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When we are busy, we can feel as if we’re operating on ‘autopilot’ and somehow unconnected to the here-and-now. 




It’s understandable then, that there’s a growing appreciation amongst the social work community for being able to stop the ‘chatter’ of the mind. This is something that BASW’s Professional Officer, Joe Godden, discusses in his article on Mindfulness in the latest edition of Sanctuary Social Work News

To sum it up, Mindfulness is being aware of all our thoughts, feelings, physical sensation and actions – in the present moment – without any judgement whatsoever. 

For social workers, it has the ability to make decision making easier. If there are pressing deadlines to meet, and problems that do not have immediate solutions, using a mindful approach to thinking can help. It can also assist in helping social workers let go of the difficulties experienced by those they work with throughout the day. 

So let’s stop some of the ‘chatter’ for a moment and take a look at the now popular technique and some of the exercises that the social work community can practice. 

One minute breathing 


A good starting point is to take 60 seconds at different intervals in your day and concentrate purely on your breathing. Start by taking a deep breath and let it out. Then hold your next breath for seven counts before exhaling for 11 counts. Repeat this for an entire minute. This is often referred to as the 7/11 breathing technique. 

The aim is to stop your mind from wondering and to keep your attention 100% on your breath, whilst keeping your eyes open. 

This is a particularly good exercise to do at the end of a day’s work – social workers that practice the technique find it a useful way of leaving work behind when they arrive home. 

Counting to ten 


If you struggle to focus on your breath, you can try the 'counting to 10' exercise, although with your eyes closed this time. Start counting to 10 and every time your mind thinks about anything other than the counting start back at number 1. Repeat the process until you reach 10 without any interrupting thoughts. 

Again, it’s a useful technique to use at the end of the day and can prove beneficial in between appointments or meetings to refocus the mind. 

Conscious observation

 
Consciously choosing to observe an object can act as simple but effective form of meditation. Best of all, the tools you can use are instantly accessible. 

Pick up an object close to you; a pen, notepad or tough book, for example. Observe everything about the object. Be careful not to over-think things though – you do not want to be focusing on what makes it better than another similar brand. Simply observe it for what it is – absorb what it feels like, its colour, texture, weight etc... 

Disregard any stray thoughts that come to mind. This simple, but effective exercise is a remarkably useful way to ‘de-clutter’ the mind during particularly busy days. 

Set some cues

 
It’s a good idea to have a single cue to prompt you to bring your attention to be more mindful. Some people choose to do so when they hear a specific sound or see certain objects. For example, it could be every time you spot something red you are reminded to be more mindful or take time out to practice your chosen technique. 

Importance of touch 


During the average working day most social workers will open doors and shake hands potentially dozens of times. You can use mindfulness to slow down these actions and become aware of them. For example, every time you open a door you could use this as a cue to think back to something positive that has occurred during the day.

Body-scan 


The aim of a Mindfulness body-scan is to be aware of the various areas of your body, allowing yourself to fully experience how each part feels. 

This is most definitely one to practice at home. Begin by lying on your back or by sitting comfortably. The aim is to either start at the tip of your toe or head first and work your way through the rest of the body in order. This should take around 20 minutes. The feelings you are looking for would be subtle, if noticeable at all in a non-mindfulness state. By doing a body-scan you need to feel every sensation and focus on any tingling, tightness, or tension and try to gently relax those areas. 

It can seem daunting to fit this in to an already busy day, but those that do often refer to the body-scan as their ‘little treat’ and a great source of stress relief.  

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