Thrive in dentistry with Mind Flossing wellbeing cards
After launching the Mind Flossing toolkit, which consists of a deck of cards to nurture greater wellbeing and resilience, creator Mahrukh Khwaja – AKA Mind Ninja – explains her vision for bringing preventative wellbeing practices to the dental team.
What inspired you to create a deck of wellbeing cards for the dental team?
I experienced both burnout and depression during my dental career. So I feel a deep connection with mental wellbeing from a personal standpoint.
When I explored preventative services in dentistry, I was surprised to see only support for crisis point.
My research into intervention studies in dentistry and medicine led me to understanding the vital importance of clinician wellbeing education before we are unwell. This led me to founding Mind Ninja and the Mind Flossing toolkit; providing tools backed by the science, to help dental professionals feel healthier, happier and living a life of meaning.
You might wonder why it is so important to have something designed for the dental team. The sad truth is that, over the years, it has been well established that working in dentistry is stressful. A BDA survey very sadly revealed a high level of stress and burnout amongst a survey of more than 2,000 UK dentists. Of those, 17.6% admitted they seriously thought about suicide (Collin et al, 2019).
Meanwhile, last year a survey of dental students revealed that 35% of students displayed perfectionistic traits. This correlated with psychological distress and maladaptive coping startegies (Collin, O’Selmo and Whitehead, 2020).
The cards are evidence-based. They draw together many psychological strands in an effective way.
What’s more, the content and illustrations for every card have been carefully chosen and curated with dental professionals in mind and are representative of the whole team.
What is the psychological basis of the cards?
The cards are a self-intervention toolkit drawing from the science of wellbeing – positive psychology, which is defined as: ‘…the “scientific” study of what makes life most worth living. It is a call for psychological science and practice to be as concerned with strength as with weakness; as interested in building the best things in life as in repairing the worst; and as concerned with making the lives of normal people fulfilling as with healing pathology.’ (Lopez and Snyder, 2009)
The Mind Flossing toolkit is designed as a positive psychology intervention. It will therefore help you foster positive thoughts, feelings and actions.
The cards also draw from other strands of psychology, including environmental psychology, neuro-psychology and art therapy.
All these elements help to create a toolkit based on psychological tools validated in the research amongst medical and healthcare professionals (Machado et al, 2019; Weingartner et al, 2019; Lebares et al, 2019; Greeson, Toohey and Pearce, 2015).
So, in practical terms, what do the cards offer the dental team?
The Mind Flossing toolkit has easy-to-follow activities. Readers can use them both when with patients, such as the ‘self-compassion break’, and at home.
They are a pocket-sized guide you can carry with you, to nudge you to take intentional wellbeing actions. Bite-size activities range from meditations and journaling to creative exercises. They also offer the opportunity to explore wellbeing under the umbrella of mindfulness and self-compassion, including team resilience, gratitude, optimism, character strengths, values and meaning.
Our ability to become aware of our emotions and thoughts and regulate them, then manage stress, increase our emotional literacy, communicate more authentically, live according to our values, connect with our patients and peers and feel more engaged at work are all potential benefits of using the pack.
The cards also address common negative thoughts. Such as imposter syndrome and perfectionism – a trait commonly occurring in dental professionals.
What is your vision for the future for dental team wellbeing?
With so much on our plates, we in dentistry can use all the support we can get. The cards fit in beautifully with our busy lifestyles and emotional needs.
You can pop in your bag or pocket and carry it around with you. As well as being something you can use at home and at work, individually and in a team setting.
I would love to see people support one another. Check in on each other’s emotional wellbeing.
In celebration of their friendship and to promote all round happiness at work, individuals might also purchase the cards for a dental colleague or the whole team, to show how much they care.
For more information and to purchase a pack of Mind Flossing cards, visit www.mind-ninja.co.uk.
Collin V, O’Selmo E and Whitehead P (2020) Stress, psychological distress, burnout and perfectionism in UK dental students. Br Dent J 229: 605-14
Collin V, Toon M, O’Selmo E, Reynolds L and Whitehead P (2019) A survey of stress, burnout and well-being in UK dentists. Br Dent J 226: 40-9
Greeson JM, Toohey MJ and Pearce MJ (2015) An adapted, four-week mind-body skills group for medical students: reducing stress, increasing mindfulness, and enhancing self-care. Explore (New York, N.Y.) 11(3): 186-92
Lebares CC, Guvva EV, Olaru M, Sugrue LP, Staffaroni AM, Delucchi KL, Kramer JH, Ascher NL and Harris HW (2019) Efficacy of Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Training in Surgery: Additional Analysis of the Mindful Surgeon Pilot Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA network open 2(5): e194108
Lopez S and Snyder CR (2009) The Oxford Handbook of Positive Psychology (2nd edn)
Machado L, de Oliveira IR, Peregrino A and Cantilino A (2019) Common mental disorders and subjective well-being: Emotional training among medical students based on positive psychology. PloS One 14(2)
Weingartner LA, Sawning S, Shaw MA and Klein J (2019) Compassion cultivation training promotes medical student wellness and enhanced clinical care. BMC Med Educ 19: 139