Elected officials gathered Monday to celebrate Delaware Changing Lives — an initiative to spread mindfulness training in the First State.
Mindfulness, or moment-to-moment awareness, has been shown to reduce stress and improve focus, according to the American Psychological Association. It’s a tool now used by educators, mental health professionals and even tech companies.
Tamara DeFer of GIFT Global, the nonprofit that spearheaded the initiative, says Delaware Changing Lives coordinates providing mindfulness training to staff in places like local schools, businesses and social service programs. She says Delaware Changing Lives is currently involved in approximately 18 projects — including with veterans affairs, the Delaware National Guard, West End Neighborhood house, Baylor Women’s Correctional Institution and Limen House.
According to officials, over the past 18 months more than 3,000 Delawareans have already received training under the initiative.
DeFer says there are only a handful of mindfulness-based stress reduction trainers in the state. She says Delaware Changing Lives recently brought them together, and the group will begin meeting monthly.
“A lot of people who do this work recognize that it’s trauma resilience training as well as mindfulness training,” said DeFer. “We need to be together in this so that everyone understands why both are important and not just one or the other.”
Logan Herring leads the Kingswood Community Center in Riverside — where staff participate regularly in mindfulness training through Delaware Changing Lives. He says the training helps staff serve clients better.
“Think about our early learning center, or our senior center, or just our clients that come in every day that need help— a lot of times the help that we’re providing we’ve needed at some time, or maybe we didn’t get it,” he said. “[Mindfulness training means] being able to substantiate ourselves and make sure that we’re providing professional services no matter what’s going on in our lives or what we’ve been through.”
Herring is also CEO of REACH Riverside and its planned Teen Warehouse. He sees mindfulness training potentially benefiting the entire Riverside neighborhood.
“We’re dealing with a lot of people [who] for generations have dealt with a lot of trauma, a lot of baggage,” said Herring. “So when we think about everything that they’ve endured and gone through, we have to think about mindful ways that we can uplift them and empower them, and just interact with them on a daily basis. So this is a neighborhood that really takes this mindfulness training very seriously.”
The Delaware Changing Lives initiative has found support from elected officials including Gov. John Carney, Delaware’s congressional delegation, Attorney General Kathy Jennings, and Lt. Gov. Bethany Hall-Long, who chairs the state’s Behavioral Health Consortium.