patient for example, can help ease their busy and troubling mind and help them feel grounded and focused. In times like these few words are required but you are providing an important space for them to feel absorbed and comforted. Likewise, facilitating a guided meditation or relaxation session can help patients to safely pay attention to their inner world and gain more insight and clarity. Another example is listening to music with patients. Listening to music is a simple but wonderful calmer. In the words of one of the most amazing pianists, Keith Jarret: “Music is what feelings sound like”. Sharing music can be a way for patients to express how they are feeling in a safe and contained way. And giving patients quality time to express themselves (verbally, creatively or otherwise) lets them know that it’s okay to share their difficult thoughts and feelings.
One HCA downloaded some free guided relaxation sessions which she burns off onto a CD for patients and plays each week in the ‘Head Space’ group.
Another skill that can work hand-in-hand with mindfulness is mentalising. Mentalising is our capacity to be aware of our own and others’ thoughts and feelings and particularly to recognise that the other person’s experience is different from our own. Both mindfulness and mentalising are words that imply being aware of our present-moment experience – as well as that of other people.
Inpatient mental health stays coincide with extremely difficult experiences and through having and showing attention, acceptance, appreciation, affection and allowing – through creating mindful relationships – hospital stays become opportunities for growth, healing and recovery. That’s what this Star is all about!
- Learning new or enhanced ways of relaxing, lowering anxiety and agitation
- Feeling accepted and safely and compassionately held in mind
- Feeling listened to and understood
- Quality relationships with staff
- Enabled to express themselves
- The ward is a space which enables growth, healing and recovery