Healthy lifestyles: the Mindfulness approach

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The World Health Organization highlights how lifestyles such as inadequate nutrition, smoking, physical inactivity, excessive alcohol use and stress are the main causes of the spread of chronic diseases, like cardiovascular problems, strokes, and type 2 diabetes. The promotions of changing unhealthy habits could reduce the incidence and prevent the onset up to 80% of cases.
SEFAC (Social Engagement Framework for Addressing the Chronic-disease- challenge) is a project funded by the Third Health Program of the European Commission, whose objective is to promote the change of behaviors and attitudes towards one’s own health.

The WHO recommendations on health promotion through the construction of healthy cities and age-friendly communities aim to promote health opportunities by acting on both individual and social determinants. Starting from these premises, the SEFAC project aims to develop a training program for trainers, volunteers and citizens.

The  approach will be based on interventions related  to the practices of Mindfulness and Compassion. Studies on the effectiveness of these practices are demonstrating their positive effect on people’s well-being. The term “Mindfulness” refers to the ability to pay attention, intentionally and not judging at the present moment. It is a way of being that allows you to face the difficulties of life with openness, acceptance and awareness and to change the habitual behaviour and the unhealthy automatic choices through the mind-body training and thanks to the neuroplasticity of the brain.

One of the challenges in health promotion is helping people to adopt healthy lifestyles. Through a series of actions, the SEFAC project intends to promote integrated health promotion interventions for people at risk of illness and for people living with cardiovascular diseases and type 2 diabetes.

A first action will concern the training of trainers who will subsequently have to train and support volunteers and citizens in 4 pilot sites (Rotterdam, Treviso, Rijeka and Cornwall). There will be events to raise awareness of citizenship to recruit volunteers and citizens and involve stakeholders.

Citizen training will be characterized by an alternation between moments of information on how to keep healthy and take care of oneself and others of practices based on mindfulness and compassion in order to promote the sense of self-efficacy, self-regulation emotional, stress management and awareness of the power of habits and mind autopilot. Volunteers will be trained to adopt a person-centered approach and a non-judgmental and supportive attitude to help citizens pursue their health goals. At last, the use of technology as a health coaching tool will be available to the project participants. In conclusion, the increasing awareness of the problem of chronicity and the support of the entire community will be an important element for the promotion of a healthy living environment.

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